Today, the search for information about sexuality during the post-childbirth period becomes more and more frequent. This issue is usually brought to the doctor’s office along with fears, myths and doubts, which end up by increasing the couple’s anxiety.
According to most clinicians, the woman is able to have vaginal intercourse again one month after childbirth. That’s because at the moment of the labor a small cut at the opening of vagina (episiotomy) is made, to make the passage of the baby easier, which is sutured right after birth. The entire process of recovering takes about two weeks.
Most obstetricians agree that intercourse should be avoided during these first two weeks, to prevent an eventual rupture of the sutures, infections, bleeding and pain. After the first two weeks, although the process of recovering is almost finished, many women had reported stories of extreme pain and discomfort. Thus, clinicians usually recommend abstinence until the occasion of a post-birth exam, which is performed thirty days after childbirth, when a physical exam is executed, as well as family planning, when the couple is about to choose a birth control method. Same procedures are taken in case of having a baby by the cesarean method. Moreover, it’s noticed that many women lose their interest for sex during the first two or three months and then start to show sexual desire again. This new stage in the life of the couple is very delicate, and it’s worth a lot of attention and understanding.
The woman naturally has her attention and concern focused on her baby. Her daily routine is changed. She now tends to dedicate all of her time to the newly born toddler: feeding him/her, cleansing him/her, taking care of him/her, most of the time she even leaves aside taking care of herself. So she ends up by dedicating a very short time to her partner too, who’s basically also stunned with the arrival of the newest family member, but soon he starts to show interest in retaking the sexuality of the couple, however in some cases feeling rejected, refused.
Several factors may interfere on the retaking of the couple’s sexuality. Myths such as the vagina of a woman who had a baby by the normal method becoming too loose, or the man having to avoid sucking the woman’s nipple because it may sour the milk. Those myths still are common among people that lack proper information. The duality woman-lover Vs. woman-mother viewed by the partner who can’t disassociate these two images is also common due to religious convictions. The woman’s self-esteem concerning her image (when the woman sees herself just as a mother but not as a woman), post-childbearing depression, traumatic obstetrical experiences (psychological factors) are aspects which turn the retaking of the relationship very hard to accomplish.
At any rate, since it’s all a delicate situation, it’s important to maintain an open dialogue channel. It’s essential to clear up all doubts and fears with the help of professionals, books and articles about the subject, to promote a restart in the sexual life of the couple. Thus, it’s important that when retaking their sexual life, the couple should keep calm and patience. The use of lubricants may be helpful in the first sexual intercourse. When it comes to sexuality, we should always keep in mind that sex is a relation of affection and not just an act of penetration. It calls for maturity, respect, and knowing yourself and your partner, alongside will power to break some obstacles and doubts that might appear along the way.
By Kelly Cristine Barbosa Cherulli
Psychologist and Sexologist