Postnatal Cuddling

This post needs a preface. I believe sex is sacred, for bringing children into the world and bringing couples closer together. Our current culture is far too casual about sex, promiscuity is widely accepted and media turns the act into a joke with little emphasis on the consequences of such a cavalier attitude toward something so special. My goal with this post is to offer my perspective on postnatal sex without making light of it. If you know me in real life and the thought of me writing about my experience with intimacy after baby is a little too much I suggest you stop reading now.

This guy is darling. And so totally worth it.

But I can’t deny that he’s had an effect on our relationship as a couple. I admit I am a little tired of every woman making babies out to be the end of your sex life though, because in my experience it just isn’t true. It’s worse in some ways, different in others, and, believe it or not, better in others. That is why I wanted to write this post.

First though, I think there is one thing you can do that will make a difference at the time of birth, especially if you have a vaginal birth. Avoid that scissor-happy doctor, and find someone with a low episiotomy rate. It’s common sense to assume that someone artificially ripping open your vagina will have lasting repercussions, and I specifically found a midwife who believes that cutting is rarely necessary and who employed techniques to prevent tearing as much as possible.

When it came to us deciding when to resume activities I didn’t care about the advice of any doctor (I personally found their advice to be impersonal and it didn’t seem like they took a single moment to think about my own vagina and what would be best for it (and be “they” I mean the two different OBGYNs I saw in a matter of weeks a few months ago)), I made the decision based on my own comfort level and what I wanted.


I did have a slight tear in my perineum, and for the first few months things were very tender. There is a reason my midwife told me to use buckets of lubricant, it made a huge difference. Tell your SO that you need to take things slowly, and focus all of your thoughts on relaxing. I was very scared that it would hurt, and getting worked up only made things worse.

Probably the worst thing for me is “bad body thoughts”. I have to work incredibly hard not to focus on my blubbery belly, because there isn’t anything that ruins the moment like focusing on how fat you feel. This isn’t anything TH does to me, it’s ALL ME. He does a wonderful job of conveying his attraction to me, and has done so since day one of our relationship. The only way for me to cure this will be eating less and exercising more, and I know that.


It’s almost like the landscape of my vagina has changed. Intercourse feels different because the layout has been altered a bit. The area where I tore is slightly tender, but at almost 6 months out I don’t think I would say it’s painful. Of course we also have to time things around a crying baby, but with only one child I think it wouldn’t be difficult for any couple to have the same frequency that they did before.


Having a baby has done one great thing for our time in the bedroom, we’ve really had to focus on communication. I need to speak up and tell him if I’m not 100% comfortable. Having a baby has forced us to start over in some really lovely ways, and I love the way our relationship has deepened. Screaming baby and recovering body make sex a bit more complicated than it was before, but adding in those elements has only given us more depth, and more opportunities to work to make things better.

To anyone who is feeling scared my advice would be:

Don’t be afraid to tell your partner no if you aren’t ready to resume your nuzzling.

Lube! And lots of it.

Talk about what you like, and don’t like. It feels weird and raw, and I know it’s hard, but it’s the best possible thing you can do.

Voice your fears. Let your SO know that you are nervous, that your body feels different and that you’re going to have to start over in some ways. Of course, if you’re like me, you might find that starting over can make some things even better.

Relax. It’s much more comfortable when you aren’t tense.

I wrote this post for the same reason I wrote my postpartum recovery post, because I wanted to share a perspective different than what I’ve read. I’m all for honesty, but it feels like sometimes we only hear about the extremes. Either it’s awful (WORST THING EVER YOU’LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN SAY GOODBYE TO THE GOOD TIMES) or it’s no big deal so you shouldn’t worry about it. I’m guessing that most women with uncomplicated labors like mine experience something somewhere in the middle of awful and no big deal, just like I did. It’s somehow worse, different, and better all at the same time, and I think you can find a way to make it work for you with a little bit of communication and a whole lot of patience.

