Think of it as a second puberty of sorts. After undergoing remarkable hormonal and physical changes, you’re left with a new body (and a baby, but that’s not the point here). Despite the newness, there’s no reason why you can’t feel just as sexy as you did pre-pregnancy. When you’re ready to get back to the bedroom, here’s what you need to know.
“For the first six weeks after giving birth, women don’t know their ankle from page eight,” says Lou Paget, certified sex educator and best-selling author of Hot Mamas (Doubleday Canada). And if there’s been an episiotomy or tearing, sexual ain’t the kind of healing you’ll need. Your sex drive could take a major hit after baby arrives, thanks to a post-delivery dip in estrogen, as well as the production of the hormones prolactin (from nursing) and oxytocin (from bonding with the baby). So give yourself some time to get back in the saddle, so to speak. Stay connected with your partner during this time — even just a solid cuddle can help you stay physically linked.
Your body will also have gone through changes, some of them permanent: your genitals may have darkened and changed shape, your areolas could have changed colour, there may be stretch marks, and things may have shifted around a bit. “My stomach was a shock right after the baby,” says Terri, single mom of an eight-month-old in Lloydminster, Sask. “It was so loose-feeling and -looking. I fit into all of my old clothes now, but they fit slightly differently.” Paget points out that patience is in order as you and your partner explore your new body. “You’re a beginner with this body,” she says. “Beginners aren’t supposed to know everything.”
Though your body is the one that’s changing, all of this will impact your partner too — particularly if your focus is always on the baby, and rarely on the bedroom. “Your attention is one of the most powerful things you can give your partner,” says Paget. That doesn’t mean you should be having sex when you don’t want to, but it’s important to remember that your partner has needs as well.
If you’re feeling self-conscious about your new body, or you’re not ready for penetrative sex yet, explain to your partner what you’re going through, so he doesn’t take your withdrawal as rejection. And then work hard to make sure that both of you are getting what you need and want (and you’d do well to remember that penetrative sex isn’t the only trick in the book).
This process will be different for every woman. And attitude is really what will have the biggest impact on how you feel about yourself. Megan of Peterborough, Ont., gave herself a break after her baby boy, now 17 months old, was born. “I have tried to embrace my new body,” she says. “I try not to focus on the media, because the bodies in those magazines are totally air-brushed and the models work out like dogs. I would rather be spending time with my son than working out.”
If you’re having a hard time focusing on the positives (breast size during nursing, for one), find a custom-fit solution. For Terri, it was a matter of identifying what she was struggling with and finding her own resolution. “I felt unsure of what to do with my new breasts in sexual situations, so I wear a bra to avoid any embarrassment,” she says.
“Be honest with yourself about what your body has gone through,” says Paget. “You can’t beat yourself up for that…it’s done something remarkable.”
This story is part of our New Baby Guide. Check it out for more info on bringing home, planning for and surviving having a new baby.