Let's Talk About Sex

Women don't lose that lovin' feeling just because they're expecting, study says. After baby? Well, that's a different story.

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Not much is documented about pregnant women's sexual romps, so researchers in Portugal asked 188 women who had just given birth to fess up—anonymously, of course—in a study, whose findings were published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Despite reporting a significant decline in the frequency of intercourse in the third trimester, the women claimed their sexual satisfaction while expecting didn't change much; only about 28 percent were less satisfied than before. While 42 percent said they felt less attractive or sensual during pregnancy, 75 percent acknowledged that their partners found them just as desirable.

And despite the fact that most had engaged in sex, nearly one-quarter feared—mistakenly—that intercourse would harm the baby or induce miscarriage or premature birth.

Sex after the baby is born—well that's a different story. It may be the last thing on your mind, but around six to eight weeks after having that babu, your doctor is going to give you the green light for sex. Be prepared: The big deed may be less than pleasant. In fact, it may be downright painful.

It's those vexing hormones that are largely to blame. Health experts say the dramatic drop in hormone after you deliver causes the vaginal tissues to become thinner and more tender; it also causes decreased lubrication. Unfortunately, if you're breastfeeding, the effects can be even more pronounced, as nursing stirs the production of prolaction, which often acts as a libido-killer.

And don't forget that your body just went through a lot. Here's how you can help yourself—and your tender nether regions—through this time:

Go slowly: Health experts urge new moms to let their bodies heal. Don't rush into sex if it hurts.

Use lubrication—and lots of it: Different brands are available at drugstores or, discreetly, online.

Engage in foreplay—and lots of it: Give your mind and body time to relax before attempting intercourse. And remember to turn off the baby monitor (you can still hear the baby if he or she needs you).

Stay on top of it (so to speak): It's usually the first of second time having sex that's the most uncomfortable; things tend to loosen up after that.

See your doctor if it's really bad: If you're having a lot of pain or you bleed with intercourse, call your doctor.

For more on sex after baby, check out one writer's take on getting in the mood post-baby, plus some solutions to these unique challenges in the bedroom. Plus, additional tips and stories in our Sex & Relationships page.

—Kim Schworm Acosta and Carole Anderson Lucia