Planning Tips for Postpartum Women
You may have already made some decisions about whether and when to have more children after this baby, or it may be something you need to consider now. Your decisions may be based on how many children you have already, how this pregnancy and birth progressed, finances, housing, jobs and your personal, family and cultural perspectives and philosophy. How much time you wish to leave between pregnancies is a very personal decision, individual to each family and there is no ‘right’ answer, although bear in mind that your body physically takes about a year to recover fully from each pregnancy and birth.
Many midwives and obstetricians advise waiting about six to eight weeks before resuming sex, so that you will have had your postnatal follow-up appointment, but there is some rationale for trying sex before this as it can highlight physical problems such as unhealed vaginal tears or stitches which have not dissolved but which can be diagnosed during your medical examination and treated quickly. Again, the decision about when to restart sex is very individual and may depend on how much blood loss you have, whether you have had stitches or a Caesarean section and your health and that of your baby. You may not immediately feel physically or emotionally ready for sex, especially as you may be very tired and engrossed in your new baby, but try not to ignore your partner’s needs too.
Finding time to restart sex can be quite difficult and you may need to be flexible and make changes from your old routine. Do not assume you will only have sex when you go to bed at night – you may both be so tired that all you want to do is to fall asleep! Consider planning to have sex in the afternoon when your baby is sleeping during the day. Ask friends to look after your baby for a few hours, while you cook a nice meal, take a shower together or give each other a massage to get you in the mood. At first it may be necessary to arrange a date and time for sex, but bear in mind that you may not feel like it when you eventually get together. If that is the case, just enjoy being with each other.
Making a bedtime routine is vital as your baby gets older and is something you may like to consider even from the early months. One of the most common reasons for sexual dissatisfaction amongst parents – and for the ultimate breakdown in some relationships – is that children are permitted to stay up all evening, preventing the parents from having undisturbed ‘adult’ time, not necessarily sexual, but simply being able to talk and behave as adults. Make a pact with your partner now to be very firm about bedtimes so that the evening can be your time. If you start this habit early, your children will conform without any difficulties, will be more disciplined and better behaved, better humoured, more rested, more alert, more sociable and better able to learn well at school than if you allow too much freedom over bedtimes.
Make a decision now to find time for yourselves each evening; develop a firm attitude towards children’s bedtimes so that you can have undisturbed time together. Do not feel guilty about having ‘adult time’ – you do not have to give every waking minute to your baby.
The first occasion on which you decide to have sex is likely to a little uncomfortable, because your vagina can be quite dry in the early weeks after giving birth. You may feel rather anxious about it, but persevere and do not force the issue. A vaginal lubricant can be useful, but use a water soluble one if you are using condoms for contraception, and avoid those with colourings, flavourings or fragrances as these can cause irritation in the early weeks after delivery. If you cannot manage full penetrative sex for a while, express your love for one another in other ways: you could, for example, try mutual masturbation or indulge in oral sex. Be aware that breast and nipple stimulation will trigger your ‘let down’ reflex and you are likely to leak some milk, even if you are not breastfeeding. You may have to choose a sexual position that does not put pressure on any parts of your body that still feel painful or uncomfortable, for example, your abdomen if you have had a Caesarean section.
‘The first time we tried it after Jules’ birth was after we’d been out for a meal. We’d left him with a friend who had a girl of the same age, but while we were in the restaurant all we could talk about was if Jules was OK without us, so we went back to collect him after only an hour and a half. We went home and had a glass of wine and decided to try sex, but I was so tired and stressed out that it was a complete failure. Laurie was very good about it and said it didn’t matter, and we just went to sleep holding each other.’