Mamahood, Mamazine Moment, Self-Care, The Journey, Wellness

3 Ways to Reclaim Sexuality & Sexual Connection in the Postpartum Period

Kimberly Ann Johnson, Sexological Bodyworker, Somatic Experiencing practitioner, author | September 28, 2021

The passage below is an excerpt from Kimberly Johnson’s book The Fourth Trimester.

The postpartum time is a chance to create an even deeper and more satisfying sexual connection to ourselves and our partners, but things may not look like they looked before. In a culture where “maternal” and “sexual” are often seen as opposites, it’s a radical act as a woman to refuse to succumb to this division within ourselves. Many women describe that they feel like virgins when they return to sex after having a baby, physically and emotionally. In many ways, this is 100 percent accurate. A new woman has been born. And this woman—this new mother—lives in a totally new body that has been reshaped and continues to change in innumerable ways. You are a new woman with a new body to explore and discover. This new woman, with her new and changing body, may have different needs and desires than the one who was left behind before pregnancy— and the one left behind before the baby exited.

Sexuality is about so much more than just sex. Sexuality activates our unconscious minds and can take us into liminal spaces, making it an extraordinary space for self-discovery, healing, and embodied learning. Sexuality has the potential to be the most transformative territory of our life. The postpartum time demands the redefinition and feminization of sex. Rather than sex being one more demand that drains us, sex can be an offering that fuels us. Rather than falling into a pattern of martyrdom, we can practice identifying our desires, asking for what we need, and placing our pleasure at the center. From that place, our erotic life can give us the energy we need to be present and to mother.

Unveiling Our Archetypal Inheritance

The way that we define ourselves and construct our identity is related to what is available in our cultural expressions of womanhood. The archetypes offered to us as women in the West are pretty limited—the maiden, mother, whore, and crone. Whether or not we are Christian, the Virgin Mary is the prevailing mother archetype. Her identity is based on separating her motherhood—which is combined with her spirituality—from sexuality. She was able to remain a virgin and become a mother. The only Western archetype that includes sexuality is the whore. So the Virgin Mother doesn’t have sex to become a mother. The woman who does have sex is hidden and shamed. This is an expression of a belief not only that spirituality and sexuality are separate, but also that spirituality is good and higher and that sexuality is bad. Spiritual is pure and sexual is impure. Spiritual is clean and sexual is dirty. The Virgin Mary shows us that motherhood and sexuality don’t go together. This dichotomy can consciously or unconsciously influence our sexuality during our motherhood journey.

Of course, there are many other archetypes and Goddesses around the world. Perhaps you grew up in a culture with totally different archetypes than those mentioned above. I have found a lot of comfort and inspiration in exploring the myth of Inanna, the Hindu Goddesses, representations of the Dark Feminine, and the Afro-Brazilian Goddesses. The exploration of how we create our own sexual identity from archetypes to family inheritance to personal experiences is so formative in how we experience the world that I created an online course to go deeper into just that, ultimately giving women more access to full sexual expression. You can find it here.

Feminizing Sex

The postpartum time calls for the feminization of sex, which means placing a woman’s pleasure at the center of each encounter. The majority of what we see and know about sex in our culture reflects male desires and male arousal. Pornography is a clear example of this. The orgasms that women have in porn are hard and fast, getting louder and louder as they escalate to a final peak and explosion. That trajectory reflects how many men experience arousal and climax. That version of climax has also influenced us as women with regard to what our pleasure should look like and sound like. We look for our experiences to match those images, whether unconsciously or consciously.

To place a woman’s pleasure at the center, it’s important to understand a few things about women’s anatomy and women’s arousal. Don’t worry if this is new to you. It’s new to almost everyone, for a whole bunch of reasons, including the fact that description of complete female sexual anatomy wasn’t even included in anatomy books until recently.

Here are a few useful facts: The average time it takes for men to get aroused is thirty seconds to one minute. The average arousal time for most women is thirty-five to forty-five minutes. Sexual arousal is defined by the engorgement of the erectile tissue. Men and women have the same amount of erectile tissue, tissue that fills with blood and swells during arousal. In men, you can see the engorgement because their erectile tissue is mostly external and their penis changes shape and gets erect. Women also get “erect.” Our vulvas get engorged and change shape, puffing up and flowering outward, but it takes much longer than it does for men. This is why “foreplay” is always suggested. I don’t like the word foreplay because it suggests that something comes after and that you are working up to the main event, typically penetration. The feminization of sex means that we decondition ourselves to view sex as an act with a goal of penetration that ends in climax. Although there is nothing wrong with that, it narrows our experiences, our access to new potential pleasure pathways, and satisfaction with other ways of connecting. Everything that is considered “foreplay” is luscious and worthy of enjoyment for its own sake.

Many women have never experienced full arousal because of how much time it takes, and so have become accustomed to penetration before being fully aroused. Sheri Winston, the author of Women’s Anatomy of Arousal, says that ideally penetration only happens when a woman is fully lubricated, totally aroused, and begging for it. While this may be new to you, that doesn’t mean that sex hasn’t been pleasurable for you. What it does mean is that there is a whole new world of pleasure awaiting!

After giving birth, our bodies are less forgiving when it comes to penetration without full arousal. I like to think of this as nature’s way of nudging us toward deeper sexual exploration and creative connection.

Libido & True Desires

The fact is that few women want hard and fast penetration after having a baby. So they are tentative about sex because they don’t know what to ask for or how to communicate it. Even when postpartum women say they have low libido, they are often open to sex and even want it; they just don’t want the sex they are being offered. They want intimate connection that is relevant to them at that moment, not some old replay of how they did it before.

As women, most of us have been conditioned to believe that sex is something that we are giving, and that it is our job to please our partner. As new mothers we are already giving a good deal of energy, so it is a time to flip that script and allow our partners to please us. Most women don’t want to receive affection when they know their partner is giving it only in hopes of getting more or going further, meaning any physical affection can start to feel like a demand. So it is time to flip the script that we owe our partner sex, and also that sex has to lead somewhere. As women, we are also taught that sex is a precious gift that we are giving away. We need to challenge that idea and identify what sex, in its broadest sense, can give us, and go after that.


Kimberly Johnson is a Sexological Bodyworker, Somatic Experiencing practitioner, yoga teacher trainer, postpartum advocate, and single mom. She helps women heal from birth injuries, gynecological surgeries, and sexual boundary violations. She is the author of early mothering classic The Fourth Trimester, as well as Call of the Wild: How We Heal Trauma, Awaken Our Own Power, and Use It for Good.

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