Postpartum Intimacy: Are You OK Down There?

In anticipation of Valentine’s Day this week, we thought we’d cover one of the big fears that women have about life after baby: sex. Many women wonder if it will ever feel the same, how much it will hurt, and what their sex life will be like once baby comes into the picture. Below, some of the experts at FitPregnancy give the scoop on sex after birth. 

 

By Tamekia Reece, a writer in Houston who specializes in parenting, sexual health and relationship issues.

Will intercourse hurt when we start having it again? Will my vagina be loose? Will my partner still enjoy sex with me? More pregnant women and new moms than you might think fret about issues like these. To put your mind at ease about your after-baby body, here’s the scoop on the biggest sex-related worries women have.

Worry No. 1 > >  Sex will be painful.
Real deal: Having a baby causes the ligaments that support the uterus to stretch, making it lower slightly, says Mark Chag, M.D., an OB-GYN at Harbour Women’s Health in Portsmouth, N.H. While discomfort caused by the penis hitting the uterus during intercourse is normal (and easily remedied by switching positions), pain is not. As long as you wait until you’re given the green light by your doctor (usually six weeks), sex should be painless, Chag says. If it isn’t, talk with your doctor, especially if you had an episiotomy; you could have another tear or an infection. But even when you’re physically ready for sex, you may not feel like having it. Blame fatigue, hormonal factors or the possibility that it’s just nature’s way of making sure you don’t get pregnant again too soon.

Worry No. 2 > >  My vagina will be stretched out.
Real deal:  Nikki Perry, of Salem, Ohio, is worried that her vagina will get “stretched out” during her second delivery. “It’s 10 years later and I’m 10 years older, so I’m concerned,” she says. Although the vagina obviously expands during childbirth, “it is very elastic and returns to its normal contour afterward,” says Jennifer Berman, M.D., director of female urology and sexual medicine at Rodeo Drive Women’s Health Center in Beverly Hills, Calif. If you’re concerned about tightness, do Kegel exercises or other pelvic-muscle-strengthening moves. To do Kegels, repeatedly squeeze and hold the same muscles that control urine flow several times throughout the day. Doing the same during intercourse can help keep your partner happy.

Worry No. 3 > >  Nursing will make my vagina dry.
Real deal:  “Because of low estrogen levels, lack of vaginal lubrication is common after delivery, especially for nursing mothers,” Chag says. However, he adds, most women find the problem corrects itself once they stop breastfeeding. In the meantime, use a vaginal lubricant like K-Y Jelly. If you use a lubricant insert such as Lubrin, your partner won’t even know the difference. If this doesn’t help or if dryness persists for longer than two months after you give birth or stop breastfeeding, talk with your OB-GYN.

Worry No. 4 > >  I’ll look funny “down there.”
Real deal: After a traumatic delivery that resulted in fourth-degree tears, Rachel T., of Newport News, Va., wouldn’t have sex with her husband for weeks after being cleared by her doctor. “I felt like a vaginal Frankenstein,” she says. While your vaginal area may be swollen and discolored after you give birth, it returns to its normal appearance within four to six weeks. “The vagina is like a rubber band,” Berman says. “It’ll bounce back.” And so, probably, will your love life.

Postpartum pointers
Ease into intercourse: You might want to devote more time than normal to hugging, kissing, mutual masturbation or oral sex.

Be prepared: Have plenty of lubricant on hand.

Use protection: Remember, breastfeeding is not a reliable form of birth control, and you can become pregnant again before your menstrual periods resume.

 

Sex After Baby: A How-To Guide for Partners

By Katie Wise, reposted with permission from the Mother’s Advocate blog.

So, you just had a baby.  You are still basking in the heroic act of welcoming your child into the world and you were stunned by the sheer animal power your lady demonstrated during the birth. You wanted to take her right then and there, but you knew that you had to wait until she was ready, and that day has finally come.  You’ve been waiting and hoping and fantasizing, and today’s the day.

Feeling like a teenager, you take a shower, throw on some cologne, and stride into the bedroom.  You look at your beloved, radiant in her milk stained nightgown.  She looks up and you exchange a look.  You anticipate that she’s about to tell you how excited she is. But instead, she opens her mouth and says

“Oh, honey, I’m sorry . . . I mean, can we just go to sleep?”

That wasn’t exactly what you had hoped for. What now?

When it comes to reconnecting sexually with your partner after baby, Make this your mantra:

Go slow, aim low, and let go.
Remember that Post partum sex requires a deep level of care and patience, tons of love and humor, and a very soft touch.  You may find yourself asking very “un-sexy” questions like: Is this hurting your hemorrhoids?; Does this angle work for your scar tissue?; Can I start to move or do you want me to stay still for a while?: and Do you want me to stop completely and just hold you?.  Let me tell you though, these careful considerations, and compassionate touches are the sexiest thing in the world to the healing postpartum mama.

