The Messy Truth About Sex After Kids

Things change.

1. It might hurt.

How common is pain during sex after childbirth? So, so common. One study found that nearly 9 out of 10 women experienced pain the first time they had intercourse following birth -- whether it was weeks or months later. And almost a quarter said they were still experiencing discomfort a year-and-a-half later. While the researchers hypothesized that women who gave birth vaginally were more likely to experience pain than women who delivered via C-section, they found the opposite was true: Women who had a C-section were twice as likely to report pain 18 months out. But no matter how your birth went down, healing takes time and scar tissue can be really painful.

Lubricant is your friend, and so is your doctor or midwife, because while some degree of pain is normal, chronic discomfort is not something moms should have to settle for.

2. Your breasts might leak.

As one study put it, it's still considered pretty taboo to think of sex and breastfeeding together, but mothers' breasts often leak when they're aroused, particularly during orgasm. In fact, Women's Health magazine explains that even women who aren't nursing or who have never been pregnant can lactate with sufficient stimulation, likely because it triggers the release of hormones like oxytocin and pitocin, which in turn, help to trigger lactation. As with just about everything when it comes to love and sex, how couples feel about it varies: Some women and their partners don't much notice or care; for others, it's kind of a turn-on; while others find it's simply not their thing. If that's the case, emptying your breasts beforehand and/or wearing a bra during sex can help.

3. Things will just feel ... different.

Let's get this one out of the way: A vaginal delivery does not mean your lady bits are forever ruined or suddenly cavernous. However, as the NHS puts it -- a bit more delicately-- your vagina might look wider than before, and it can certainly feel softer and looser. That means things may feel different both for mothers and their partners, but not necessarily worse.

And the same goes for the rest of your body. You just grew a entire human being. Your hips might be wider. Your nipples might look and feel different. Things will probably move in new and potentially surprising ways. Try to roll with it as best you can because, again, your body housed and nourished a tiny new person, then safely helped bring him or her into the world. If it didn't look or feel different afterward, that would be strange.

4. You'll squeeze it in (heh) when you can.

If you're reading this, no one needs to tell you how completely and totally exhausting this whole parenting thing can be. One study that focused on new moms found they show medically-significant levels of sleep deprivation -- and surveys show fatigue doesn't end once your baby starts sleeping through the night. So don't, for a second, feel guilty that when the opportunity to get into bed finally presents itself, all you want to do is sleep. Nighttime sex might just not be your thing for a while, so embrace the potential joy of a quickie (because, yes, foreplay will probably take a hit) during naptime, after music class or in the morning before those first cries and whimpers.

5. Interruption is always a possibility.

This is true from the baby stage until just about, well, college. It's why the Internet is full of helpful "what-to-do-if-your-child-walks-in-on-you"-related advice. "Being walked in on during sex is a very common experience -- and a great example of why it is important to knock first, and always respect someone's privacy," sexologist Logan Levkoff told CNN. "But before you say anything to your child, you are going to need to determine what they heard, saw, and if they even care about what was going on." And remember: locks are your friend.

6. The possibility of getting pregnant takes on a whole new meaning.

After you have a baby, pregnancy and childbirth are no longer abstract concepts or possibilities, so the chance of a subsequent pregnancy resulting from heterosexual intercourse just feels a whole lot more vivid and potentially loaded. You know, like really know, what's at stake. That's true both if you're terrified of having another little one, if you're itching to get started again, or anything in between.

7. It -- gasp! -- might not be that bad.

There's the expectation that once a tiny sex killer child enters the equation, good sex -- hell, even bad sex -- goes out the window. And while it's true that having a baby can take a toll on the quantity and quality of a couple's sex-life, it's not a given. According to some experts, pregnancy and childbirth can actually boost women's vaginal muscle control, which can make orgasms feel even better. "There seems to be some evidence that nerve compression from the trauma of birth can increase a woman’s orgasmic sensitivity in a positive way," clinical sexologist Kat Van Kirk told Women's Health magazine. You and your partner might find yourselves focusing more on quality than quantity, or that you're just generally feeling more comfortable and open with each other. Even if your sex life isn't all fireworks and orgasms, most sexual concerns linked to childbirth start to settle out after the first year, according the Mayo Clinic. So don't necessarily buy into the having kids = end of sex hype.

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