77 thoughts on “Postnatal Cuddling

  1. If you don’t mind me asking, what type of techniques did your midwife employ to prevent tearing as much as possible?

    Andrea Reply:

    I did perineal massage for several weeks prior to delivery and then during labor my midwife stretched my perineum with each contraction. For me, that was The Worst part of the whole birthing experience. The contractions did not hurt as much as my midwife stretching my perineum with every contraction. I really wanted her to stop, but I knew she was truly acting in my best interests. I didn’t tear at all and am so grateful to my midwife.

  2. I just wanted to say THANK YOU!!! Thank you for writing this post. Its something that I have always thought about, and never felt comfortable to ask – or had someone who would feel comfortable with me asking. So again, a humongous Thank You!

  3. Jenna, this was really awesome of you to do. I haven’t had any physical issues (no tears/episiotomy after Dorothy), but I’m having SERIOUS trouble feeling good about my body. Luckily, my husband has been a real champ about coddling me and my “issues”. I really applaud that you’re wanting to step out of that culture that just masks over all the things related to sex and pregnancy, and sex post-baby. Women should know about this stuff!

  4. I’m one of the extreme that says baby ruins everything. For us it has. For no other reason then when do I possibly have time for that? Our baby doesn’t sleep by himself and is pretty demanding and wants to nurse constantly. I’m hoping it will get better very soon. I would say my siuation is pretty typical – I’m glad its not the same for you.

    Tiffany Reply:

    i don’t think your situation is typical…it shouldn’t be like that. If your baby sleeps with you, KICK HIM TO HIS OWN BED IN HIS OWN ROOM! He will learn to sleep by himself. I HAD A VERY VERY HARD first baby, she was the extreme, and you just have to make time for the time with your husband or things will not get better. I think what Jenna has said is perfect! COMMUNICATION COMMUNICATION COMMUNICATION!!! maybe even start scheduling things and find a friend that can watch the babe! I hope it gets better soon too! good luck!

    Anna Reply:


    I disagree so vehemently with you! He/she is a baby, needing his/her mother for a reason (the cry is jarring to get our attention, duh).


    My son is 5 months old and we are going through the exact same thing you are. I commend you for taking such good care of your child. I have to remind myself all the time that this is a very short time in the scheme of things and will pass soon. I recommend reading publications by Dr. James McKenna of the Mother-Baby sleep laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, not only for reassurance that what is happening is trying but very good for you and your baby, but also for recommendations on when is the appropriate time and what is the appropriate method to help your baby learn and grow into sleeping alone. As for the sex, my husband and I just get creative, new times and locations, which has spiced things up nicely. It is a constant work in progress. Jenna is right about communication, that really is the key.

    Anna Reply:


    Just to add, we don’t have a daily chance, but we take every opportunity we can and it makes it fun:) Hang in there girl!

    Tiffany Reply:

    i never said that you shouldn’t take care of your baby, or tend to its every need when they cry. but if your baby is 5 months they should be sleeping in their own room, and be able to put themselves to sleep. I read somewhere, can’t remember, but by 3 months your baby should be sleeping where you want them to sleep for the next few years. If the baby is less then 3 months ok, i totally understand sex probably isn’t happening much! I think jenna described the typical senerio!

    Tiffany Reply:

    also I see way too many people still sleeping with thier toddlers and have them in their bed/room and it puts a HUGE strain on their sex lives and I think it is very unfortunate. So i believe wholeheartedly that between 3-5 months your baby SHOULD NOT be in your bed or in your room. WEll i NEVER agree with being in your bed, but that’s another topic!

    Kelli Nicole Reply:

    This is one of those areas where I believe parents should be allowed to make their own decision for their family without feeling judged by others :).

    Tiffany Reply:

    i am not judging them…i don’t care if they do it, i just don’t think they should complain about their sex life if they choose to do so! 🙂

  5. Really honest post which I appreciate. I have a similar situation as you, uncomplicated pregnancy and a little tear. It’s been 9 weeks since giving birth. With baby in her crib in the nursery, we tried over the weekend, lubed up, and it did hurt and was quite uncomfortable, going very very slow. i did tense up so that probably had a factor as you mentioned, and while it did get a little better when i relaxed, it still was quite uncomfortable and after a few minutes, we stopped. We’ll try again next weekend and keep trying. My husband has been fantastic, and very patient and loving, and continually tells me how much he loves all of me, including the tofu belly i’ve acquired.

