Sex after birth: Should new moms 'grin and bear it'?

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"If a woman feels pressure to be intimate before she's ready, this will do far more damage to a relationship than good," says Brisben.
"If a woman feels pressure to be intimate before she's ready, this will do far more damage to a relationship than good," says Brisben.

Women should 'grin and bear it' and start having sex as soon as possible after giving birth, says Gina Ford's parenting book, The Contented Mother's Guide.

Is she right?

In her book, Gina Ford says that men can feel "emotionally closed out" due to the lack of intimacy after the birth of a baby. This is often due to new mothers still dealing with the 'baby blues' while still healing from the pain of childbirth and trying to learn how to be a good parent. 

Nonetheless, Ford writes that parents need to get "that side of life" back as soon as possible.

In a section of the book dedicated to sharing advice from other women, one mother says that if they have to, women should "grin and bear it".

Ford suggests that though parents should take things slowly, they can also arm themselves with "post-birth essentials such as massage oil" or have a glass of wine to get in the mood. Luckily she's found most men to be "pretty patient", she adds.

Also see: 'It's normal': This study finds having less sex postpartum is a sign of a great relationship

Not everyone agrees!

Patty Brisben, author, sex educator and founder of Pure Romance was, however, shocked by this advice. She says that every couple is different and that there is no such thing as the "right time" to have sex after you baby is born.

"If a woman feels pressure to be intimate before she's ready, this will do far more damage to a relationship than good," says Brisben.

New mothers need time to recover from childbirth, which is a traumatic experience for the body. At the same time, women need to adapt emotionally to the new demands they face as mothers.

New moms are also often exhausted and simply don't feel sexy – they need time to adjust to their 'new' bodies and may lack confidence.

"Easing into intimacy is definitely the way to go. If you need to take it slowly, that's fine," explains Brisben.

In this time, kegel exercises can help speed up the healing process while strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, which has been found to make women more orgasmic. Otherwise, using lubricant can make sex more comfortable, too.

Also read: Has your sex drive disappeared along with your bump? Here's some help

Different situations call for varied responses

Research published in the Journal of Family Practice found that only half of the women reviewed were intimate with their partners between five and seven weeks after birth.

This 'waiting period' is dependant on multiple reasons that vary from person to person.

One reason for this is that women might be in pain, especially after an episiotomy, long labour or a difficult birth. Another reason is low levels of oestrogen after giving birth, which stay low as long as you breastfeed, and this causes vaginal dryness. Without lubricant, sex can be painful.

When it comes to women who haves caesareans, they should wait between eight and 12 weeks before having sex. Otherwise, six weeks is the timeframe ob-gyns typically agree on.

When you do start feeling ready for intimacy after birth there are a few things you can do to help you ease back into it:

  • Be gentle and build up to sex slowly. Concentrate on kissing, caressing and touching before moving on to more sensual touch
  • Avoid penetration until you're ready and, when you are, be sure to use a safe, gentle lubricant
  • Be careful to choose a position that's comfortable for you

What do you think is the right amount of time to wait before restoring post-baby passion? Share your stories and questions with us via email at chatback@parent24.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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