To ensure post-baby sex (for you and your partner) is sufficiently steamy, strengthen your pelvic-floor muscles.
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Postpartum Sex Basics
As you settle into new motherhood, you might start thinking about getting busy in a way that doesn't involve changing diapers or feeding your newborn. For better sex after a baby, you'll want to strengthen your pelvic floor. Why is that so important? "The strength of the pelvic floor contributes significantly to your sexual response, as well as the friction your partner experiences," says Emily Harrell, L.M.F.T., owner of the Center for Mindful Living, a Chicago-based wellness center that specializes in treating sex and relationship issues. "Pregnancy typically weakens the pelvic floor due to hormonal changes, weight gain, pressure from the weight of the baby and stretching during labor and delivery."
A weakened pelvic floor can lead to incontinence, painful intercourse and a decrease in the intensity and frequency of orgasms. But the good news is that like any weakened muscle, the pelvic floor can be strengthened with exercise, says mother-of-three Tasha Mulligan, a Des Moines, Iowa-based physical therapist and creator of the DVD Hab It: Pelvic Floor. Plus, she says, "The stronger your pelvic floor muscles are, the more blood flow you have to the area, which heightens sensitivity, and you'll also experience more intense contractions during orgasm."
Kegel exercises are the best way to shape up your pelvic floor, but it's also important to strengthen your abdominals, hips and lower back, which is what this entire workout, designed by Mulligan, is designed to help you do. The workout can be done every other day. But remember that you must wait six weeks after delivery before starting; if you've had a Cesarean section, wait eight weeks and get your doctor's OK first.
Your pelvic-floor muscles are the ones you use to stop the flow of urine. To do a Kegel, tighten those muscles for about 6 seconds, then release. Try to concentrate on just your pelvic-floor muscles and not the ones in your abs and buttocks. On days that you don't do this workout, try doing Kegels for 1 minute a few times a day.
Lie facedown, resting your forehead on your hands, with your knees shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees so your feet are approximately 12 inches from the floor. Turn your toes out and bring your heels together [shown].
Squeeze your buttocks as you press your heels together and do a Kegel. Hold for 2 counts, breathing normally, then release. Do 10 times; work up to 3 sets of 10.
Benefit: Strengthens glutes and deep hip muscles.
Get down on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders. Draw your abdominals up and in. Inhale, then exhale as you slowly extend your right leg straight back [shown].
Hold for 2 counts as you do a Kegel. Keep your body still as you bring your right leg back to the starting position. Switch legs and repeat. Do 10 times on each side, working up to 3 sets of 10.
Benefit: Tones the transverse abdominis, the deepest abdominal muscle.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Place a soft ball or pillow between your knees and draw your abdominals in. Inhale, then exhale as you tighten your buttocks and lift your hips until your body forms ï¿¼a straight line [shown].
Squeeze the ball for 2 counts as you do a Kegel, then lower hips. Do 10 times; work up to 3 sets of 10.
Benefit: Strengthens abdominals.
Even if you didn't have a vaginal birth, your pelvic-floor muscles are likely weakened. Not only are they stressed during pregnancy, a C-section incision directly affects the abdominal muscles adjacent to the pelvic floor.
Your pelvic floor can't fully function without the help of your abdominal muscles, says physical therapist Tasha Mulligan, so it's important to strengthen them both after a C-section.