    Katy Reply:

    It’s easy to tense up – you’re used to having all that post-baby pain down there. Keep slowly practicing and it will get better. I’ve had two babeis, both episotomies, and everything worked out fine after taking it slow, relaxing, and practicing for a bit of time. (I call it practicing because it doesn’t ‘flow’ like the typical times, but it gets better and better as you try and try to relax!)

    Katy Reply:

    Oh, and I love ‘tofu belly’! 🙂 Yep, that’s me!

  6. I haven’t had a baby, nor am I expecting, but I appreciate you (and TH) for sharing this, for those that were curious! And that gorgeous little boy makes me smile every time I see his face!

  7. My experience was different than what I read it would be, as well. We were only a few short weeks postpartum when we tried again, as my husband was leaving me in the Ronald McDonald House two hours away so that he could return to work and I could stay with my babies in the NICU. It was different (raw is such a good adjective, Jenna) but worthwhile. I wanted so badly to be as close as I could with my husband before he left for the week and sometimes a hug just doesn’t convey the feelings I have.

    It’s been nine months since my daughters were born, and it’s still different. But it’s better. There is a closeness between us that is so much stronger than ever before. We make time because it’s important to us. But I know that it isn’t as important to everybody.

    I appreciate you posting this!

    Tiffany Reply:

    i think you used a key phrase, “we make time for it” I think after kids you have to make time for it, or really you could always use the excuse of just not having time! It is definitly harder with kids, because who wants to have sex with a screaming baby in the next room! HA

  8. THANK YOU for writing about this. As I’ve said 1000 times, we’re not planning on kids anytime soon, but my husband and I do talk a lot about babies, when we’ll have a baby, etc. He and I were just talking about post-baby sex this weekend.

    I think I’m most worried about some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder happening. By that I mean, I’ll know what I just pushed out of there, no WAY will I want to voluntarily put something back IN there. ::shudder::

    I’m actually kind of curious to know if it’s different for couples who had sex before they were married and didn’t have a baby soon after marriage. Not saying that it’s “better” in any way, just purely interested in hearing another perspective of some one with a longer sexual history. I don’t read many mom blogs (you and Mandy are pretty much it for me right now) so maybe that perspective is out there, but it doesn’t seem like it’s something many really wants to talk about or at least give an honest perspective about.

    Again, thanks for opening up this dialogue and putting yourself out there 🙂

    Stephanie Phillips Reply:

    My husband and I have been together for six years, married for four. So I’m coming from a place that is similar to yours. I commented above, but share a very similar perspective to Jenna’s. It’s different, but better, I think.

    Chelsea Reply:

    I don’t mind saying that my husband and I had sex before marriage, and I also (wish I hadn’t, but I did) had sex with other people before I was married. The sex with my husband is a million times better, because of the deeper bond we share, and the way that we know our bodies because we’ve known each other that way for so long was a HUGE help, I think. If we were still exploring each other sexually, like if we hadn’t had sex before marriage and had only been married a year before we got pregnant, I think my experience would be very different.
    I think what it boils down to is comfort level, really. Regardless of how long you’ve been married or sleeping together, I think your experience will be better if you’re comfortable saying what you’re feeling and asking for what you need!
    Hope that helps!

  9. Thank you for this. Hope this isn’t TMI! I am due in less than a week. The last time we had sex was three months ago. I haven’t wanted to since then, it’s just too hard to manage the big belly (although I know you did, and I thought of you, and admired you for it, it just hasn’t worked for us). I have been thinking about the future and despairing about ever having sex again. Seems like it could be six months to a year that we go without, and that is depressing. Is it weird to say that I miss my husband?
    So, I can’t say that reading this (and the comments) was uplifting, exactly, but it sure was nice to hear someone say, “Well, it’s not great, but it will happen again. And you will someday enjoy it.” So far we’ve just been making ourselves feel better by saying that if the post-natal sex was so bad, the world would be full of only children. 😉

    Katy Reply:

    I think it’s difficult for everyone to resume, but the level of difficulty is going to be unique for each person. I don’t want you to be too depressed and unhopeful! I waited the traditional 6 weeks and the first several times it took going slow and getting used to it, but it didn’t take too long for the pain to go away. It’s just like you’ll experience after having the baby – – it will hurt ‘down there’ for a bit, you’ll think it will ALWAYS be like that, and then one day you’ll wake up and the pain is gone!

