Getting Ready For Sex After Birth: Part 3
Let’s talk about SEX.
Our bodies change and adapt drastically over the course of pregnancy, and again during the postpartum period – and a lot of that action happens in and around your pelvis.
Therefore not surprisingly, a lot of people have questions (and possibly even concerns) about getting back in the sack after giving birth (and by the way, that is totally NORMAL).
But the good news is…
Armed with a little bit of knowledge and supported with a few of the following tips, you can put way more pleasure into this scenario. And who doesn’t want to feel good??? Sex should feel good, and it should NOT hurt.
So we’re going to tackle #5 and #6 in this blog, but here are some tips to help get yourself physically ready for having sex again after having a baby.
5. What is Non Concordance?
(And trust me, you NEED to know what this is)
Okay, so we’ve previously talked about the dual control model of how the sexual response works.
When it comes to desire, you’ve got an accelerator system that revs up your sexual response, and you’ve got a braking system that turns it down – and your nervous system is the central star of that show.
But now let’s talk about the next step. After desire comes arousal…
Classically we think about arousal as the “excitement” part of our sexual response. And during this excitement phase, there are some physical body responses that people often recognize.
You might notice:
- Your heart rate or blood pressure increases
- Your muscles become more tense
- Your skin becomes flushed
And of course, there can be changes in our genitals too – the classic erection for people with a penis.
And for people with vaginas we can see the following changes:
- the vagina relaxes and begins to lubricate
- the clitoris becomes larger and more erect
- the inner labia swells and outer labia separate
- the uterus and cervix retracts slightly
And most of us have learned, that if you experience these physical changes, it means you want sex. (doesn’t it??)
Isn’t this how the system always works?
Well, it turns out NO. It’s not.
Although this is common thinking, it’s not the whole truth. Actually for women, it’s often only a small part of the truth.
Get ready for a mind-blowing truth bomb here (it sure blew my mind!):
Blood flow responses in relationship to sex-related stimul DO NOT necessarily mean you like, or want or desire a sexual act in that moment. It does not necessarily mean you are aroused.
Instead, what those blood-flow-reponses mean is that your body, using your 5 senses, picked up on something that it has learned in the past or thinks might be related to sex. That signalled your brain to cue up a genital response. (Remember, your autonomic nervous system is working 24/7 in the background!)
But it’s totally possible that that genital response doesn’t correspond to any of your subjective feelings of arousal.
The information comes up from your 5 senses, but your higher brain thinks something different.
This is called NON-CONCORDANCE.
Research shows that men have about 50% concordance, meaning 50% of the time a man’s genital reaction will correspond with his subjective feelings of arousal. This makes sense, think of teenage boys and all the erections they get. Think of guys and the morning wood.
Females, however, typically only have about a 10% overlap between what the genitals are doing and what they dial in as arousal. Only a 10% overlap in what the genitals respond to as sex-related vs. what the brain responds to as sexually appealing.
AND – it turns out there is no predictive relationship between how aroused a woman feels and how much her genitals respond.
When I learned this, my mind was blown. Non-concordance is NORMAL. (And thanks again to the great work of Emily Nagoski where I first learned of this. If you don’t have her amazing book, Come As You Are, yet – it’s a must read!).
Seriously though, read that again:
There is no predictive relationship between how aroused a woman feels and how much her genitals respond.
So what are the take home messages here?
- You can have a genital response without any desire; a wet vagina does not necessarily equate desire!
- You can have a genital response without pleasure – a wet vagina doesn’t necessarily feel good.
- And alternatively, you might feel really turned on, and you might really want sex, but your vagina might not be wet at all.
This latter point is really common in the postpartum period.
Whether you had a cesarean birth or vaginal birth, your hormones have changed drastically – especially if you are lactating. There’s a good chance that there are hormonal reasons why your vagina does not lubricate as well.
And this last point might seem like a problem at first glance – I mean, how can sex feel good when you vagina feels dry?!?!?
But! There is actually a really easy solution.
6. Use Lube!
Lubrication is a brilliant solution – we can easily supplement our natural systems. This is especially important during the postpartum period… when hormones are changing drastically, and we are sleep deprived, and our vaginal walls have thinned and softened. During this time, vaginas often don’t naturally lubricate as well.
That being said, not all lubricants are created equal!
We need to be a bit careful about what we put in our vaginas. This is for two big reasons: a) our vaginal walls are absorbent (you don’t want petroleum products or weird chemicals in your vagina or your bloodstream), and b) we need to maintain the pH of the vagina, which should be a bit acidic, to prevent bacterial and yeast infections.
Don’t worry – I’ve got all the info for you! Check out the video below ⬇️ ⬇️ ⬇️ to get my specific recommendations on which lubes are best:
Sex is complex. Humans are complex.
There are a lot of factors that can contribute to good sex… but that means there are many things we can do to increase our pleasure and enjoyment. Hopefully these tips help!
And if you’d like more guidance navigating sex (and your healing!) in the postpartum period, you should definitely check out The Postpartum Plan. I’d love to help you more.