Sex After Childbirth Wasn't At All What I Expected
Illustration by Erin Aniker
My First Time is a column and podcast series exploring sexuality, gender, and kink with the wide-eyed curiosity of a virgin. We all know your "first time" is about a lot more than just popping your cherry. From experimenting with kink to just trying something new and wild, everyone experiences thousands of first times in the bedroom—that's how sex stays fun, right?
This week, we're talking to Amy Cooper about her experiences of sex during and after her two pregnancies. You can catch My First Time on Acast, Google Play, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Before I started trying for a baby, I had this romantic notion of what it was going to be like. But the reality is very different. All the passion and spontaneity are completely diminished. Sex becomes really functional and urgent, but not in a good way. It's not fun. It takes the sexiness away, because you think, we need to have sex now, because I'm only ovulating for a few days.
When you're trying for a baby, everyone says, "Keep it fun and have loads of sex." But when the weeks turn into months, you become fixated with the thought of getting pregnant. People think that you come off the pill and just get pregnant straight away, but that doesn't happen. About 80 percent of the people that I know would say they've been trying for six months and nothing's working. So you have to prepare your relationship for that. Even if you think, I won't mention sex, I'll just put on some sexy underwear and give my partner a blowjob, you wind up becoming angry and resentful if it doesn't turn into sex.
Sex stops being dirty and fun. It becomes this thing of being like, "let's go to bed early so we can have sex." But then your partner knows you're only suggesting you go to bed early so you can have sex, and it puts all this pressure on the relationship.
My libido was really different during both of my pregnancies. During my first pregnancy, I wanted to have sex all the time, even when I was really heavily pregnant, which could physically be quite a challenge! I'd have to get on top, and sometimes I could see my partner looking a bit uncomfortable, because he was scared he was going to hurt the baby. But when you're pregnant and horny, you'll always be able to find a position you can get into. During my second pregnancy, though, I went off sex completely. I had no interest in it whatsoever.
The first time I had sex after my first child was probably about six weeks after the birth, although I'd been thinking about having sex for a really long time beforehand. I didn't act on it immediately because I was nervous—would it hurt? Would it feel different when we were having sex?
All my fears were totally unjustified. It was really enjoyable—better than I thought it would be. It was great. Afterwards, though, I sought reassurance from my husband. I wanted to know if I still felt the same. He said I did.
My advice to somebody post-baby would be to say just enjoy it. Because the fear of how it could be is worse than the reality. Get back into the sex as soon as you can. Get a tub of lube, do your pelvic floor exercises, and go for it.
When you're pregnant, your body changes dramatically. I know some women don't enjoy that, but for me, on a personal level, I loved being pregnant. I loved the changes in my body. I felt really good about myself when I was pregnant. Now, having had two babies, I feel a bit more self-conscious. I've always been really confident in my body and sexually liberated. But after the birth of my second child, who was massive, my stomach has lost elasticity. I have these feelings in the back of my mind about how I look, because things are a little bit different to how they used to be.
After the birth of my second child, it felt so amazing just to be able to have sex for fun again. It was different, because there was no pressure. We don't want to have any more children, so the sex was dirty and fun and adventurous. It was like when we first got together. We were doing things physically we hadn't done before, and trying new things. I remember we were having sex in the kitchen—I know for some people that's not very exciting—but for us it was like, oh god, even though we've had kids, we still have this in us.
I remember saying to my husband, "Why is this so different?" And he replied, "Because we're doing it for fun. We're not trying to get pregnant. This is just us having fun."
If I could go back to my earlier self, pre-baby, I'd probably tell her that the reality of motherhood is just absolutely brutal in terms of how exhausting it is. It's obviously worth it, but there are days when the kids are screaming when I just wish I could go back to how things were pre-kids for one day.
It's so hard to find time to have sex at the moment. My second child now is eight and a half months old, and we've not had sex in a while—probably six weeks, because we're just so exhausted. We're so fucking tired. But I'm aware of how long it's been.
You have to make time for sex and just do it. Because if you don't have sex, you end up becoming friends. A friend of mine gave me some good advice, which was that it doesn't matter if you don't have sex for a few weeks, because you can do something about it. But when you stop having sex completely, that's a problem. Because you stop seeing your partner as sexy. It takes away the attraction, I think. So you do have to work on it. Sex also reconnects you as a couple. When you drift apart, having sex pulls you back together. At least, it does for me and my husband.
When we haven't had sex in a while, we get annoyed at each other about stupid things. We end up communicating in questions and instructions to do with the kids. Sometimes, I don't feel like having sex—I'm tired and want to go to bed. But then I think, no, I have to instigate this. After having sex it will take away some of the pressure and snippiness between us. It brings us back together, 100 percent.