    I’ve had two babies now (my second boy was almost 10 lbs!) and the experience has been the same both times. A little painful at first, but in a short time (and with patience and a litttle practice) everything goes back to normal. Now, I can’t say that I notice any difference between the pre-baby fun and the post-baby fun. It’s nice to have a realistic perspective so that you don’t expect it to be super great the first few times after baby, but don’t worry that it will never return or never be the same either!

    Laura Reply:

    Thank you so much! Your thoughts here and in other comments in the thread are REALLY helpful. We will hope for the best and laugh about the rest. 🙂

    Zoe Reply:

    haha agreed. It must not be that bad if people continue to have kids!

  10. I think this is a great post.

    I had a c-section and sex for my husband and I, although I didn’t have any vaginal issues, was very different in many simillar ways. For one, it was uncomfortable because of my own body image and because my uterus was still adjusting. Thank God I didn’t have any problems and had no pain with my scar (I didn’t even have pain killers, I refused them), I think it was mostly in my head.

    Like you, now that we’re 6 months out from having a baby our sex life is different and better at the same time. I think couples let their sex lives die after a baby comes but we have made a concious choice to keep ours alive and exciting. We also had sex before the recomended time frame and it was because we both felt comfortable.

    I also share your views on sex before marriage and wish my husband and I had waited and I didn’t participate in two other sexual long term relationships before him. I saw this wonderful analogy on TV the other day when a father was telling his young daughter about why she should wait to have sex. He compared a person to swiss cheese. He said something like “When you chose to have sex with someone you become like swiss cheese. At one point you were whole with no holes but everytime you give yourself to someone, they take a little piece of you. So when you finally find the person you want to be with for the rest of your life, you who aren’t whole.”- Which, in my opinion, makes sense. I feel like by giving yourself to someone before you are married you’re allowing them to take not only a physical part of you but an emotional piece as well. I just thought that was a great way to explain things to a young child.

    Sophia Reply:

    It’s always so interesting how people have such different perspectives on this. A lot of my girlfriends feel this way- they really regret not waiting. For me, I really enjoyed my single/dating/serial monogamy years and would have regretted not doing the things I did, and I know it *enhanced* my love and appreciation for more serious commitments. I like that I experienced all different kinds of interactions- from “this is fun” to “we’ve been friends for years and this is nice” to “I kind of like you” to “wow, I super love you!”. I didn’t do it to be liked, I have a high self esteem and lots of self respect, I was careful (OCD careful, haha), and I was extremely picky with partners and people I had relationships with. I never felt disrespected or cheap and I thoroughly enjoyed the path I took and wouldn’t have it any other way. And at the end of it, I still feel very “whole” 🙂 Ironically, the relationship that damaged me the most, that left me reeling and hurt and confused, feeling like I “lost” something, was the one with the most commitment, talks of marriage, and abstinence during our year together and our long distance year apart. And that wound, while 5 years gone, still hurts to this day sometimes. Whereas I can smile and think of the sweet boy I lost my virginity to, my first love, and have nothing but happy, nostalgic thoughts.

    Since I haven’t had a baby yet the main topic is out of my league but your comment was interesting and thought provoking to me.

    *M Reply:

    Sophia, you are not the only one in this boat!
    My husband was not my first, but he’s the best and now I have data to back up my appreciation! (lol – can you tell Im a science nerd!?)
    I agree with Jenna that the media and much of our social society makes WAAAYYYY too light of sex, I don’t feel like a empty ring of cheese. Through the years of other dating and long term relationship experiences, I grew to know exactly who I am, what I want (and don’t want!), and I think my relationship with my husband is stronger for it. But that’s my take on things.
    Jenna, while I’m years away from baby mode – its so nice to hear open and honest experiences. While you were speaking to this particular topic, I think you hit the nail on the head in so many aspect of a relationship, but particularly sex pre post or anytime – COMMUNICATION is key! So proud of you for everything you’ve done and for creating a life you are happy in, and proud of.
    And OMG what a cute photo!!!

