Let’s talk about sex (after the) baby. Talking about sex after birth is a difficult conversation for any couple. You’re both tired. Both full of anxiety and worry. Feeling under a lot of pressure to look after the new little one(s) in your life? You’re not alone.
Making life easy for mum after the birth of a child is difficult anyway, so bringing up the topic of sex needs to be approached in the right way. When’s a good time? What do we need to know medically? Can it be like it was before the baby?
Is sex important?
Sex is important for almost all couples. In a 2017 study, Anik Debrot found that sex is not necessary the most important element of a relationship, but it was important in creating intimacy and affection.
For some men and women, sex is the only way they feel any affection (or at least, how they perceive affection). This means long gaps between sex can leave people feeling rejected. It can even lead to mental health problems.
Research by Goodman (2004) found that up to 50% of new fathers suffer from depression during their partner’s pregnancy and the first year of the baby’s life. That’s not necessarily all down to sex ofcourse, but learning to communicate about issues overall is key to fighting them off.
What’s the medical advice about sex after birth?
Before we get into how to you approach talking about sex again, we should look at the medical advice. Giving birth causes damage to the mother’s body, so you need to understand the healing process if you’re going to deal with this sensitively.
The NHS doesn’t give a fit all solution because there isn’t one. They do say that you need to be conscious of your partner’s body and how it is healing. Depending on how the child was born, the both of you may have to wait a few months.
NTC reports that 65% of new parents try sex within 8 weeks of the birth, but getting back to “pre-birth” frequency can take to up to a year. The healing process can take a long time. Communication and “considerate” attempts are key to getting back to where you were pre-baby.
Will no sex damage our relationship?
This isn’t a sign of a lack of intimacy in your relationship. It can be really hard to rationalise it, but it’s going to take a long time for mum’s body to get back to even half health.
It is important though to know that penetrative sex too early on can introduce bacteria to the uterus. The uterus will still be healing until 6 to 8 weeks. Infections at this stage can lead to serious difficulties, so make sure that your partner is feeling suitably recovered before even attempting it!
What did you say about sex after birth?
We asked new dads to offer their own stories about attempting sex after the birth of their little ones and the responses were very varied!
One responder said that it happened quite naturally! 6 weeks after the birth of their child, they poured a drink, gave mum a cuddle, and they both felt ready to give it a go. Their advice was:
…not to pressure your partner, let them feel ready for it, and be extremely gentle.
Another response said that their partner didn’t want to even think about sex for 2 months after the delivery through C-section. They found that even a small amount of pressure on the C-section scar would lead to pain, so it simply wasn’t on the cards. Their advice:
If you feel like you’re ready to have sex, broach the subject carefully. It’s probably best to ask your partner whether they’d feel ready to have sex at some point and have a frank discussion instead of “trying it on”.
One respondent even said that they (as a couple) explored an open marriage until the healing was complete. This won’t work for every couple, but it is an option for fathers who really feel they can’t wait.
What’s the best way to approach sex after birth?
The stories we received were all slightly different, but all came down to three basic principles:
1. The importance of being open
A woman’s body will be extremely sore after giving birth and this pain can last for a long time – one woman responded to our question by saying that her post-birth experience was like “the deepest bruise you’ll ever have for 6 months”. Even if you are in the large percentage of couples who attempt sex after 6 weeks, that doesn’t mean the pain goes away.
Listen and be open to conversation about the healing process. Mum is the best source of information for when you can start to try again.
2. The importance of understanding
Be open in discussing how you feel with your partner. They know you want to have sex. They will want to have sex too. But if you don’t discuss this together, you could find your relationship suffers due to a lack of understanding.
3. Finding new and different ways to be intimate
Take time to be intimate in other ways – including non-sexual ways! Learning to develop new ways to share your time together creates new bonds and new ways to enjoy your time together.
Research shows when we initiate physical contact of any kind, our brains become active in “reward-related regions”. That means physical contact = happiness, comfort, compassion. Try to introduce activities which involve more physical contact that is still safe for your recovering partner.
Truth to be told, some parents will find that having sex after their child is born isn’t possible simply due to tiredness. But preparing for when you are both ready properly will strengthen your relationship.
Fatherhood isn’t easy for anyone and no sex can really damage some people’s self esteem. That’s not selfish. But you need to be open about your feelings and share them with your partner.
Working as a team and being open to listening to your partner will help your relationship. It will help your parenting. Most importantly, it will help your mental health throughout this difficult first year.