Pregnancy can be a heady mix of anticipation and nervousness. Especially during a first pregnancy, the physical and hormonal changes that a woman's body goes through can seem alarming. Many women wonder whether their bodies will really recover after giving birth.
Men, too, may suffer from preconceptions about what pregnancy does to a woman's body – that she will enjoy sex less after giving birth or that she will be vaginally "stretched out." But there's no reason why a couple shouldn't be able to return to a normal sex life in the months after the arrival of a child – at least no reason besides being tired from taking care of the baby!
Pelvic Floor Strength
Doing pelvic floor exercises, or Kegel exercises, can help with a number of post-pregnancy issues, including weaker bladder control, and will affect how quickly a woman's vagina returns to its pre-childbirth size. Many men and women also find that regular Kegel exercises make sex more enjoyable.
Pelvic floor exercises are simple to do both during and after pregnancy; the Mayo Clinic provides an excellent how-to on them. And they're not just for women – men, too, can benefit from strengthening their pelvic floors!
After pregnancy, a woman's estrogen levels will be low, and this often continues throughout the nursing period. Low estrogen levels have an effect on the libido, but they also can lead to vaginal dryness. For penetrative sex, keep some lubricant on hand. Also remember that oil-based lubricants can break condoms; water-based lubricants are a fine alternative.
Even after a pregnancy is complete, a woman's body still goes through hormonal changes, especially if she is breastfeeding. This, combined with the stress of a new baby, can lead to a low libido for weeks, or even a few months, after a pregnancy.
Don't worry about taking it slow. It may help to ease back into penetrative intercourse; begin with clitoral stimulation or try different positions to find what is most comfortable. Tender breasts are common after childbirth, so refraining from touching them during sex may be necessary.
When To Contact An Obstetrician/Gynecologist
One thing you will definitely want to discuss with your OB/GYN is whether or not you want to get pregnant again. After a woman gives birth, she can resume ovulating almost immediately, so unprotected sex can very quickly lead to another baby. If you are breastfeeding, however, that will change what hormonal contraception is available to you. Depending on your future plans, your doctor can help you determine the best and safest way to prevent pregnancy.
And if you are experiencing pain that is interfering with your sex life or a low libido that continues for an extended period of months, consult with your doctor. Neither of these things is inevitable, so you definitely shouldn't accept them as simply "the way things are now."