    FM Reply:

    Sophia – Not sure if you read a practical wedding too, but there was an interesting discussion there about this a few months back you might be curious to read (don’t know if I can post a link here, but it is from June 3, and it’s an “ask Meg” category). Post was a reader explaining her reasons for waiting until marriage, comments from people all over the map with really interesting descriptions of their experiences and reasons for their choices. Sorry to others for the side talk!

  11. Very good post. I think one of the biggest things to remember in lovemaking after baby is communication. We had been married only a year before the baby came, so I had been really cautious of ANY kind of correction in the bedroom, because I didn’t want to offend my husband. After the baby came, I realized HE has more fun if *I* have more fun, so I’ve gotten a lot more vocal in terms of asking for different things.

    Also, and I’ve tried to live by this both before and after the baby — almost never say no to an opportunity to have sex with your husband. Even if I don’t really feel like it, usually if I just persevere for a few minutes and let him “convince me”, I can enjoy myself and HE is a much more satisfied, patient man. 🙂

    Katy Reply:

    You’re completely right! I’m learning that even if I don’t really want to at the time 1) we must take advantage of the opportunities given us- both kids taking naps, went to bed early, etc. 2) even if I’m not into it at first, I can be ‘convinced’ if I just relax and shut off my brain (hard for moms to do sometimes!) and 3)by satisfying him in this important way, I get much more in return! He’s even more loving, helpful, and finds ways to make my life easier with the kids and aroudn the house. So even if I’m not “into it”, a bit of my time for all that in return – – this momma of two will take it! 🙂

  12. Great job!

    I never knew this from the limited talking about this subject with my friends, but I didn’t know that so many women are so fearful and apprehensive about post-baby nuzzling (fun word!:)

    We waited the typical 6 weeks, and yes it was difficult at first, but in just a matter of a few tries it starts to get better. It gets better and better until one day you realize that everything seems to have gone ‘back to normal’ in that area. I don’t even think about it anymore and I forget that it ever was a problem. Hey, I virtually had a 10 lb baby the second time and I can’t say I notice any difference between pre-children fun and now. Like any change in life, it takes time to adjust. But with practice and patience it WILL come back (and it probably won’t take quite as long as you think it will either) and it can be just as good as before. Acutally, our activities in that area are light years better than before baby because we were still learning back then!

    I’m trying to instill some hope! As for baby giving you the time – that’s why you have to take advantage of nap times and other breaks. With kids, this beautiful, candle lit experience isn’t going to just fall in your lap, so you either need to 1) plan it and schedule for it or 2) take advantage of the opportunities as they come. I promise – in the moment it seems like FOREVER until they are sleeping through the night – but soon that phase will come. You’ll have more rest, have more energy, and be more ready for each other. Until then, do the best with what you have. It can and will get better!

    And if this post isn’t long enough – a word about body issues. We girls tend to make more of it than our spouses. Our guys are often just so happy to be resuming sex that they really don’t see the imperfections we readily notice. Also – to put it bluntly – the more action guys get, the more attractive you become. I know that makes men sound like shallow jerks, but it’s more than that. When men are able to fulfill their needs with their SO (fairly consistently), it’s like this magical spell we cast on them. They think we’re beautiful (no matter what we look like at the time!) and want to help and please us. That’s just my experience in my 7 1/2 years and advice I’ve recieved from long-married couples/women as well. A little confidence despite your depression at your current body state (something I can totally understand!) goes a long way in the bedroom.

  13. My perspective is different because I had two (extremely necessary!) c-sections.

    My husband and I didn’t have intercourse until we were married, and we were married two years before we got pregnant and almost three years before our first daughter was born.

    Even though sex wasn’t painful (because my vagina never got, um, put to use!), it was different after a baby. I breastfed, so I’d have to wear a bra. I was self-conscious about my body. In fact, I used to joke to my husband that it’s a good thing he made a lifelong commitment to me because the children we made together ruined my body! With my girls 22 months apart, someone was always crying. We used to joke our youngest had a sex radar.