Go Slow. 
Approach your sexual time with her with curiousity instead of a goal. Sometimes slow means stop.  At any moment, if she begins to feel unsafe or in pain, stop immediately.  Sex can bring up many feelings for her, both physical and emotional.  She needs to slowly get to know her body again. And don’t forget all the creative ways to be sexual together!  Intercourse is just one expression of love. Remember those amazing steps along the way that seemed so exciting in high school.  Take your time, explore, and see what else is possible.  And don’t be afraid to use lubricant to off set the changes created by postpartum hormones.  (Note:  remember if it’s lack of libido more than fear of contact with the vagina, other kinds of sex may still be hard for her to participate in.  Honor her pace.)

Aim Low.
The first year after baby is all about baby’s needs, which are unending, and immediate.  Everyone else’s needs are shoved in the closet, and not removed until after that first birthday candle is blown out. 

Make a goal of surrounding your partner with love, instead of having sex.  She needs to know that you still find her sexy even if all she wants to do is snuggle up and go to sleep.  She needs to know that nothing is required of her beyond the already heroic task of caring for our child.  She needs to know that it’s okay to not want sex.

In a book called Porn for New Moms, there is picture of a beautiful man under the sheets looking seductive and saying “Let’s not have sex tonight.  Why don’t I rub your feet and you can tell me about the baby’s day.”  Listen and learn, partners.  The best way to seduce your post partum sweetie is to let her have as much time as she wants as far away from sex as she needs.

Let Go.
Let go of the story that there is a problem if you are having less sex than you used to. Let go of what sex “should” be like.  Be present to the tenderness you have for one another.  Be compassionate for the exhaustion you both feel.   And when you do make love, help her to let go. Find breath work, yoga, tantric techniques.  Use your voice to help her surrender. Tell her she is beautiful.  Tell her that things might feel different. Tell her that she is sexier now than ever.   Tell her that you want to be with her forever.  And again, tell her to breathe. Make sex an act of devotion.  Have her imagine she is a plant receiving sunlight, or the shore receiving the ocean.

And remember: you are the one that she created this child with, she wants to grow old with you, and she adores you.  And she may not want to have sex right now.

Please don’t take it personally.
If you are about to have a baby and are feeling concerned right now,  Don’t fear.  This can be one of the most intimate years of your relationship.  In your baby, you may see your partner’s sweet smile, their sassy brow line, or calm spirit.  You meet a person that is born of the love you feel for one another.

You will both love sex again.
Biology makes sense. As her cycle returns, she will look at you in a whole new way.   The woman that you knew and loved before baby arrived will be back in your arms. There may be less sex for a year, but you will likely discover a new level of intimacy that can build your lifelong relationship. Years from now, you will sit on a porch swing talking about all of the years, and this will seem like one single flower in the full garden of your life together.

5 Tips for a Strong Relationship: Part 3

Here’s the third and final installment of tips to keep your relationship thriving as you raise your children, excerpted from my booklet, 52 Tips for a Magical Marriage After Your Child Is Born. If you missed my first two posts, take another look here.

1. Say “I love you” and “Thank you” every day. As often as you say “I love you” to your child, it’s just as critical to remember to say it to your partner every single day. A heartfelt thank you goes a long way in letting your partner know you appreciate him or her. Say thank you for the smallest acts of kindness and those that are routine.

I know this seems very obvious. But the fact of the matter is it’s very easy to get caught up in all that’s involved with raising a family and shower all your love and attention onto your child or children leaving your partner out of the
equation.

One particular afternoon I threw together a simple turkey sandwich for my husband to take on a road trip with him. A couple of hours later I got
the most loving call thanking me for the sandwich, telling me how delicious it was and how much he appreciated my effort. I can’t tell you how much that call meant to me and it made me want to do more for him.

2. Greet your partner with love. Be his or her lover first as your partner steps through the door after a long day at work. Smile. Share a hug and a kiss.

In the beginning of being a new mom I used to throw the baby at my husband when he got home from work. I barely said hello and rarely gave him a kiss. All I cared about was getting a breather from our son. Eventually, my husband told me that he really needed to be greeted by me in a way that let him know I was glad he was home other than just to relieve me of baby duties. I honored his request by giving him kisses and hugs first and I also decided to give him time to transition from work mode to home. After doing this he told me he looked forward to coming home so much more than before and made an effort to get home as early as possible so he could relieve me.

