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Is sex after the baby, like easy labor, an oxymoron? You’ve said arrivederci to sleeping until 10, to catching a movie at the last minute, to your sweet little B-cup bra. Do you have to kiss your love life good-bye, too? No, but as with everything else, you will probably need to make some adjustments.
The Pain, the Pain
Most doctors and midwives advise waiting four to six weeks after delivery to have sex again, but it’s different for every woman.
“When six weeks was up,” said Leigh, 35, mother of a 9-month-old baby girl, “I knew William wanted to make love, so I thought, ‘I’ve got to be a good sport here.’ When we tried, though, I couldn’t hide my discomfort. It was traumatic for both of us. Physically, I didn’t feel back to normal for three months.”
Still, Leigh felt very sexual. “We ended up doing all sorts of other things. We had gotten pretty creative during pregnancy, having lots of sexual activity without intercourse: touching, kissing, oral sex.”
Women who are nursing may also experience pain during intercourse because of vaginal dryness due to decreased estrogen before resuming regular ovulation. If you’ve never experimented with vaginal lubricants, now’s the time. Make sure to use a water-based one such as Astroglide or Aqualube, suggests Judith E. Steinhart, Ed.D., a New York–based certified sex counselor and therapist.
While nursing the baby every two, three or four hours around the clock, many women feel the last thing they want to do is to be physically intimate with their husbands. For Jordan, 34, mother of an 18-month-old girl, it wasn’t the baby’s demands on her, it was the aftereffects of labor. “I felt very close and loving toward Greg, but my body had been so traumatized by the birth that I felt stingy, like I wanted it to myself.”
Getting Back in the Mood
What’s the answer? “Ask yourself what would make you feel like having sex,” recommends Leslie Hartley Gise, M.D. a clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. “Do you need to go to a hotel overnight? To sit together with a drink and watch the sunset? What’s going to make it work? Maybe you could swap houses with someone, or pitch a tent in the back yard.” Start lining up baby-sitters now.
Even when you’re over the physical discomfort, in the mood and ready to be sexual again, you still might have a baby with unpredictable napping habits who, when she does nap, will do so only in the middle of your bed. Where can you have sex, not to mention when?
Leigh says that spontaneity is the answer: “If you’ve only got five minutes and you really want to rip each other’s clothes off, then the bathroom is a really good place. Or the laundry room, over the diapers and baby clothes.”
So, if you feel that your sex life is going the way of the dodo bird, don’t despair. Give yourself enough time to heal, respect your own boundaries, and buy a nice, soft area rug for the bathroom floor.