Moms, who out there is struggling with their sex lives?

After pregnancy and delivery, and in those first few months (or years) of motherhood, it feels like our body doesn’t belong to ourselves. There have been changes to our pelvic floor that can make sex feel uncomfortable or painful. There have been visual changes to our body that can make us feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. As our hormones fluctuate and slowly get back to non-pregnant levels, it can cause vaginal dryness and mood changes that can leave us feeling like sex is the last thing we want to be participating in and everything that comes along with it, such as dry and cracked nipples, or latching struggles, can also make our body’s feel like they’re no longer sexy. Those of us who experienced cesarean sections, perineal tears, episiotomies, or uterine prolapse have pain, discomfort and longer healing times to deal with that can also make sexual intimacy with our partners challenging.

A group of practitioners in Surrey, developed the Womens Postpartum Sexual Health Program and in their research found that 84% of women reported sexual challenges in the months following delivery. These challenges are rarely mentioned or discussed by midwives, or doctors with their patients, which can leave us feeling like we are alone in their experiences, or that there is something wrong with us. Many of us avoid bringing it up with our doctors or midwives because we feel embarrassed or ashamed.

Our sexuality as women, is strongly linked with our connection with our partner. After pregnancy and with the introduction of a new family member to care for, we may experience some strain on our relationship. Taking one on one time with your partner after the baby arrives is important not only for our sex life, but also for our relationship. In the months following delivery, couples can try to find alternate ways to remain intimate through cuddling, holding hands, hugs, or sitting close to one another while watching TV or reading.

Open communication with our partner about our sexual challenges, or our current feelings regarding sexuality can help our partners understand where we are at, and together you can explore ways to be sexual or intimate. Offering a book to your partner may help them understand what you are experiencing, or if you are finding it difficult to discuss with your partner. A podcast is another option – for example the She Found Motherhood Podcast has one specifically discussion sex during pregnancy and in the postpartum period.

Being sexually intimate with our partner can look different for every couple, and for heterosexual couples, it doesn’t always need to involve vaginal penetration. Continue talking to your partner and take the time together to discover what your sex life looks like that this point in your relationship, while remembering it is only temporary.

Strong Counselling

One of the best books on women’s sexual health, is “Come as You Are” by Emily Nagoski. She introduces the idea of a sexual brake and a sexual accelerator. Things like breastfeeding, housework, diaper changes, sleep deprivation and hormonal fluctuations can all push down on our sexual brake lowering our desire and making it harder to get in the mood. Things like cuddling, relaxation time, deep conversations, and something as simple as our partners cologne/perfume can push down on our sexual accelerator allowing us to become aroused. You can try watching racy movies together, or go back to the basics and spend some time just kissing like you’re in highschool again with no pressure to advance further. Even spraying your partners cologne or perfume on your shirt while they are at work can help increase arousal during the day. Everyone’s brakes and accelerators are different and unique to that person. Some people have sensitive brakes, and stubborn accelerators and vice versa. Understanding our brakes and accelerators is an important part of understanding our sexuality and what we need to have the most successful sex life, while understanding that may look different for everyone.

Women’s sexuality changes throughout our lifetime, but during pregnancy and after delivery is one of the periods that creates the most change. Giving our bodies patience, having open communication with our partners, and taking the time to explore our sexuality and intimacy together can create a stronger connection with our partner, and help us through this period of our lives.

You aren’t alone in your feelings and as much as it can help to communicate with our partner, there are also other moms, friends, and counsellors available who can provide a listening ear. I (Justine) love working with moms during your pregnancy and postpartum periods to work through any sexual challenges that arise, and know that sometimes it is such a relief to talk to someone who doesn’t know you personally, who can offer zero judgement and provide some tips to help with your experience.

Feel free to reach out to me and we can have a quick chat to see if you may benefit from us working together.