Louisa van den Bergh of Lulubaby, talks about how and when to get back in the bedroom
If there’s a history of miscarriage, premature delivery or any bleeding or complications in pregnancy, you’ll need to take your doctor’s advice. But for most mums it is absolutely fine to have sex throughout pregnancy.
However, many report feeling less perky in the bedroom – often starting at the beginning of pregnancy as exhaustion and sickness sets in and breasts are tender. These early-pregnancy symptoms usually pass by weeks 12 to 14 and this can be a great time to get jiggy in the bedroom.
ARE YOU OVERDUE?
You may have heard the old adage that sex brings on labour? Although there is scant research to back this up, there are several reasons why it may help. Firstly, reaching that ‘magic moment’ might stimulate your uterus into movement.
Secondly, you release a hormone called oxytocin when having sex or your nipples are being stimulated. Oxytocin is the hormone that brings on contractions. If you’re being induced, you’ll often be given a synthetic form of oxytocin to help move things along. Finally, semen contains a high number of prostaglandins which are chemicals that can help to soften the cervix and bring on labour. In fact, if you’re induced, you will be given some form of prostaglandin to kick things off. You may prefer to try a more natural form at home, although you’d have to do it about eight times to match the strength of the medication!
CHOOSE YOUR OWN PACE
Let’s be honest, for most new mums, sex is quite literally the last thing on their minds. The demands of looking after a new baby coupled with the lack of sleep is definitely not going to get you in the mood. Throw in a few stitches and sex can become pretty terrifying. You do have a stay of execution: it is important that you wait until you stop bleeding – often it will stop and start so hold off until it’s fully stopped. This is because your womb is still healing while bleeding and you don’t want to risk infection. Most mums will have stopped by three to four weeks after birth.
If you have had some stitches, wait until they are out or have dissolved and you feel okay down there. You may be anxious that things won’t be the same, but our obstetric physios praise the body’s ability to heal quickly. Many wait until after the six-week check with their doctor. For mums who had caesarean sections, again it is worth waiting until you are not in much discomfort.
While you wait until you are ready to go for it, don’t forget to be affectionate with your man. It can be easy to put all your love onto your baby or children but staying close (physically and emotionally) is so important.
NO MORE PUTTING IT OFF
The day, however, will come when you just have to do it. Maybe it will happen spontaneously and you end up having amazing sex on the kitchen table while your baby is napping upstairs… or, more likely, you’ll realise three months have passed and you really can’t put it off any longer.
BUT BE PRUDENT
Unless you’re actually planning Irish twins (two babies born within 12 months), it is a good idea to put some thought into how to avoid getting pregnant immediately after you have just had a baby. In fact, it is often the first thing your doctor or midwife will talk to you about once your baby has been born. If you have had a caesarean section, it is generally advised to wait a year before getting pregnant again. This is to allow the scars (particularly the internal incision on your womb) time to really heal.
The tale of breastfeeding being a natural contraceptive isn’t entirely true. It’s 98% effective but only if you’re exclusively breastfeeding with no top ups of formula, solids or expressing (expressing doesn’t stimulate you as efficiently as your baby does). In addition, your baby must be less than six months old and you must have not had a period. Very few mums actually fit this tight criteria so almost all are at risk of falling pregnant while breastfeeding.
If you are breastfeeding, the hormone prolactin can lower your libido and can make you a bit drier down there so you may find it helpful to engage in lots of foreplay or lube up. There I said it. And I think it’s fairly obvious that rushing into rough penetrative sex is hardly the way to go. One thing though, if you are breastfeeding and you reach orgasm, be prepared for your breasts to leak! The reason is down to that wonderful hormone oxytocin again! It not only makes your womb contract, but also facilitates the ‘let down’ of your milk. That unsexy nursing bra and breast pads may have to stay on after all.
SQUEEZE AND HOLD
Now for pelvic floor muscle exercises. It is worth remembering to do them – whether you have had a vaginal delivery or a caesarean section. Pregnancy and birth puts a huge strain on these muscles which hold up your bladder, bowel and womb, and control bladder function; but that’s not all, they also affect your vaginal muscles. Basically sex is better if your pelvic floor muscles are in good shape. All the more reason to invest in a clever little device called the Elvie (elvie.com) which you insert discreetly for five minutes a day. With iPhone to hand, the app will guide you on your progress… no more stress incontinence and amazing sex here we come!
lulubaby.co.uk | Photography: ISTOCK
Read more from Louisa. Here she takes us through the unpredictability of giving birth and addresses that topic most worried about…