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Sex & New Parenthood: Tips for Navigating Intimacy Postpartum

Tolly Moseley, Sex With Emily | September 21, 2021

Congratulations! Your baby is here, and you’re officially a parent. Are you excited to have sex? If you were the one who gave birth, chances are…no. At least, not right away.

Whether your baby arrived via vaginal delivery or c-section, it is 100% normal (and expected) for there to be a period of time where your body simply heals, as you care for your teensy human. In fact, one study showed that 62% of people with vulvas experienced pain during penetrative sex, up to three months postpartum. The reasons for this are two-fold: first, labor and childbirth create minor traumatic injuries, and the skin is healing. But secondly, hormone levels aren’t necessarily encouraging penetration right now: estrogen and progesterone drop considerably, so the vagina is producing less lubrication. It’s as if the body is saying: “hey, I need you to focus on baby right now.”

If your baby arrived via adoption or surrogacy, guess what? Hormone levels can still be thrown off-kilter, largely due to sleep deprivation and new baby anxiety. However, these changes are only temporary. Your body will heal, your hormone levels will return to their previous state, and you will sleep normally again.

In the meantime, here’s how to navigate all the sex things and rediscover intimacy, postpartum:

Be open and honest with your partner about your sexual desire—or lack thereof.

It really is okay to change the way you connect for a little while.  At the end of the day, both partners may feel tired from baby-care, and breastfeeders may feel “touched out.” Remind yourselves that this won’t last forever.

Your hormone levels are changing. 

Breastfeeding and postpartum affect your hormone levels, and this could put a damper on your sex drive for a while. But it’s also normal! And while this isn’t necessarily anything you need to “fix,” you might find it beneficial to bring in some backup. Foria’s Intimacy Sex Oil is a fantastic addition, as it uses CBD to enhance arousal and ease discomfort. The CBD increases blood flow (a vital part of arousal) and relaxes your muscles, which is incredibly beneficial after putting your body through the miracle of childbirth.

Your body might look different.

For some birth-givers, this is a source of anxiety.  The solution? Give yourself permission to focus on the things your body and mind need to feel good. This could take the form of exercise, nourishing food, or exposure to role models. We’re in a moment of normalizing and celebrating things like stretch marks and cellulite, which is amazing and, frankly, overdue. Don’t be afraid to cultivate a system of support, including but not limited to your partner. Ask for what you need to get to a body/mind place that helps you thrive.

Now for the fun stuff…

This is a nice period to enjoy kissing and cuddling, the “comfort foods” of physical intimacy. Start here, and see if arousal occurs. Have lube handy, and when you’re ready for sex again…take it slow. Once baby settles into a sleep routine, you can carve out more time for sex in ALL of its forms: penetration, oral, digital.

Need sexy inspiration? Queue up one of Sex With Emily’s favorite hubs for ethical porn, Bellesa. If your visual field includes mostly baby animals and primary colors right now, it can be downright thrilling to watch something, anything else. Like hot sex, for example.

I’ll leave you with one more piece of encouragement: a 2018 survey found that 40% of moms and 47% of dads reported zero change in their sex life after kids, and for some people (13% of moms and 10% of dads in the survey)—the quality of sex actually improved!

As a parent who is a proud member of the “improvement” camp, I can tell you confidently that having children helps you set boundaries, hone your communication skills, and get very clear about what’s important to you. Sex is a long game, and so is having a child. Both can offer enormous opportunities for growth, play, and evolving into a version of yourself that knows exactly what you want.

This article was adapted from a piece originally featured on Sex With Emily.

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