Sex after having a baby poses unique challenges. Here are some fun solutions.
It's like being a virgin again. Almost. You're raring to go but a bit anxious at the same time. Will it hurt? Can you do it without waking anyone else up? Do you really need to worry about birth control?
The first time you and your partner have post-baby sex, you may wonder how anyone ever creates a second child. But not only is it possible to have a satisfying sex life after having a baby, it might become better. You just have to be patient.
Even though you'll probably get your doctor's go-ahead six weeks or so after a vaginal birth, that doesn't guarantee you'll be ready, willing and able. "It takes at least three to six months for your genitals to get back to normal," says Laura Berman, Ph.D., director of the Female Sexual Medicine Center at UCLA and co-author of For Women Only (Henry Holt & Co., 2001).
Jump-starting your sex life can test a couple's mettle. Here are imaginative ways to deal with common fears and obstacles.
Problem: There's rarely a time when you're both awake and the baby's asleep. Solution: You know all those friends and relatives who say, "We'd love to watch the baby for you"? Well, the next time they offer, pull out your calendar and book them for a Saturday night of baby-sitting. But instead of heading to the movies, head to the bedroom. Also consider a little early-morning nooky before the baby wakes up. As Berman says, "You may find it's easier then than late at night, after you've been caring for the baby all day."
Problem: You're worried it'll hurt. Solution: Even after a perineal tear or episiotomy has healed (usually four to six weeks after a vaginal birth), you can still feel tight. You or your partner can gently stretch the area using fingers that have been well lubricated with K-Y Jelly or Astroglide (available at drugstores). And instead of jumping back into doing the deed, think creatively. "We started out with oral sex, and after a few times, I felt comfortable enough for intercourse," says one new mom.
Note: If you are still experiencing vaginal pain and tightness after three to six months, Berman suggests that you see your doctor.
Problem: You're as dry as a desert. Solution: Because your estrogen levels drop after giving birth, vaginal dryness is a common problem, especially if you're breastfeeding. "Use lots of lubrication," recommends Rachel J. Masch, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University Medical School. You can also ask your doctor about prescribing a topical estrogen cream, which can plump up vaginal tissues without affecting your ability to breastfeed.New mom Bonnie Doyle, 33, found that a more old-fashioned remedy still works well: "A glass of wine beforehand can do wonders," she says. So can a warm bath and lots of foreplay.
Problem: Your breasts spout like Mount Vesuvius when your partner touches them. Solution: Nurse or pump before sex, and accept that your breasts have taken on a whole new role in your life. "Many people find the milk aspect sexy and fun," Berman says. If your partner is not one of them, buy yourself a sexy bra, stuff some nursing pads in it and keep it on during sex.
Problem: With your extra baby weight and stretch marks, you hardly feel sexy. Solution: Indulge in something that makes you feel like a hot mama, whether it's thigh-high stockings or an aromatherapy bubble bath. "I got a Brazilian bikini wax," recalls Robin Stoltz, 28, mother of 6-month-old Zoe. "It was something different, and it made me feel really sexy."
Finally, if your self-confidence begins to falter, keep in mind the words of Alex Roberts, 35, father of 9-month-old Katy: "Your husband is going to be so thrilled to have sex with you again that he will definitely not care about things like stretch marks."