As a Naturopathic Doctor who works with women to address the multifaceted causes of low libido and has a passion for sexual re-education (teaching women how to reclaim their power, pleasure and relationship satisfaction), one of the most common complaints I get is about sex after baby.
As a new mom myself, it is also an area of personal learning that I have recently found myself wading through.
I had to have surgery at 8 and a half months pregnant, then gave birth (to my sweet and wonderful daughter), which left me bedridden, in pain and definitely unable to have sex for about 3 months. Then postpartum hit me harder than I had ever imagined, and I felt the strain on my relationship, my identity and my connection to my pleasure.
So, what happens when the Pleasure Doctor can’t have sex?
I had to return to my teaching, return to the work I do and spend time putting what I preach into practice.
My daughter is now 3 months old. I am healed and healthy, I am back to feeling like me. And my sex drive is back. It is possible!
When it comes to sex after baby, I have heard it all. I have worked with women who were ready for intimacy days after giving birth, and I have worked with women who asked their doctor to tell their husbands it still wasn’t safe for sex 6 months postpartum because they were so afraid of it. Whatever you are going through, know that this process is a rollercoaster. Wherever you are at in your journey back to pleasure is exactly where you need to be. You are normal and you are not in this alone.
The one take away I hope you get is that there is a way back, back to your journey, back to being a mom and sexy, back to intimacy with your partner. Because the only thing I will not accept is women resigning themselves to futures devoid of sex and pleasure because they are a mom. There is help and guidance! Please don’t think you have to suffer in silence.
Regaining your sex drive in the 4th trimester isn’t always a simple solution because there usually isn’t just one contributing factor. Sex and pleasure are complex and personal issues that have ties to self-image, beliefs and values, hormones and emotions, relationship satisfaction and more. The 4th trimester is a mix of heavy emotions, self-doubt and uncertainty, navigating relationship changes, physical healing – in other words, it is definitely not a recipe for sex and pleasure.
You are responsible for your own desire. And you can learn how to find your way back to pleasure, but first you have to find out what that means to you now.
Childbirth means lots of amazing and beautiful changes happened to our bodies, but it can also trigger some self-conscious responses about weight gain, scars and marks, and how it looks and feels “down there”.
Let me assure you, your body, your vagina and your vulva were meant to do exactly what they did. This narrative about women’s bodies being disposable after childbirth is damaging and completely untrue. Do the work to love your body and the miracle that the changes brought you. Yes, things may feel differently when you return to sex, but different isn’t bad. Think of sex as a journey that is always changing. What turned you on when you were 15 isn’t the same as what turns you on now. Look at sex as a journey and an opportunity to explore what works for you now.
And another hint… Take penetration off the table for a few weeks or months. There are so many beautiful ways to be intimate that don’t involve penetration. Ask and explore those and watch what happens as you return to pleasure without the pressure!
If you are experiencing pain, seek out the right professionals. Don’t listen to the person who tells you to just ignore it and hope it goes away. Find a pelvic health physiotherapist, a sex-positive coach or therapist. There is help!
Wow. The highs and lows of postpartum are a whirlwind. As a doctor who works in women’s health, even I was surprised at the emotional toll postpartum took. It was like being transported back to being a teenager. Emotions were big and deep. They hit me like a ton of bricks. And with a new baby, new triggers, new loneliness and more responsibilities, it left so much less room for me and for my partner. This is where you have to put in the work. To make the time for connection that isn’t going to come from anywhere else. Go back to the basics, to the things that made you feel connected as a couple before baby… Back to when you first started dating.
- Hold hands
- Hold eye contact
- A kiss that lingers
- Full body cuddles
Make an effort to do things that will release oxytocin – the hormone that fosters connection and calm – with your partner.
Pleasure is a mindset. It is a place we have to strive to be, to make intentional effort to create and find ourselves worthy of deserving it. And in a lot of ways, it is the opposite of how women have been taught to exist.
Take time for you. Be a little selfish. When friends come to meet the baby, don’t feel obligated to sit and entertain. Go take a bath, do what you need to do to feel like you. You cannot pour from an empty cup and this includes the 4th trimester. The narrative that you have to be a void, milk machine is tired and outdated. Ask for help and take advantage of it. Trust your gut. Easier said than done, I know. But it starts by changing your thoughts and entertaining a new idea of what motherhood can look like for you.
Support and Community
Share your story! I truly believe in the power of connection, community and conversation. So much of what is challenging about the 4th trimester is the loneliness, the isolation – feeling like you can’t be honest about how you are feeling because you don’t want to be labeled a bad mom who isn’t grateful.
I think that’s ridiculous. So ridiculous that I created a community called The Pleasure Mindset Bootcamp for women to share and support each other. Because you would be surprised at how much we share with each other if we are brave enough to speak it.
The journey back to pleasure after having a baby is rocky, full of surprises and draining. But it is not impossible. Remember that you are worthy of pleasure and there is always a way back to it.