“A body pressed against your body is the beginning of nest.” ~Eve Ensler, In the Body of the World
If you’ve landed here, you’re probably looking for solutions to find more pleasure, ease and enjoyment in your sexuality after bringing a baby into your life. There are so many factors that contribute to your postpartum sexual experience, from childhood religious belief systems to how you feel about your birth, your postpartum healing and much much more.
Here’s a shortlist of what can influence your sexual expression after baby:
- Birth injury or trauma
- Birth ecstasy or joy
- Relationship challenges
- Lack of sleep
- Pelvic healing
- Mental and emotional health
- Support or lack thereof
- Demands from other children
- Returning to work
- Sexual shame
- Prior sexual assault or trauma
- Body literacy (understanding arousal, knowing your fertility patterns, etc)
Regardless of where you find yourself in the trajectory of returning to your sexuality after baby, there is great potential and awakening in discovering your sexual identity after birth. Whether you’re currently struggling to find your true turn on and desire again or you’ve returned to having sex because you feel like you “should” (but really you could take it or leave it!), this post will help you start to unravel some of the threads to reveal your evolving sexual identity.
Step one, normalize where you’re at right now!
There is a lot of variety in what’s normal when it comes to when mothers feel ready to return to sex postpartum. While the cultural norm for talking about returning to sex postpartum means penetration, here I’m talking about any form of sex with self or other. So, take a deep breath, whether you decide to not wait a full 6 weeks or you’re still not sure at 6 months postpartum, it’s normal!
If you’re confused about your sexual desires or identity, normal.
If you’re interested but don’t know how to begin or when to find time, normal.
If you feel like you’ve completely lost your libido, normal.
If you feel complete turn on from birthing, also normal.
Knowing that you can start from wherever you are is important. It will hopefully allow your system to regulate a bit and drop some of the charge around any time pressure you feel.
Settling into the fertile void
Once you have crossed the threshold of birth, regardless of how it goes, there is no returning to your previous state. The sex you had before may sound appealing but might not translate into your needs as a newly born mother. What you liked previously, may not feel nourishing or exciting now. And that’s ok.
In this time of transition and transformation, you get to reclaim, reshape and re-wire yourself for more pleasure and satisfaction in your sexual life. It will emerge from within you with patience, the right support and a willingness to settle into the fertile void of your own pelvis.
Reorienting to your new self
Having better sex starts with your own relationship to your body and sexual self. A great first step to returning to your sexuality after having a baby is by looking at your own vulva or cupping your hands over your vulva and breathing. If this already feels too charged, you can start by doing vaginal steaming for pelvic healing and relaxation.
If you had a tear (perineal or otherwise), you will have scar tissue and you will notice some tissue changes overall. Even if you didn’t have a tear or injury, you will likely still note some changes in shape, skin tone, texture or color when compared to your pre-pregnancy state.
Knowing your body is important, as is getting help for scar tissue remediation, pelvic floor function and any other lingering birth residue that may affect your ability to feel safe and comfortable inhabiting your pelvis and sexuality. If you’re beyond 6 weeks postpartum it’s a great time to have a pelvic floor physical therapy session, holistic pelvic care or sexological bodywork. If you had a challenging birth experience, Birth Story Listening is a great resource for healing and integration.
Don’t skip these steps! Supporting your own physical healing is a crucial first step in reclaiming your body and sex as your own. I help women do this in person or virtually.
After you’ve gotten some hands on care for your pelvis and vulva, you may feel the inner tides shifting already. Regardless, take your time in getting back to sex. The postpartum time is a great time to slow down your sexual interactions. It’s a time to really be curious about what it is that you do want, especially if you feel that is in contrast to the sex you were having before.
Check yourself if you’re putting expectations on yourself or projecting those onto your partner! There is no where to get back to. It’s about discovering where you are and where you’re going next.
What can sex give you that you can’t get somewhere else? What kind of sex do you want to have? You need nourishment and touch more than ever, how can those be part of your sexual life? First answer these questions for yourself, or hold them with curiosity. Then, you can talk to your partner about what you’ve discovered!
Which leads me to…
Talk to your partner about sex, outside of having sex! If this isn’t already happening within your relationship configuration, then now is the time to start. Of course, talking about wants, needs and desires during sex is great too, but contextualizing your experience for your partner can really help create connection and deepen intimacy.
If you’re having a hard time with your sexual identity after baby arrives, share this with your partner and open a dialogue about what you can do together to find a solution that works for both of you. This is easier said than done! If you need outside support, get it.
Something that has really worked for me and women I work with as an initial first step in developing a dialogue and language around expressing wants is the 3 minute game. I learned this from Kimberly Johnson; however, it is part of Betty Martin’s work around the wheel of consent.
The most simple version for just starting out is giving touch for the receiver to enjoy for 3 minutes. I recommend starting out without including genital touch.
To do this:
- Decide on who will be the receiver and who will be the giver.
- Giver ask the receiver: how would you like me to touch you for 3 minutes?
- Receiver allow yourself to pause until something arises from within that is a genuine desire. If you can’t think of anyway you’d like to be touched or be next to or with the giver in any way, then wait. That can be part of the process.
- Receiver state your desire with a precise description. “I would like you to lightly stroke the back of my neck.” Rub / massage my back / shoulders etc does not count! Get creative.
- Giver decide if this is something you’re willing to give. Remember this is for the receiver, so go along with it unless it is truly unavailable for you in some way.
- Clarify anything that needs clarifying. How will you sit or lie down or be together in space to make this happen?
- Be sure the receiver is as relaxed as possible, ideally with back support if seated.
- Set a timer for 3 minutes and begin.
- Giver ask the receiver “is this how you imagined it?” or “is there any way I can make this better?” Asking once as a check in is good enough.
- Receiver ask giver to make adjustments as needed or ask for something else if it’s not working for you.
You can change roles or do a few rounds in the same roles. I recommend exploring both. This is a simple and effective way to increase body awareness, communication and intimacy that doesn’t feel like too much too soon. It’s slow and contained and you can do it without a lot of time, which I know can be hard to find after baby arrives!
Your sexuality is your own, even when it feels confusing or murky or unknown. Finding your way, your pleasure, your truth, your desire after having a baby is not only possible but also illuminating and life-giving. Even if you only take one piece from this article, that’s already an amazing first step for you.
You deserve to feel good. You deserve healing and pleasure and connection. If you need support on this path, get in touch! Stay curious!