Facing the reality of intimacy in the postpartum period
So, you’re at the end of the second trimester and will soon be facing the reality that your baby could be outside the womb, flexing its vocal muscles, in a matter of weeks. There are big changes ahead and trying to imagine your relationship post partum (the six weeks following the birth) may be a bit out of range just at the moment.
For one thing, you are beginning to know your partner in a way that is completely new. Any physical ideals you might once have held are likely to be slipping away in the face of such pregnancy-related ailments as haemorrhoids, varicose veins, flatulence, acid reflux and more.
But all this is useful as it will help you adapt to the realities of the so-called fourth trimester; the three-month period immediately after the birth when you’re lucky if you get the time to wash your socks, shave your face or do a single press-up, let alone manage seven hours sleep or, who are you kidding, an amorous and intimate night with your partner.
But, if you can stay strong and support your partner now, without making her feel like her baby body is anything out of the ordinary, this will boost her wellbeing and help both of you overcome any fears you might have about how your relationship will inevitably change post-birth.
Thinking ahead – early days
In the first few weeks following labour any kind of sexual interaction is unlikely, while penetrative sex will most definitely be off the menu. Post birth vaginal bleeding (lochia) is a fact of the postpartum period while haemorrhoids remain a common complaint at this stage, and it will take time for your partner to recover physically from giving birth to your child in other ways too.
If she’s breast feeding, her torso will be for the sole use of your newborn and, if she’s not, then engorged breasts and mastitis can be a distinct pain in the boob – seriously, they are really painful.
Remember, women who have delivered C-section face many of the same challenges as those who had a vaginal delivery, including a dilated cervix, so even if your partner is booked in for a C-section you will still require plenty of patience. Additionally, your partner may be one of the many who experience the baby blues, so show your sensitive and supportive side now and it will increase the likelihood of you having a full and fulfilling relationship in the post-birth period.
Basically, if you can let your partner see your understanding of the difficulties she faces now, in the second trimester, whether it is by getting a cold compress for her haemorrhoids or by massaging her through Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), you will be laying important groundwork for your future physical relationship.
Redefining yourselves now and for the future
Both you and your partner will already have a different sense of yourselves now that you are sharing a pregnancy together. Childbirth and the early days of parenthood only add to these feelings of transformation. You will see a baby emerge from your partner’s most intimate places, and her body will experience multiple upheavals of a seismic and life-changing nature.
This will herald a new reality for the two of you. This can be difficult, but for some couples it can be the beginning of an exciting new era and can add to your feelings of intimacy and sexual empowerment. Again, what you do now, almost halfway through the pregnancy, can be pivotal in setting the tone for this post-birth future.
Sex after childbirth may be different in several ways. For example, your partner’s pelvic floor may not be as strong as it was, breast milk may leak (particularly during orgasm) and your partner may not be as well lubricated as she was before giving birth. This is because reduced oestrogen levels make her less “wet”. This doesn’t mean that she is not aroused, only that you might have to provide some external lubrication.
These things are all natural and should be embraced. For now, concentrate on the positive. It’s likely that your partner has increased blood flow to her sexual organs at this stage in the pregnancy and this could well mean increased sexual appetite as well as increased lubrication.
Now is the time to talk about birth control
It is important to remember that although your partner is much less likely to get pregnant if she is exclusively breastfeeding in the early months – it is nonetheless still possible. Talk to your partner now about your postpartum contraception options. You don’t want to shut down your sexual relationship simply because you neglected to have this conversation at a time when it was easy; you certainly don’t want to talk about it in the future, when she’s feeding the baby at 3am.
Above all, now is the time to show your partner that the changes you are about to face as a couple are not going to affect the way you view your relationship. Adjustments in your lifestyle with a new baby will be inevitable, but it doesn’t mean your emotional attachment has to change.