The truth about sex after pregnancyFind out which popular beliefs are facts—and which are just myths
Things were going along just fine in the sex department until you got pregnant and, nine months later, out popped a wailing newborn. Body changes, family changes and new responsibilities can sometimes make post-baby sex more challenging, but what’s normal? Here, our experts tell it like it is.
1. Your sex drive revs back up around six weeks after giving birth.
False: While most doctors give women the all-clear for sex six weeks after childbirth, not all women are raring to go. And according to many experts, including Trina Read, PhD, a sex therapist in Alberta, Canada, it can take a woman months, even an entire year to regain her sex drive. “It is my experience that the majority of women completely lose interest in sex for at least a year after the baby is born,” she says. “Because many women associate sex with performing just another chore, having to be touched becomes just another sacrifice on her part. So, when he touches her, whether he wants sex or not, her body immediately shuts down.” The solution? Make time for no-pressure intimacy, like cuddling on the couch together after the baby is asleep, that doesn’t necessarily end in sex, says Dr. Read.
2. You probably won’t snap back into shape right away, and your faltering body image might make you shy away from sex.
True: “We see so many images of celebrities sporting bikinis and baring their toned, taut bodies right after giving birth,” points out Claire Mysko, coauthor of Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat? The Essential Guide to Loving Your Body Before and After Baby. “The reality is that most new moms' bodies don't look like that—and most new moms don't have celebrity bank accounts for trainers and designer diets.” Try not to dwell on how your body has changed, says Mysko, since it could be a downer to your sex life—especially one that’s already taking a beating from the baby. “To put it simply, bad body image kills the mood,” she adds. Here’s Mysko’s best body image advice for new moms: “Treat yourself with kindness and compassion as you heal and adjust to your new life as a parent. The truth is that women are much harder on themselves about their post-childbirth bodies than their partners are. Of the husbands and partners we surveyed, most said that their biggest concern was that their wives didn’t feel more confident about their bodies.”
3. Your husband is counting down the minutes until you’re cleared to have sex again.
False: Whether it’s because of a C-section, a bad tear or other complications, there’s usually a period of time when sex is out of the question after the birth of a baby, and it’s easy for a woman to feel as though her husband is getting impatient—especially after nine long months of pregnancy when you may not have had as much sex as you used to. You may worry, “Is he getting impatient about having sex again?” Maybe, says Mysko, but probably not. Here’s why: “We heard from guys that it wasn't the sex they missed the most after childbirth, it was the connection.” Other experts, like Irvine, California–based psychologist and sex therapist Stephanie Buehler, PsyD, say male hormones are at play. “The hormone vasopressin can dampen a man's sex drive,” Dr. Buehler says. “Vasopressin is a kind of male bonding chemical,” she continues, which helps fathers connect with babies—and mothers. Even if you aren’t ready to have sex just yet, a hug or some snuggling can go a long way in the intimacy department.
4. Your vagina may never be the same again.
True: It’s something none of us really wants to hear, but “after childbirth, many women have looser vaginas,” says Brad Douglas, MD, an ob-gyn and Chesapeake, Virginia–based expert for JustAnswer.com. But if you’re worried about this affecting your sex life, don’t. “Yes, the vaginal tissue does expand from childbirth, but it’s very pliable.” In most cases, he says, your anatomy should return to its normal shape in the months following delivery. However, if you feel that something isn’t quite right—pressure, a continued feeling of “looseness” or pain during intercourse—it could be a sign of a “pelvic organ prolapse,” says Dr. Douglas, and it’s something you should talk to your doctor about. In the meantime, heath experts say the best thing women can do post-delivery is to try Kegel exercises, which can help tighten your vaginal and pelvic floor muscles.
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