Postpartum sex and parenting

Words by: Lauren French, MSexol (Curtin) Australian Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine

Pregnancy is wonderful, terrifying, and often a complicated time for anyone involved. Creating new life is a pretty big deal! But for something born out of sex (some of the time), parenthood is still viewed as a transition to sexless. This idea that shifting to the role of Mammy or Daddy, we somehow forget that we’re also sexual beings under all that baby vomit.

First, let's talk about physical changes! Your relationship with your own body, self-esteem, and self-image can go through a dramatic change over the course of a pregnancy. Your body is no longer yours alone, people can stop seeing you as an individual and the focus can often shift to all things baby. You are mentally moving into this carer role, which isn’t always a role that feels comfortable as being sexual. Yet during pregnancy, you might get some hormone surges that makes sex our brain’s sole focus! Talk about mixed messages.

Post-birth, women are pushed to their limits, you have your bundle of joy in your arms as well as zero sleep and an exhaustion headache coming on. Your body is physically recovering from birth and the pregnancy itself, and you are getting used to your new post-baby body. This can be a confronting time if you are not loving the changes you are seeing. Your vulva, vagina, stomach, and breasts are all body parts we get pretty used to in life, and normally view as very sexual. So coming to terms with the fact these body parts look very different and have new jobs besides feeling good and giving pleasure can be a challenge.

Parents come to me to rediscover their sexual identity, sometimes months or years after having a child. Sex, and particularly individual sexual pleasure, can be viewed as a selfish act. Society loves to say taking time for yourself away from your caring role is a bad thing, bad parenting and shows you as a bad person. Well, screw that! Of course, parents can still be sexual, of course, we still need to focus on sexual satisfaction in our relationship and of course, it isn’t selfish to enjoy some solo pleasure when the urge calls!