Some women fear they may become frigid after childbirth and have no interest in sex. Much of this is due to a combination of exhaustion and the fact that immediate focus is the baby’s welfare. Be sensitive when talking to your partner about this and try not to let it become too much of an issue in the early days. Any problems resuming sex are often discussed at the six-week postnatal medical appointment.
For some couples switching from parent role to the role of lovers can be difficult. You may feel that sexual urges may not be appropriate and do not equate with the role of responsible parent. As parents, it is equally as important to have a fulfilling sex life. Sex and intimacy is not just self-indulgence, it is a significant and meaningful component in any successful relationship. With another little person in the home, be prepared for a few more unexpected interruptions, but be sure not to neglect your own needs of intimacy. This is what a family is all about.
Feelings of apprehension and unease are likely the first few times and this is not surprising, especially if your partner has had an unpleasant labour or a traumatic delivery, an episiotomy, tearing or a Caesarean. Go slowly as there is no value in painful sex. An episiotomy scar may still be tender six to eight weeks after the birth. For some women, it is possible to have continued postnatal bleeding for as long as six weeks.
Lochia is a vaginal discharge resulting from the womb shedding its pregnancy membranes. Hormone levels are still returning to normal and sometimes the vagina may need more lubrication. Choose a quiet moment when the baby is likely to sleep for a while and spend time finding out where your partner is likely to be sore. You may wish to use a lubricant. Ask your partner to guide you on where she would like to be touched. Many couples choose to resume lovemaking with a more exploratory approach the first few times. Both of you can regain your confidence this way without feeling too self-conscious. Be ready for a little comedy too as full and lactating breasts may also require strategic positioning and handling during postnatal sex. If your partner is breastfeeding, you may find yourself showered in expressed milk during an orgasm. If this bothers you, it is possible for your partner to cut the flow by pressing down firmly on the nipples.
Lovemaking helps both your partner and baby by releasing oxytocin into the blood stream. This is the same hormone that assists the contraction of the uterus and encourages the flow of breast milk. If your partner’s uterus is still involuting (returning to its original size) she may feel strong contractions after sex. This is a positive sign although it may be a little uncomfortable for her at times. A hot bath, massage or hot water bottle on your partner’s lower back and abdomen will help ease pain.
Often women find their labia, the skinfolds surrounding the vagina, to be fleshier and the vagina more voluptuous and sensual. For some women sex after childbirth remains acutely painful. This is called dyspareunia and can occur when the stitches have been inserted too tightly and the surrounding tissue has responded by swelling or become infected. Sometimes this is solved by a procedure as simple as releasing a couple of stitches. Your partner may be prescribed an antibiotic if there is infection. If your partner has pain near her cervix, it may be that the transverse ligaments of the cervix have been torn during the birth. This takes time to heal.