There's a lot you have to do and figure out after you have a baby. How do you feed it? How do you get it to sleep? How do you get any sleep? How are you going to balance child care and going back to work? How do you do all this and also focus on healing your body? And, if you have a romantic partner assisting you in figuring out the aforementioned questions, how do you maintain a sex life post-baby, too? The short answer is "intention and hard work," but short answers aren't always helpful.
In most cases, the rules for maintaining a healthy postpartum sex life have a lot of overlap with the rules for maintaining a healthy sex life, period. The main difference, in my experience and estimation, is the amount of dedicated effort it will take in addition to some specific, common problems (such as birth-related injuries and the adjustment of having to revolve your day around the needs of a miniature human). There will be times in many a postpartum couple's life where all of this will seem impossible; times when you'll think, "I may as well rent our bedroom out to a local small business owner, because I'm certainly not using it for anything right now and it would be nice to have the extra income."
But with compassion, commitment, and communication, strong couples can keep the fire alive, and the sex ridiculously hot, in even the most trying of times. So while every relationship is undoubtably unique, here are just a few things strong couples do to maintain their sex life postpartum:
They Give It Time
Most people will get the green light to resume "the sexy times" about six weeks postpartum, but I'll go ahead and say it should probably be considered a blinking red light. In other words, take your time and decide if it's the right time for you to move forward. Once you do move forward, keep things at a gentle place in the beginning.
You know when you're on a plane and the flight attendant lets you know that you should open the overhead compartment carefully, as items may have shifted during the flight? The same can be applied to your personal "cargo hold" after birth. Dip your proverbial toe in the proverbial water before jumping headfirst, is what I'm saying.
They Make A Plan
Before you had kids, chances are you could just sort of have sex whenever you felt like it. You will likely find that parenting duties (exhaustion and parenting itself, especially before you get a handle on a solid bedtime routine) will get in the way of this way of life sooner rather than later. You may find that you'll have to think more about fitting sex into your schedule, even to the point of scheduling sex or talking about whether or not it will happen ahead of time. To many, this sounds super unromantic and like a total mood-killer but, honestly, it's a great way to keep up momentum when everything else in your life wants to bring it to a screeching halt.
They Accept That Frequency May Change
Despite your best efforts, sometimes life gets in the way. And hey: maybe it won't! Maybe you'll have just as much sex after you give birth as you did before. But there's a pretty good chance your love life is going to take a little bit of a dip (or a major crash) for a while and as you adjust to life as a parent. That's normal, and it sucks, but it is something you can work through and overcome. So it's good to acknowledge that your entire life is different now, and that can include what goes on between the sheets.
They Accept Physical Changes & Limitations
This not only includes some physical differences that have resulted from being pregnant and giving birth, but hormonal changes that affect sex drive as well. So if you find that what was once your favorite position is suddenly causing pain (it happens), or that you've gone from a once-a-day kind of gal to a once-a-week kind of gal, mourn the loss of what once was and move on from there. Remember, your body is in pretty constant flux so this might not be the end of what you once had so much as a momentary pause.
They Move On Without Apologies
The changes and challenges you and your partner are going through are completely normal and not the result of anything anyone did wrong. Moreover, no one owes it to anyone else to ensure that things stay the same. So please, don't apologize for not having lost the "baby weight" or not being in the mood as often or for not being able to get your legs behind your head anymore. These are not things you should feel sorry about. Talk about how you feel, talk with your partner about how they feel, do what you can, but don't feel bad about the fact that things are different.
They Get Creative
I find this is an issue especially for cishetero couples — "sex" is very often too narrowly defined. OK, so maybe vaginal penetration isn't in the cards for whatever reason right now. What about oral sex? What about mutual masturbation? What about masturbating next to one another? If you are having a satisfying sexual experience, why wouldn't that "count" as sex? There are lots of ways to get down, some of them quicker or less physically strenuous than others: if your old standbys aren't as much fun as they used to be, try some of these pleasant alternatives.
They Don't Assume Anything
Don't just assume your partner isn't attracted to you because they haven't made a move. Don't assume you're never going to have sex again because you haven't had sex in a few weeks (or months). Don't assume everything is hunky dory with the way things are going just because your partner hasn't voiced their dissatisfaction. Voice your needs, voice your concerns, and check in with your partner to make sure they're OK, too.
They Work At Maintaining A Non-Sexual Connection
Because it's not just your sex life that is going to be in need of special attention and effort after you have a baby: it's the whole shebang. Make concerted efforts to stimulate your brains as well as your genitals. Not only is it good for your mental wellbeing, relationship, and ability to successfully co-parent, but it's going to make your sex life better, too.
(There's nothing sexier than getting your hands on your lover's big sexy brain, and I say that as someone who is super into boobs.)
They Don't Take Challenges Personally
Figuring out your life as a parent (and who you are as a parent) is something that takes a tremendous amount of self-reflection and difficult personal work. So not having a great handle on how to coordinate "the new you" with another person, even a beloved, familiar person, almost certainly has nothing to do with them but where you stand in your own life right now.
It can be easy to take a, "Not tonight, I'm really tired" as a personal rejection, but try your best to realize that everyone and everything is in transition right now. It's not personal, it's just going to take some adjustments.
They Talk About It
I've written dozens and dozens of articles about relationships at this point in my career and it always comes back to this main point; a point whose importance cannot be overstated.
Communicate with your partner about how things are going, what your goals are for your sex life, what can be reasonably expected, and how you are going to move together to find a new normal that everyone can glean satisfaction from. Talk about your worries, talk about your wants, talk about how they can help you and you can help them. And who knows: if you keep talking and working together you may eventually get back to your normal normal. (No! Really! It's possible!)
American taboos about sex — what it means symbolically, how it's supposed to happen, etc. — can make it awkward to go into detail even with someone you've made a baby with. But the more you can delve into the topic the easier it becomes and the better you can get to a place where you feel that your sex life is getting the care and attention it needs.