    It took years for our sex life to return to normal, and it’s never gotten back to the pre-baby frequency. Part of me think that the lower frequency is a natural part of being married longer (you gotta sleep sometime–and when you wait until you’re married to have sex, there tends to be a LOT of it in the beginning!), and part of it is the fact I work third shift as a nurse and am physically not around three nights a week!

    I wouldn’t trade the changes in our relationship for the world. We have a love and commitment to each other, and after ten years, we still have lots of fireworks 🙂 Our girls are now 5 and 7 and we will look at each other and comment that we can’t believe that our love made those girls. And that is an amazing connection to have!

  14. Such a beautifully written personal post – thanks for being so blatantly honest about life after baby. It’s a real inspiration for women who aren’t quite there yet, but hopefully will be in the years to come. 🙂

  15. Thank you for writing this post. I think you did a wonderful job with it. Not having kids yet myself, I’ve wondered about after-birth intimacy and how everything in that area will be painful. I appreciate your honest approach. I love that you said to talk about it with your partner. It reminded me of when we were first married. Talking about it and finding what works and what doesn’t only makes it better. Though I’ll admit I was pretty embarrassed and shy to talk about it with my husband, but I’m glad I did because it brought us closer together.

  16. I love how honest and open this was, while still maintaining your privacy. I think you have a real gift for getting that across in writing about sensitive subjects.

    Jenna Reply:

    I was stressed all morning that I hadn’t written this the way I intended. Thanks Sophia 🙂

  17. Excellent post Jenna, thanks so much! Sex after baby is something that I worry about, as well as how my body will change after a baby. The Hubs and I are waiting at least a year before we’ll consider trying, so we’ve got time, but it is something that I do worry about. I love our sex life, and I want it to be just as fulfilling after kids. Thanks for your honesty!!

  18. It is good to know that there are people out there that were willing to go with what you wanted. These days doctors are so apt to do only what they suggest and not look at things from a different perspective.

  19. This was a wonderful and very tasteful way of sharing what postpartum intimacy is like. And while your relationship changes after having a baby (hello short temper and no patience :))it does also deepen your bond (or at least it has in my experience). It gave me a new respect and love for my husband, I have gotten to see him in his new role as a father and it has made me love and appreciate him even more. Sharing the experience of childbirth brought us closer together and I would have to say that we have more sex now that we have a baby than we did before! 🙂
    For those that were curious on Jenna’s formspring as to what postpartum sex feels like for men: my husband has said that it* does not feel any different to him. You would think having pushed out an 8lb. baby would leave your nether regions all kinds of stretched out but apparently thats not the case.I’m sharing this fact not to be lewd but in hopes that it will ease some fears, because I know it was something I was concerned about 🙂

    *By “it” I mean vagina but for some reason I just felt kind of skectchy putting “my vagina” in that sentence lol.

  20. i think it’s great you posted your experience and started the conversation — for some reason, no one wants to talk to about this, even tho everyone wants to talk about this…if you know what i mean!

    as someone who really didn’t want to get an episiotomy, but ended up with one anyways (after 4 hours of pushing, it was that or the vacuum) i want to ease everyone’s mind about that after effects of that, too. i think i had a “good” cut in that the healing was fast and the scar tissue very minimal. 7 months later, it looks and feels back to normal. the beginning of sex (aka the initial uh, insertion?) is still a little tender (not painful, just have to be a little careful), but once things are rolling it’s totally back to normal.

    oh and? if anything, the episiotomy made me, ahem, tighter. it’s sort of like i was re-virginized. ha!

    one more thing to add for nursing mamas: i was really worried i’d be spraying my husband when we got busy, but it’s never happened. however, i DO feel a little uncomfortable with any play in that area because they’re not sexual in my mind right now. he’s into them, but i’m just not yet — i think when i wean in a few months, that will go back to normal, too.

  21. Great post Jenna! I think a lot of new moms pass for some of those situations (I don’t like my body a lot, but I try to don’t think in that)… Thanks for sharing.

    I love love those pics of T1, I wish some like those of my little one [Five months too].

  22. I agree with Sophia you wrote this with a nice balance. I don’t have any experience in this area but I really enjoyed reading and reading other people’s comments.

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