3. Connect before falling asleep. Share at least one reason why you love each other as you lay in bed. Then cuddle up for a good night’s sleep.

My husband and I started doing this when we had very little time with each other during any given day. After a while it became our norm because it reconnected us instantly and gave us the opportunity to remember why we chose to be with each other.

4. Keep kissing. Wait before pulling away if you’re in the middle of a passionate kiss and your child starts crying. Take a moment to finish. Look into each other’s eyes and then go check on your bundle of joy, together.

5. Watch your child together as he or she sleeps. You are the only people in the Universe who could have given life to this person. Knowing how much you love your little miracle tell each other how grateful you are to have found one another and formed this family.

It’s been a pleasure having the opportunity to share some of my tips with you. I encourage you to implement them. If you’d like all 52 tips to keep your marriage going strong, you can purchase the booklet here at www.parentsinlove.com

If you feel you need more support beyond the tips booklet please feel free to get in touch with me to see if some personal coaching would serve you. I can be reached at 310-375-4800 or Linda@ParentsInLove.com.

5 Tips for a Strong Relationship: Part 2

I hope you had a chance to check out the first 5 tips I shared with you in my last post, Having Kids & Staying in Love: 5 Tips for a Strong Relationship. If not, be sure to take a look and bring them to life in your relationship! Now I’d like to share 5 more tips with you, excerpted from my booklet, 52 Tips for a Magical Marriage After Your Child is Born.

1. Lighten up. The more you laugh the more loving you’ll feel. Laugh at each other. Laugh at yourself. Share it with your partner when you can find the humor underneath the stress.

     As simple as this sounds it speaks volumes for maintaining a loving relationship. Although lack of sleep, middle-of-the-night feedings, baby vomit on your clothes, arguing siblings, very little sex, and different parenting philosophies may not seem so funny, you must find a place for
humor.

When my son was 7 months old I was bouncing him around on my shoulders, doing anything I could to get him happy. In the meantime, my husband and I were not talking because of a huge disagreement we were having over something that seemed really important at the time. All of a sudden, during my pacing and bouncing, my beautiful baby boy chose to vomit all over my head, dripping down my face. I let out some sort of primal scream that had my husband come running in to the room. With one look at me, and a now giggling baby, he started laughing hysterically. I stood there quite angry for a moment and then all I could do was laugh, too. The ice was broken.

I got cleaned up and my husband and I were able to resolve our disagreement quite quickly. There’s no doubt in my mind that it was the laughter that brought us back together.

Raising children can be overwhelming. So if you can find the punch line amidst the stress, share it out loud and have a good laugh together. If you can’t see the humor, look harder. Believe me, it’s there.

2. Express any new needs now that you’re a parent. Your needs will change tremendously as a parent. It’s critical that you share with each other what those needs are. These are some needs I’ve learned are quite common for new parents:

  • Hearing from your partner that you’re still attractive.
  • Needing less physical connection after having a baby on you all day.
  • Wanting to socialize less.
  • Needing more alone time.
  • Needing to have your partner fend more for his or herself.
  • Needing more adult conversation.
  • Needing to be acknowledged for your contribution to the family.

3. Call to say, “I love you” and surprise your partner. A quick phone call filled with expressions of love reconnects the two of you instantly. Leave love notes with special messages to find during the day. It will make a tough day more pleasant and keep you connected when you’re apart.

4. Respond to the question lovingly. If asked during the call. “How’s your day going?” and it’s been a rough day at home or at work, simply say, “It’s been a challenging day. Your call just made it better. I can’t wait to see you and spend some alone time. I love you for calling.”

     As human beings, when we’re having a bad day, we’re quick to complain
     to our partner about everything that’s gone wrong. This is not the time for 
     that. It’s simply about staying lovingly connected in the moment. So put
     your frustrations aside and be your partner’s lover.

5. Give an unexpected hug. When asked, “What’s that for?” simply say, “Because you’re the best partner and dad/mother in the world, and we’re lucky to have you.”

     Nothing brings your partner more joy than those unsolicited, physical
     affections of love and comments of appreciation. And I promise you, as
     you do this for your partner, you’ll end up on the receiving end when you
     least expect it!

 

In a couple of weeks I’ll post my final 5 relationship-nurturing tips. For now, I invite you to apply the tips I’ve shared with you in this post and see what a difference they make in your relationship!

Having Kids & Staying in Love: 5 Tips for a Strong Relationship

 

Following is a guest post from Linda Salazar, a Certified Life Coach and relationship expert. Linda is a speaker and author of 52 Tips for a Magical Marriage After Your Child Is Born, Parents In Love; Reclaiming Intimacy After Your Child Is Born and Awaken The Genie Within; A Handbook to Help You Silence Your Gremlin, Manage Your Emotions and Bring Out the Best of Who You Are. Learn more about Linda at www.ParentsInLove.com.

