Photo: Getty Images
"Oh, baby!" If you're a new parent and you hear such a thing from your partner, he's probably referring to the newborn in the basinet next to your bed.
While sex takes a backseat immediately after birth (first for medical reasons, and then for sleep deprivation reasons), eventually couples get the green light from their doctors — and each other — that they can get back to business. "Typically I recommend waiting four to six weeks after a vaginal birth to have intercourse. This provides time for the cervix to close, postpartum bleeding (lochia) to stop and any episiotomy or vaginal laceration repairs to heal," says Heidi Beining, D.O., from Akron General Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Sex might be the last thing on your mind.
"I gave birth after seventeen hours of grueling labor," says Dawn from Glendale, Calif. "When we got home with our newborn, sex was the last thing on my mind. And I became the queen of rolling my eyes when my husband asked me for oral."
Dawn says she was actually thrilled when her doctor explained there was a certain amount of time she had to wait before having sex. "Every time he tried, I blamed my doctor and her rules," she says. That helped her husband not take it personally.
Your breasts will be super sore.
About four weeks after giving birth, Dawn says her husband tried to get her in the mood by saying sexy things and fondling her breasts. "I smacked his hand away. My boobs were so sore. There were days I stuck ice packs in my bra," says Dawn.
"Breastfeeding can affect postpartum sex in a number of ways. A woman may feel that her breasts are very tender and does not want them to be stimulated during foreplay or intercourse," says Dr. Beining. In fact, many women keep a bra on during intercourse to avoid leaking, she says.
Expect a little pain at first. (It's normal).
Dawn did end up having sex again... when she hit the six week mark. "I remember being nervous like it was my first time. He was gentle and sweet, kissing my neck and lips. He stayed away from my breasts and I kept a tank top on," Dawn says. "I enjoyed gentle finger stroking down there, but when my husband entered me it was like a burning sensation. It hurt, so I told him to go slower." She adds, "That burning feeling eventually went away, but I honestly didn't enjoy sex until about five months postpartum."
Having a C-section will affect your sex life too.
"I had a planned C-Section for personal reasons," says Alex from New York City. Afterwards, standing and sitting was so painful, hot and like a long bee sting." She adds, "I would joke to my boyfriend: 'When she's two, we'll do it." Two months later, "I was pleasantly surprised when we finally did it," Alex says. "I was no longer in any pain from my surgery and the stitches had completely dissolved."
You might lose sensitivity.
Amy from Orlando, FL describes sex the first couple of times like a "pencil going down a rabbit hole," laughing. "I wanted to have sex again, just as much as my husband, but it honestly didn't do anything for me. I delivered an eight pound baby and tore."
"After childbirth, decreased muscle tone in the vagina might reduce pleasurable friction during sex," says Dr. Beining. " Kegel exercises can help to tone postpartum pelvic floor muscles. These can be started within the first couple weeks postpartum, while sitting, driving, watching TV, or breastfeeding," suggests Dr. Beining. "Squeeze the pelvic muscles as if you're stopping your stream of urine. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. Once you've got the hang of it, do at least three sets of about 10 Kegel exercises a day."
Amy wants new moms to know there are other ways of getting off. "For me, my clitoris is [now] the main road to orgasm. We used lube and my husband's fingers." Dr. Beining adds that it's perfectly fine if your post-baby sex life is more about pleasurable moments together. If sex isn't working out, she recommends focusing on "Oral sex, manual stimulation and erotic massage as ways to feel more intimate.... Kissing, hugging, holding hands, cuddling on the sofa, or giving a relaxing foot rub can also help with a postpartum relationship."
Dr. Beining says most sexual concerns in the postpartum period resolve within a year. "But in the meantime, concentrate on ways to promote your physical and mental health." Get sleep. Talk with your partner. Go for walks. Play with your baby. "Childbirth and the postpartum period is a life-changing experience," says Dr. Beining. While it's certainly hard on men to go without sex for so long, "A partner can help with positive feedback and support for a woman's postpartum changes, both physically and emotionally," she suggests. So for all the dads out there, we appreciate you taking it slow: "Time and patience are the solution for most couples."