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Sex After Childbirth: A perspective by Jo Farren

Sex after childbirth

I wanted to write a little bit about my experience of sex since becoming a mother. Now this is just my experience and of course everyone is different: in fact after three children I can say that each postpartum experience is different! 

The first mention of sex is quite soon after giving birth when you’re asked about contraception. It’s not common that the response to this is laughter… but in fact some women feel ready for sex really soon after birth because of all of the oxytocin and endorphins rushing around. I’ll be honest that I was definitely not in that camp and really all I wanted was a cuppa and a nap – but I’m putting that out there as it’s important we recognise that not all bodies are the same.

Generally, at a postnatal check (around 6-8 weeks after your baby has been born) you’ll be told gleefully by a GP that ‘you can have sex again’, this feels like one of the most bizarre things, like that’s the yardstick of resuming normal life again; the truth is, that there is now a new normal, you’ve evolved like a butterfly and you may feel your sex life and libido has done too.

For me, each time has been slightly different. Noticeable after my third, my libido did drop quite a bit. I think this is probably because I’d had two babies close together and of course, I was pretty tired.

That’s a biggie for me, tiredness: when I go to bed it’s because I need to sleep, whereas BC (before Children) I would go to bed to have sex then to sleep. I feel a lot more in tune with my body now, too. Like my libido is much higher at points in the day other than bedtime which really isn’t helpful when you have three children to look after as you can’t just slope off… but it can be very lengthy foreplay! A playful text, a sexy photo… it can help start setting the scene. That’s if I’m not too exhausted by the time the smalls are in the land of nod.

I’ve also had periods of time when I have shared my bed with my children for some of the night. Folk generally look aghast at that as if the only place you can possibly have sex is in the bed, but we all know that isn’t true and it can help keep you imaginative: it’s also particularly useful for initiating sex before getting too tired and needing to sleep. I will often tell my friends ’never sit on a co-sleepers sofa’ as they uncomfortably shift on the edge of mine

Not getting my periods back didn’t seem to affect my libido with my first two babies, but it definitely did with the third. It was nice getting my ovulation surge back again and both me and my husband have very much enjoyed that! It’s very much a quality over quantity situation sex-wise for us at the moment which isn’t uncommon from the straw poll I’ve done: I’ve had discussions with friends about really unhelpful magazine articles suggesting women should try and ‘make the effort’ which strikes me as coercion and there’s nothing less sexy than feeling a duty to have sex. Instead, make it playful, go with what feels right for you, so that could be sex during a nap time, sofa sex, sexting, or just getting to know one another’s body with ’no strings’. Getting to know your body is a worthwhile investment too, having a deeper understanding and appreciation for it and who doesn’t love an orgasm?

I also find that I’m experiencing sex differently now – it’s now not just a nice thing to do but I’m finding a deeper level of connection and closeness with my husband when currently our life is very much about other people for most of the time. Sex is something we do just for us, because it feels good and because it brings us together in a way which I don’t think was necessary before the juggle of three children.

Also, aside from a few extra pounds (both of us) physically the mechanics of sex have only improved with age: I had some quite bad perineal trauma in the form of an episiotomy with my second baby which took some time to fully heal: I’ve also found out subsequently that the anatomy of the clitoris isn’t quite as limited as once was thought, so whether this procedure severed or damaged a nerve, I don’t know – but sex was uncomfortable and different for some time. That meant we were a bit more inventive which wasn’t a problem, and actually having some postnatal physio would be something I’d recommend if you found yourself in the same boat as me. I also had some physio more recently (third baby is now almost four years old – it’s NEVER too late) for a hypertonic pelvic floor. I did worry that with my now ‘relaxed’ pelvic floor that sex would somehow feel less satisfying for us both, but it really doesn’t: actually it feels better for the both of us, which has got to be a bonus. 

Over the last few years I’ve also gained a deeper knowledge and understanding of my body and my needs, an area where I think women have been limited in previously: talking about lube and masturbation was definitely not a feminine thing to do when I was growing up, which is not that long ago, and being able to talk about cervical fluid, what feels good, what time of the month I’m naturally more inclined to want sex – or not – has been key in maintaining a healthy relationship with my husband. The communication has been imperative, and very much two-way and honest which has felt uncomfortable at times but worth the discussion: for example he would like to have sex more and whilst I wish that I could just feel more sexy more often, I don’t and I won’t have sex because I feel I ought to: that to me is a dangerous area and that discussion was key in our sex life. I would urge anyone to try and have the same conversations!

So in summary, yes my sex life has changed – for the better! You do find a new normal, but it’s new and not returning to how it was before, which is scary and wonderful and can be incredible – particularly if you really start to focus on that quality over quantity.

Jo is a herbalist and doula, supporting people through fertility, antenatally in pregnancy, through birth and beyond. She has various programmes tailored for your emotional and physical needs. She is also a trainee Calm Family consultant, bringing her wealth of knowledge and understanding into practise to support the family dynamic.

4 comments

  1. Great article, refreshingly honest. Wonderful to know that things can actually improve after having children!!

    1. Thank you Kirsten – yes its a super refreshing to know isn’t it! We’re totally dedicated to giving a voice to all perspectives of what its like to be female and we’re so glad you enjoyed this x

  2. Wonderful post. I agree that sex changes quite dramatically after childbirth, and it can even be for the better! However, you do have to find the new normal, mostly because you’re fitting it around a little person’s schedule. And especially in those early years you’re often simply too tired at night. Early morning can be better, and leaves a spring in your step for the rest of the day. Thanks so much for sharing. x

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