When I talk about sex in motherhood, I can see a subtle shift, a look of guilty relief appear on the face of the person or people I’m talking to. In particular when I share the honest details of how difficult it can sometimes be to even connect properly with your other half, let alone get down to some rumpy-pumpy.
Because the thing is, they secretly tell me afterwards, it’s as if everyone else is having amazing sex all the time, or at least had fancied a roll in the hay once or twice, and they thought they were weird for not. Whereas in reality, the rampant sex life of a young free and single 20 year old, is proba
bly just a little, shall we say, unrealistic? It’s certainly not going to be achievable in the first few months of new parenthood, and, dare I say it, might be hard to come by later on into life with kids too.
Good sex requires quite a few things: for you to want to do it, for a start. But also for you to have the headspace to feel desire, the time to get aroused, the ability to reconnect with your partner and (I don’t know about you, but) preferably longer than 15 minutes before the baby cries again.
Added to which, in the postnatal period there’s also a lot of healing to do, both mentally and physically. And don’t get me started on the hormones. In the fourth trimester your vagina needs to not
be in pain or bleeding (it’s not super sexy to be sitting on a hemorrhoid ring either, I find), you want to be in control of your pelvic floor, your c-section scar needs time to heal, your core needs time to rehabilitate, and your mind needs to recover from the amazing (or traumatic) experience of birth. Your emotions are all over the place - I’m not sure I ever did so much crying as in the first few weeks of my older daughter’s life - and you’re not sure what the hell you’re doing in charge of this new human being. It’s only natural that you might need a hot minute to take stock, and that S.E.X. might not be top of your agenda.
Let’s remember too that the thing is, the rampant sex life of a young, free and single 20 year old isn’t necessarily what we could or should be aiming for anyway. I would hazard a guess that you’re more confident in yourself now as an older and wiser mother than you were when you had barely left home, despite your boobs not being quite as perky as they once were. Yes, yo
ur body confidence has probably taken a knock with all of the amazing pregnancy and childbirth transformation shenanigans, but you’re probably less afraid to ask for what you want than when you were 23.
There are so many things we need to take into consideration when we’re talking about sexual wellbeing, in particular sexual wellbeing after birth. And I know that when I was faced with jumping back in the sack after my first daughter, I just wasn’t prepared for how different it would all be. I wasn’t prepared for the pain, and not understanding where that pain was coming from. I wasn’t prepared for the difficult mental shift of my body being the vessel for new life and then suddenly being a sexual object again. Faced with all of this, most women (and couples), just put up with less sex. It’s understandable. It can feel just too hard to build those bridges and find out what might make things better again; we rarely have the information and tools to hand to help us.
We forget what good sex, fulfilling intimacy and a pleasurable interaction with your partner (or yourself) can feel like. I am all for this for a little while, particularly because we have so much healing to do! But at some point you’ll want to remember how amazing it can be and what it can add to your relationship. I remember the feeling I had when, after a long road, we finally reconnected again
as a couple. I remember when we were able to be intimate again, and I wasn’t in pain. We wanted to have sex, and being tired wasn’t going to stop us - imagine that!
It was a winding journey and I consulted a LOT of experts, learnt to advocate for myself and learnt what was and wasn’t normal. I learnt what I could improve about my mental and physical health, and how to do it. That’s when I realised I wanted, needed, to help others in the same situation. It’s when I started to talk more openly about my experiences so that other women could learn from them, and the more I talked, the more I knew that others were going through similar things. And (so far, so familiar) also didn’t know how to solve them. So I’ve squeezed all my knowledge and advice, connections and signposting into my book, Get Your Mojo Back, Sex, Pleasure and Intimacy After Birth.
It’s early days (launch is January 2023!) but so far, I’ve been told that my book ‘will change lives’ and my goodness, I really hope so.
Here are my top 3 tips for better sex in motherhood:
Don’t think that pain or numbness is normal, you don’t have to “lie back and think of England”, if you’re worried about pain or numbness in your vagina, vulva or around your c-section scar, get a referral or book directly with a women’s health physio who can examine you properly and internally to assess the best treatment.
Mental health and overwhelm can be a bigger blocker to good sex than we realise, talk to your other half and your support network, ask for a referral or book in with a counsellor/therapist to help.
Don’t be afraid of lube! Vaginal dryness in the postnatal and perimenopause period is normal, and for some women is an ongoing problem. Make it slippery and more pleasurable with an organic lubricant. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
About the Author:
Clio Wood @andbreathewellbeing is a women’s health and sex positivity champion and author of Get Your Mojo Back, Sex, Pleasure and Intimacy After Birth.
She is also the Founder of &Breathe Wellbeing (family and menopause fitness retreats) which she created after her postnatal experience with her first daughter. Clio lives in London with her husband, Bryn and their two daughters. She loves time to read, travel, ice cream and having mad ideas that Bryn takes ages to come round to.