Post-partum considerations for restoring sexual intimacy

>> Friday, February 3, 2012

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Having a baby can be one of the most memorable moments in a women’s life, and can bring about changes that make returning to pre-pregnancy activities difficult.

After many months of pregnancy, and possibly abstinence, most couples are eager to return to their previous level of intimacy. One of the first questions I am asked at the post-partum visit is, “Dr. Boyd when will it be okay for us to have sex?” Of course the answer may vary slightly from woman to woman, but the majority of women are ready at around 4-6 weeks simply because it takes that long for lacerations and tears to heal.

Just because physical wounds are healed, it doesn’t mean that the body is healed and ready to go. Women’s bodies heal at different rates and times and it really makes a difference in hormone balance if the baby is being breast or bottle fed. A woman who is breast feeding has lower estrogen levels and higher prolactin levels to aid the body in making breast milk. It may take longer for her sexual desire to return.

We all know that men are sensitive and more visual than women so their desire is aroused easily. Unfortunately it is a little more complicated for women because of the extreme physical changes in their bodies and severe hormone changes. She may not feel attractive to her mate or afraid sex might hurt. The post-partum visit just could not be more important as all these concerns can be looked into. For instance, the physical exam and pap smear can be used to help alleviate the fear of penile penetration. The skilled clinician can demonstrate to the patient how to use lubrication and pinpoint the area or areas of discomfort and how to manage them.

Post-partum sexual desire for women depends on much more than genital stimulation and penile penetration. It involves a woman’s self and body image, sexual desire and motivation as fatigue and care of a newborn can drain away all energy for sexual play, the ability to set aside the “mommy” role and convert to wife and sexual partner. The presence of a loving, patient partner goes a long way toward complete healing, and relationship healing for a complete healthy family.

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