We often think of sex education in terms of children and teens and rarely acknowledged the need for adult sex education but we are surrounded by the need for it every day from forums, blogs and social media. Adults are constantly looking for advice and discussion on sex and relationships. We all are. Sex is one of those subjects we’re never done with and are always learning and expanding our experiences.
Communication is the key to good sexual relationships, but often it’s something we are not good at – talking about s-e-x. #Adultsexedmonth in June A Good Woman’s Dirty Mind was set up just for that reason; to help open up the discussion on sex and share experiences and knowledge. The beauty of it is that people don’t have to specifically ask for it. They can just go to the site.
This month I thought I would share my own experiences of a time when I have noticed the need for, not just adult sex ed, but also for sex positivity and that is post pregnancy. Through sharing a little of my own experiences and the shared experiences of women and men in relationships I hope to give a positive voice and some helpful information to those people ready to go back to having sex after childbirth.
It’s important to mention that medically women are advised to wait 6 weeks after they’ve given birth before they are fully cleared to have sex. However research by Sari van Anders shows that some women cleared to have sex after 6 weeks still find it very uncomfortable while other women can enjoy some form of sexual pleasure as early as 2 weeks. The part of the research that really struck a chord with me was this:
“Health-care providers often don’t discuss too much about sexuality before that six-week period except to express that women shouldn’t be doing anything penetrative until after that timeframe,” [Sari] van Anders said. “But our data suggest that women are engaging in a host of behaviors and that they have desire.”
Based on my experiences in helping women who are upset and frustrated with their efforts to reintroduce sex post pregnancy, I would take it further to say that beyond medical advice, providers aren’t comfortable promoting information about positive sex and pleasure before or after 6 weeks. Many even wonder why someone would want to even bother with sex now that they’ve had a baby. In one situation I dealt with a woman had been told to slather KY Jelly on, lie back and think of England. Such a response not only perpetuates negative sexual ideas about women and men but also leaves women feeling demoralised, shamed and negative about their bodies – still without answers.
Men and postpartum reintroduction of sex
How are men viewed in the postpartum reintroduction of sex in the relationship? From the situations I’ve dealt with and experienced myself there seem to be a couple of prevalent assumptions. Either men are the perpetrators of reintroducing sex or they don’t want to reintroduce sex into the relationship because they’ve seen their partners go through the suffering of childbirth, and their body now seems like hallowed ground not to be touched.
Both assumptions fail to take into account the compassion and empathy of the men involved. From my own experiences and those others have shared with me, it is often the case that while a women may be craving pleasure and intimacy her partner may be unable to reciprocate, not because he questions her; not because of the visual trauma; not because he’s bothered by how her body looks after pregnancy. He may not be able to reciprocate because having watched his beloved go through pregnancy and all the other post pregnancy stresses he’s worried about how delicate her body may be and he’s trying to empathise with what she’s been through.
Motivations and Methods
According to the research the reasons people do want to go back to having sex are more psychological than physical. There is a need for intimacy and closeness to their partners during what is a stressful time.
Inevitably people will go back to sex after pregnancy whenever they feel ready. Sometimes that happens before six weeks and sometimes after. It could be 5 days it could be 5 months. Discouraging someone who wants to go back to giving or receiving pleasure, or self-pleasuring before six weeks is giving them poor and negative information, which isn’t doing anyone any good and will only create more upset, frustration and shame. When it comes to reintroducing sex in a relationship postpartum arming people with accurate information, support and advice and encouraging them to have sex when they feel ready is a more positive approach than saying don’t do it yet.
The most important advice I can give to women is to listen to their bodies, take their own time, set their own pace, not just during the time leading to the postpartum return to sex but also during intimacy — whether it be penetrative sex or otherwise. Self pleasure can also be a great way for a woman to reconnect with her body after pregnancy, helping her learn what changes may have occurred but also helping prepare her with things that may happen, such as dryness.
Preparation for having sex again after pregnancy is also an important topic. Not only is there contraception to plan for but also other issues which may need to be talked through such as lubricant. There are many more available brands than KY Jelly that are plain, unscented and water safe such as Durex and I.D. Lubricants. Planning when to have sex and scheduling time is also really important as things might not go to plan. While quickie sex can be gentle, fulfilling and keep you connected, after pregnancy making a little more time and space for the reintroduction of sex at a comfortable pace is especially important – and even more so that first time. I tell people that even though it may seem a bit clinical and methodical, taking the time to plan the occasion and the details means that when the hour or so window of opportunity presents itself the couple will be ready to dive in.
Like all good sex, post pregnancy sex requires good communication, not only during sex but in the preparations for intimacy. A lot of the issues surrounding the re-introduction of sex after pregnancy can be worked through with good communication. Communicating how both partners feel about the reintroduction of sex and when and why can really be the catalyst for closer intimacy.
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