DISCLOSURE: This information is not meant to be all-encompassing and should not replace seeking advice from your health care provider for specific questions, solutions, and concerns about your health! The purpose is to spark curiosity and gain some insight into your health. This blog may contain adult language.
Let's Talk About Sex, Baby
When I was thinking about writing a blog about sex for mothers, I did what I often do when I need some badass woman wisdom, I texted my 3 closest friends in a group chat. We are all in our 40’s/50’s and our kids are now teens.
What’s something that you wish you knew as a pregnant woman and/or a new mom?
The texts came quickly:
Your hormones can be on overdrive when you are pregnant, yet you may never want sex again as a new mom.
As a new mom, get the f*ck away from me!
Sex does not hurt the baby! It‘s normal to feel really self-conscious about your body after a baby. And also give yourself permission to feel all the feels and not want your partner anywhere near you.
Did anyone else really, really love the sex the first time after the waiting period after birth? They had to stitch me up a little bit and I think they stitched me up a little snugger and that was kind of fun. I remember being scared and hesitant and then it was kind of awesome.
Like a virgin! Touched for the very first time. I can’t remember loving it. I definitely remember being relieved about the waiting period.
That only happened after the first. Definitely didn’t have sex after second for an entire year!
I remember thinking I better not get f*cking pregnant again!
I distinctly remember feeling very protective of my body and the baby bond. I think it’s normal to maybe shut out your partner during those first weeks/months because it's so intense between mom and kid. I think it could probably be very lonesome for the dad in some ways.
Yes, that feeling about your partner is very real. I remember wanting my husband to be extra supportive of me and my vulnerability during this time, which was confusing to me and to him because I had worked for years to be fiercely independent and self sufficient
But having their perspective wasn’t enough, what about feedback from the partner who didn’t experience pregnancy but was along for the ride while having their own experience.
So I went to another friend for a different perspective:
I thought our sex life was good during her first pregnancy… we both knew sex wouldn’t hurt the baby, and it was fun. I just wish I knew our sex life would never be the same again after the baby! I wish I knew it could take so long for her to recover… it was a LONG wait, and it got frustrating. I also wish I knew then how broadly you could define sex and how to be less selfish about my own needs and focus on hers for a while. There are lots of things I think I could have done to support her post-birth emotional and sexual needs better that didn’t involve ‘traditional’ sex, but I was young and pretty immature then.
As you can see, the answers are different for each person, yet, we all had some shifting we needed to do in how we viewed our sexual selves.
It’s normal to shut out your partner during those first weeks/months because the bond is so intense between mom and baby.
In my experience treating women with acupuncture for the last 12 years, in addition to being a woman and a mother, I’ve noticed that the changes that come with pregnancy and motherhood can be confusing to both the mother and her partner. Not only are there wild hormonal swings, but there are external influences that can make connecting with your partner seem like a whole new and more complex relationship. All of this also occurs while you are growing a human inside and then once that human is here, you have to raise it!
Sex is NOT a Drive
There are some specific suggestions that I’m sure you’ve heard over and over (lots of GOOD lube is a MUST). But when talking to women about sex I notice the big picture can become fuzzy. We are so inundated with ‘one size fits all’ suggestions on how to claim, or reclaim our sex life (Buy lingerie! Watch porn together! Stick this herb in your vagina!) we lose sight of some basic truths.
The first thing to wrap your brain around, Little Mama, is that sex is not a drive. Yep, I said it, we do not have an internal stimulus that drives us to have sex, like hunger for food. Unlike food, which we must have to survive, we do not need to have sex to live. Amazing sex researcher and educator Emily Nagoski has done the research, and what she’s found is that sex is more like a curiosity. Sexual arousal is prompted by external stimulus, not by internal need. So relax, if you and your partner are not having sex you.will.not.die and neither will your partner. However, sex can be fun and a great way to connect with your partner, so at some point you’ll probably want to have sex and enjoy it. In this way you can be curious like a cat.
Cats are notoriously curious creatures when they are relaxed. When a cat is nervous, or stressed, it is not curious at all. It is panting, or hiding, or hissing when confronted with stimulus. Can you relate, Mama?
Emily Nagoski (have I pointed out she’s the bomb?) has a great analogy that describes our libidos. Most people have an accelerator and a brake when it comes to sex. The accelerator is your sexual desire, and the break is the external stimulation that puts the stops on that desire. So it doesn’t matter what you and your partner do to press your accelerator (Buy lingerie! Watch porn! Put this herb up your vagina!) if your brake is being pressed by stress, exhaustion, feeling pressured to perform and/or past trauma, you are not going to want to be curious, Kittycat.
To have a healthy sex life in a time when you’re experiencing profound change, you and your partner need not only to examine what presses both of your accelerators, but you also need to figure out what puts on your brakes. You’ll be amazed by the importance that very non-sexy things influence your sex life (like too many dishes in the sink, or some jerk at work, or your partner’s new shampoo). It takes good communication and self examination to figure all this out. Once your brake is released, the accelerator will press down much easier and you’ll be zooming along to the big O in no time.
Or not, you might have sex a few times before you get back in the groove and that is okay! Learn from it, talk about it, try again. This, of course, does not take into consideration if you are having pain with sex. If you are having pain with sex, make an appointment with your gynecologist ASAP and come in for some acupuncture. There are solutions for this too.
The 3 G’s
When you do have sex, make sure you also practice what my other sex advice guru Dan Savage says is the ultimate for great sex: the 3 G’s: Be Good, Be Giving, and Be Game (within reason). Talk to your partner, listen to them. Try to be a good lover, be giving of your skills, your time, your compassion, and be game to try new things!
So Mama, not all is lost, it’s just that sexual evolution takes a little more work than we’ve been led to believe. To break it down and simplify things follow steps 1 - 3.
Work with your partner. COMMUNICATE. At some point this person is going to have their genitals smashed up with yours, so you should definitely work on feeling comfortable enough with them to discuss what presses your accelerator, and what stomps on the brakes.
Be curious. The way you feel about sex will change overtime if you are open and willing to be like a kittycat. Understand that both yours and your partner’s wants and needs can and will change as you grow and change.
Practice GGG. Remember you and your partner are in this together.
Most of all, Mama’s, give yourself a break. Be kind to yourself and your partner. Accept things as they are because they will change as your body changes, and DO NOT put the herb in your vagina.