Doctors typically recommend waiting six weeks after giving birth in order to have vaginal intercourse. Most couples resume vaginal intercourse by eight weeks after giving birth, but not as frequently as pre-baby until around a year postpartum. That being said, it’s been suggested that sexual issues increase after birth, and that their frequency and intensity increase as well.
After baby you’re not only in a new role but also your body has changed. Sure, its size and shape, but also how you process sensation and pleasure. It’s understandable to want to get your pre-baby sex life back, but this goal can cause a lot of strife. Instead, start by figuring out what feels good in your body now.
One of the best ways to do this exploration? Masturbation. It gives you the time and space you need to explore your likes and dislikes, without the pressure of having to perform or reach some goal for a partner. Plus, it’s time just for you to be you, without having to worry about taking care of anyone else.
Reclaim your sexual identity outside of your parenting one.
You should still wait the full six weeks before trying penetration. Thankfully, sex is so much more than a penis in a vagina!
The ban on intercourse doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the rest of the sexual menu, from masturbation to oral to sex toys to sensation play and so much more! Not being able to have intercourse lets you expand your sexual menu and explore the other types of pleasure that you and your partner enjoy. This is a great time to talk with your partner, too, especially if they are oriented to want intercourse or view it as the only “real” sex. Don’t let your identity as parents overcome your identity as partners.
What about my libido?
Your desire may return to prepregnancy levels as soon as three weeks after giving birth. It also may change!
Regardless of what happens, focus on your willingness to have sex and what you’re willing (or unwilling) to do. For people with uteruses, this is a more accurate determinant of libido than a sudden feeling of wanting to get it on now. This is especially true when you’re navigating a stressful situation, which new parenthood is on physical, mental, emotional, and interpersonal levels, as stress tends to shut down that spontaneous desire.
Your goal isn’t orgasm.
It’s acquainting yourself with this new body and reclaiming your sexual identity outside of your parenting one. Focus on pleasure instead.
Taking these last three points together, it can help to expand your idea of what “counts” as masturbation. Ask yourself, “what would feel pleasurable in this moment?” It may be some sort of typically sexual stimulation or it may be a more sensual pleasure.
Wherever you are on the spectrum, from wanting sex to not wanting sex, is welcome.
Every body truly is different, and there’s no way to know what’ll be right for you right after you give birth. If you’re ready to explore, here are nine ways to support your postpartum pleasure journey.
- Don’t just focus on your genitals. Expand your masturbation practice to include all parts of your body. Let your hands and/or toys wander over your entire body.
- Listen to your body. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. Listen to it. This is not a time to push through.
- Toys are OK….but start slow. May not be the best time to whip out your beloved wand vibe but instead stick with a bullet vibe. Especially during this healing time, using body safe toys is vital.
- Have your partner join you. Though most people think of masturbation as a solo activity, it doesn’t have to be. Mutual masturbation is sexy AF—plus a quick and easy way for both of you to get yours, while learning more about what helps the other person get there.
- Use a sex blanket or towel. There’s likely some discharge and extra may come out if you experience orgasm. Save your bedding and your sanity—you’re doing enough laundry as it is.
- Lube is your friend. Look for something that’s free of glycerin, propylene glycol, and parabens as these can increase your risk of infections.
- Be mindful. Use this time to really explore new ways of experiencing pleasure and orgasm.
- Notice what’s different and take action as needed. In other words, this time is amazing for you to get acquainted and figure out if something isn’t quite right. You may need to be your own best advocate here, but this is also a good time to lean on other new parents to get insight into what to expect, as well as referrals for empathetic providers.
- Meet with a pelvic floor physical therapist. Pelvic floor physical therapists diagnose and treat a variety of pelvic issues including pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction, urinary incontinence, constipation, low back pain, painful sex, and much more. Other countries offer this therapy for all new birth parents and have seen a reduction in postpartum pelvic issues like urinary incontinence, but it isn’t standard practice in the U.S. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask your healthcare provider for a referral. Even if you aren’t experiencing issues, a pelvic floor PT can help prevent them in the future.
Your sex life doesn’t have to end after giving birth
Perhaps more than any other generation, millennials are challenging this idea that being a person who gave birth has to overtake their entire identity. Your wants and desires still matter. Masturbating is one of the many ways to shift out of caretaker mode, take time for self-love, and meet your own needs.
Author Bio Kait Scalisi, MPH, is an advocate for the revolutionary power of pleasure inside the bedroom and out. Through her public workshops, private counselling, and online platform Passion By Kait, she harnesses her science education, social justice insight, and radical empathy to empower folx to get more in tune with their bodies, discover what brings them pleasure, and integrate it into their lives and relationships in ways that are both practical and powerful. Learn more and find #freedominpleasure at PassionbyKait.com, Instagram and Twitter @PassionbyKait, and Facebook www.facebook.com/PassionbyKait.