 

From pure, unadulterated pain to total ecstasy—in a split second. What a feeling! The minute I laid eyes on my newborn son, my life was as complete as I’d ever dreamed it could be. My husband was by my side with tears in his eyes, wearing a smile as big as a kid would have on his birthday. The depth of love I felt for him and our son was something I’d never before experienced. My dreams, hopes, and expectations had all come together in one miraculous moment.

Unfortunately, that moment of bliss didn’t last very long. Just 6 months after the birth of our son, I was sure my 7-year marriage was going to end. The changes my husband and I experienced individually and in our relationship just about destroyed us as a family.

No one told us that having a child could create complete turmoil in a marriage. Oh sure, people talked about how having a child would change everything in our life, but it was always talked about in a positive, romantic way. It was clear to me that any relationship struggles new parents were facing, were being kept behind closed doors.

Fast forward to today, 29 years later — yes, you read that right — we have not only survived the challenges of being parents but ours is truly a magical marriage that has grown and matured in ways I never dreamed possible.

After becoming a parent, I decided to not hide behind closed doors and shared with other moms my fears and frustrations about the changes in my relationship. As I did, they opened up too, allowing me to realize I was far from alone. This realization led me to my passion and work today – supporting parents as they maneuver their way through the challenges of maintaining a strong and healthy relationship while raising their children in a loving environment.

There is much my husband and I have learned and applied into our life to keep our marriage strong while we raised our son and I would like to share some of that with you. The following tips are excerpted from my booklet, 52 Tips for a Magical Marriage After Your Child Is Born.

1. Show mutual respect. You’re both doing the best you know how. Your partner will continue to strive to give you his or her best when you encourage rather than ridicule for mistakes or lack of confidence as a parent.

 

For example –  As silly as it seems, when it came to swaddling my son, I was a complete failure. It frustrated me to no end. I deferred to my husband who often did it with ease, and honestly, that often made me feel worse. However, one of the kindest things he said to me was, “So you’re not the best swaddler right now, big deal. You’re a natural at so many other baby things that I find hard. Let’s just work on helping each other get better at the things that we each struggle with.”  Those words made me want to give the best of myself to my husband and our son, and I fell in love all over again!

     

2. Explore your differences. This doesn’t mean one person is right and the  other is wrong. It simply means there’s more than one way to do things when taking care of your child. This is yet another opportunity to learn from each other and take the very best of what you each have to offer.

 

For example – A frustrated couple called me for some guidance. The problem they were having was that mom insisted dad do things her way, because she believed it would make his life easier when he struggled with certain baby issues. The more she nagged him about doing it the “right” way, the more frustrated he became and the less he pitched in. During the call he found the words to speak his truth without making her wrong and everything turned around for them in that moment. He said, “I need to do things my way sometimes, so I can feel as capable as you are with our baby. Right now I feel like a failure and that you and the baby don’t need me.”

     

3. Eliminate score keeping. Playing the “who puts in more effort” game has no winners. All contributions are important. Ask for more help, if need be, with love and gratitude rather than from anger and expectation.

 

For example – Here’s one way to approach this. “I’m so grateful for you doing ABC and DEF. It’s such a help. I’m finding myself overwhelmed with XYZ and would appreciate if you could help me in this area.”  The bottom line is this – if we’re constantly asking for help in a defensive way and never specifically acknowledge how our partner is pitching in, resentment builds and the relationship suffers.

 

4. Reveal your greatest fears. All parents have fears. You might not have experienced those fears before having children and the fears can surprise you. Unrevealed fears can be a major source of tension in your relationship.

 

For example – A couple came to me because they were having huge fights over finding a preschool for their daughter. No matter how wonderful the school was, the husband kept finding something wrong with each one. After some questioning on my part he finally admitted to his wife he was fearful of their daughter being molested. This fear was not attached to any past experience; it was simply something he created in his mind. His wife did not dismiss his fear. She was compassionate and understanding and within a matter of days they decided on a preschool.

     

5. Look for what is working. It’s easy to look at everything that isn’t working when you’re overwhelmed. The truth is there’s always something working in your life. The more you focus on what is working the better you’ll feel. Start with looking for the obvious and small things – “I took a shower today!” “My partner came home early to give me a break.” “The baby slept for 5 hours straight.” “I’m breathing!”

 

These are just some of the issues I’ve experienced myself and coached couples through in my practice. In my next post, I’ll share more relationship-nurturing tips. In the meantime, I invite you to leave a comment and share your struggles and joys, or how one of these tips has made a difference for you.