Sex after Childbirth
In the good old days of home deliveries and joint families, women after giving birth to their babies were isolated for 40 days during which they could not enter into any sexual encounter with their husbands. With modern sensibilities, women are working until almost the last week in demanding jobs, hospital-births where the birth is often assisted or a Caesarean, the rules have all been re-written.
Your gynecologist will help you decide upon when it would be safe for you to go back to an active sex life which in turn will depend on how difficult your delivery was. In case there has been any injury to the perineum or any surgical cuts it would delay the return to normalcy.
Women who go through a Caesarean section for delivery heal faster for a sexual encounter as they do not have painful or injured vaginal passages by childbirth. However, they might find some positions not very comfortable. In such cases the return of the uterus to its normal size is also faster than for women who have normal childbirth.
Managing the husband: You need to understand the difference between sexual ‘activity’ and sexual ‘intercourse’. Many a time, a husband feels replaced by the new child in the emotional framework of their wife and can be a little jealous of the infant. In such cases it is the maturity of the new mother that can help the father bond with the child and not feel sexually alienated. Involve the husband in daily duties related to the caring of the infant so he feels like a ‘family unit’ rather than somebody left out because the wife is now busy with a demanding child.
Balancing activities: A new mother has to plan her activities well as she has lower strength and more duties. If there is a relative to help with the bathing and caring of the baby it works better for her energies but sometimes it is just not possible.
Very often men are at a loss to understand what they can do to help so they do nothing. As a new mother you are sensitive to the changed situation and moods and feel he should offer rather than you having to ask for help. Well, if your husband, the new dad, has no idea of how to help, you should ask for it.
Post-natal depression: A condition which was earlier not acknowledged by doctors or new mothers is the depression that sets in upon some women following childbirth. Even Princess Diana of England acknowledged that she suffered from it, so it is not related with either the gender of the child born or the economic stratum of the new mother.
Sometimes, this might be related to the perception of the new mother about her body’s changed shape. If the desire to resume sex does not come back even after six months, it is time to look for help.
Hints to get active again: For most women, however, it is a combination of new duties, balancing of old workloads and the demands of the infant on her time and sleep that leads to a lower libido. Some helpful hints for these young mothers would be:
- Even if your doctor suggests waiting for six weeks, only you can decide when it is time for you to resume sexual activities.
- Vaginal dryness may occur due to the hormonal changes. Ask your doctor to prescribe a good lubricant.
- Breast-feeding sometimes leads to more painful sex and reduced libido due to the reduced levels of oestrogen. Be patient in that case.
- Do take birth control precautions in the form of a condom as uterine infection is more common after childbirth.
- During intercourse choose a position that does not put pressure on your sensitive spots. It should never be uncomfortable for you.
- Pelvic floor exercises always help a woman bring back muscular toning to the vagina. It will also raise your morale.
- Eat and drink well. Rest as much as you can. Very often women feel a lack of desire simply because they are tired and have no energy for sex.
- There is no prescribed rule as each couple is different, so find your own rhythm and time frame. There is no ‘norm’ when you are both agreeable to the schedule.
- The only logical reason for waiting is for the woman’s body to heal and the stitches to dissolve if there are any.
- If intercourse continues to be painful despite being careful and gentle, talk to your doctor.
- If the husband is showing restraint don’t take it as a sign that he is getting it elsewhere. Keep communication flowing even as a new mother, with your husband; share your emotions with him.
- Plan future fun and it will seem more real. These days of demanding infants are temporary but create a vision of time beyond that so you can look forward to it.
- Plan time together even if not necessarily for sex.
- Don’t always expect to go back to ‘pre-baby days’ of sexual activity. Adapt and adopt new methods and styles.
Children often do not think of their parents as sexual beings, even when they know the biological activities behind their own births. It does not mean you need to hide your affection for each other as a couple from your children.
Even though Indians are not as demonstrative as Westerners in front of their children, sharing some common affection in front of your infant or older child is normal. Childbirth does bring a new dimension to the existence of the couple but it does not have to mean that there is a break in their sexual relations. Keep your mind and emotions open and the period after childbirth could cement your relationship with your husband even more.