The idea of creating a better sex life after birthing a newborn might seem impossible at first. As I’ve explored in past articles for heymama, postpartum sex can be difficult, painful and frustrating. Still, the story doesn’t have to stop there—and neither does sexual fulfillment. If you’re a new mom who desires intimacy but feels unsure of how to get it at this stage, some simple steps can uncover new paths that lead to a deeper connection with your partner—and the best sex of your life.
But first, let’s back up. Before we become parents, there’s a lot of wiggle room in how and when we have sex. Remember those days? We had actual free time. We had more mental space for intimacy. As women, our bodies felt familiar, and we probably had a decent handle on what gave us pleasure (and what didn’t).
These factors change after we give birth. And many new moms end up mired in a feeling of frustrated longing: We want that sex life back.
Thinking about our shift in desires opens a new level of communication and self-honoring.
Understandable, but it’s important to acknowledge and accept that things are different now. And if you want to have great postpartum sex, you’ll benefit by putting your attention on female pleasure—your pleasure.
This may be uncharted territory for you and your partner. For many opposite-sex couples, sex is an act that begins with penetration and ends with a guy’s climax. Anything leading up that is thought of as foreplay—a way for women to “warm up” for the main event. This thinking is heteronormative, reproductively rooted and a bit narrow.
On the other hand, when we start from a place of female pleasure, we’re forced to let go of this confined thinking. Ask yourself: What would actually feel good to you right now? I don’t know too many new moms who would opt for fast, high-friction penetration.
As women, we have been acculturated to give—an expectation that’s only heightened when we add baby-rearing to the picture. (And when we do receive, many of us fall all over ourselves to immediately reciprocate.) Thinking about our shift in desires opens a new level of communication and self-honoring. It instantly flips the script.
OK, I know what a lot of you are thinking: Tell that to my husband. Yet surveys of new dads show that one of their biggest desires—even above sex itself—is the simple assurance that their wives still find them attractive.
See, men are unfairly conditioned, too, raised to believe they should want sex all the time. Most of the women who come into my office report that their male partners are patient and loving, and yet there the spouses are, at a sexual standstill. The men are stumped. They have no idea what else to ask for.
So my advice to both halves of a couple is usually this: Don’t make assumptions about what your partner wants or doesn’t want. Forget everything you thought you knew. Begin an open, honest dialogue about your evolving desires.
This can take courage—especially if you two never talk about sex outside of having it. Try language like this, when the two of you are relaxed, and tension isn’t too high:
“I love you and want to be intimate. Let’s figure out what feels good for us both.”
“I can’t believe how different my body feels now. Let’s try going slowly and check in with one another every couple of minutes.”
“I’m nervous about starting anything intimate when I feel it has to lead to penetration. Could we experiment with taking that off the table for a little while so we can discover new kinds of pleasure together?”
Don’t think of it as problem solving. Consider it a profound opportunity to take charge of your pleasure—and reap the rewards of radical honesty.
Heymama contributor Kimberly Johnson, a therapist specializing in sex, birth and motherhood, is the author of The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, and Restoring Your Vitality. Check out heymama’s recent profile for more on Kimberly and her work.