An Expert’s Top 7 Tips for Postpartum Sex
by Allison Danish, MPH
We get the skinny from licensed couples and sex therapist Heather Davidson.
Having a baby is hard work. The body goes through enormous changes, and when sex on the other side of that little miracle isn’t exactly what you dreamed it would be, it can be hard to navigate.
Enter: Heather Davidson, Ed.M, M.A., a licensed couples and sex therapist and founder of Better Being Main Line. An expert in her field, she was kind enough to sit down with us to talk about why couples can have a hard time getting back into the sexual swing of things postpartum, and how to hit the sheets instead of just hitting the hay.
Why is it hard to have sex after birth?
The first year after the birth of a new family member, parents are focused on one thing: survival. Wrapped in the fog of sleep deprivation and navigating the unsure waters of parenthood, it can be hard to feel connected—especially with added pressure to have sex (even if it might hurt) after a mere 6 week recovery period. But that doesn’t mean you and your partner don’t want to be intimate!
And there’s always help to get you there.
In addition to the physical adjustments you can make if you or your partner are experiencing discomfort (seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist, incorporating Ohnut in the bedroom, using lube), there are planning and communication strategies that can make your daily lives just a little spicier.
An Expert’s Top 7 Tips for Sex After Pregnancy:
1. Carve out time for partner connection
When it comes to post-baby sex, oftentimes it doesn’t just… happen. It takes time, effort, and dedication.
Start by carving out 30 minutes two times a week to connect with your partner—the intention isn’t even to have sex, it’s just a chance to physically connect.
“The reality is that couples who make this intentional time, find that then they have sex outside of those times more. If you're not touching at all... [you're] not going to be enticed.”
While this may not feel as “sexy” or “spontaneous” as sex had in the past—sex pre-baby probably wasn’t all that spontaneous either. Think about when you first started dating your partner. Think about all the hours you spent planning dates, thinking about what you’d wear, imagining what would happen, shaving your legs. A lot of prep and planning went into sex back then too!
So, schedule a little fun and enjoy the anticipation. Consider, what’s going to make you feel sexy and connected? And remember, play dates aren’t just for kids ;)
2. Don’t expect telepathic mind reading
More often than not, your partner isn’t going to know or anticipate exactly what you’ll want—so you’ll have to ask for it. The same rules apply both inside and outside the bedroom. Just like suggesting “a little to the left” or requesting “will you kiss me here,” asking “could you take the baby so I can take a shower” is a critical tool for communicating what you want.
“Directness is really helpful. Neither partner is a mind reader and if you just need a half hour to lay down and take a nap… specifically ask for that.”
Directness can be especially useful if sex after birth is painful. If your partner doesn’t know that sex hurts or is uncomfortable, it’s hard for them to support you. If your partner doesn’t know all of the steps you’re taking to heal (like going to pelvic floor physical therapy sessions), it’s hard for them to cheer you on, be a collaborative part of the process, and appreciate all your hard work!
3. Accept help
Parenting is exhausting. If someone in your life (like a relative or friend) is offering to help—take them up on the offer! Having a helper can help take some chores off (and your partner back on) your to-do list. Maybe they provide childcare or some other service like meal prep or cleaning—even back massages!
Some other ways to free up some of your time so you can focus on partner connection include having your groceries delivered or having a work-from-home day. Not all financial situations or jobs will allow, but forgoing travel time once a week can add some hours back into your life.
“Often, it comes down to a math equation. What needs to go? If you want to have sex, you have to make the actual time.”
4. Try mirroring
Nothing selfie related :) Mirroring is when you verbally echo back what your partner is saying, regardless of whether you agree or not. If you and your partner need to have a difficult discussion about sex or parenthood or general exhaustion, mirroring can be a technique to use to keep your conversations empathetic and productive.
“Even if you disagree, sometimes it's not about coming to some kind of solution or agreement. Sometimes people do just need to be heard.”
5. Take turns planning excursions
Or, who are we kidding, a movie date will do. Yes, you’re parents (cue embarrassing “mom and dad”-style dancing), but that doesn’t mean you’re not a couple anymore!
Make time for two dates a month—just the two of you. Take turns planning one in-home, and one outside the home.
Remember you’re in this together—and you really like each other!
“If couples feel more connected, they're going to be better parents too. They go back to their child and have the energy to cope with a difficult situation in a healthy way.”
6. Productive conversations don’t happen after 8:30pm
It’s true! When you and your partner are exhausted from responsibilities, work, and the tiny person/people in your care—serious discussions generally won’t be productive late in the evening.
“Even if something feels urgent in that moment, schedule another time to talk that week.”
Instead, reserve that post-8:30pm time for pillow talk.
7. Jog with the baby stroller
Life has to be a little different post-baby—so it’s time to get creative about doing the things you love! That might mean jogging with the baby in the stroller, taking turns napping, or (shameless plug!) using Ohnut when you have sex.
“It’s important to accept that life is different now and that the things that you were able to do before... you have to find a new way to do them—together.”
As you well know, rewarding and magical as it is, parenthood isn’t easy. Sex can fall to the wayside when naps seem rarer than Big Foot sightings and penetration is less than comfortable. Sometimes a few creative communication techniques, a little time management, and some pelvic floor TLC can get you on the path to the post-baby sex life you want. And sometimes you might need to call in friends and pros. Nothing wrong with a little help :)
But most importantly—although the world has shifted in 9 short months—there’s still time for connection. There’s still time for love notes packed in lunchboxes, surprise kisses with forearms deep in a sink of soapy water, and cold feet pressed to warm (and sometimes begrudging) calves underneath the covers.
And now there is opportunity to share hysterical, sleep-deprived laughter, sleepy-eyed smiles over early morning coffee, and the proud, knowing look when that tiny person (or people) finally goes down for a nap.
And that’s a beautiful thing. Keep up the good work out there.
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