Not all women feel self-conscious after giving birth—for some women it’s actually a major body-confidence boost. “Your body has done a truly miraculous thing, and there’s so much to be proud of,” Marin says.” For many women, pregnancy helps put body hang-ups into perspective. “Maybe you were self-conscious of your breasts before pregnancy, but now you can appreciate that they keep your baby healthy,” Marin says.
Will you get pregnant?
You can. Amazingly, your body has the ability to make another baby pretty much immediately after you’ve given birth to one, so if you don’t want to get pregnant right away, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends using birth control. Even if you do want to have kids close together, doctors advise waiting six months. Beginning another pregnancy before then can be risky. Research suggests it can increase the likelihood of premature birth, placental abruption, low birth weight, and congenital disorders, according to the Mayo Clinic.
While breastfeeding can help reduce the chances of getting pregnant, the popular belief that it acts as a surefire form of birth control is a misconception—you need backup. For many women, the easiest solution is a postplacental IUD—within minutes of delivering your baby and placenta, doctors can insert the device, and you’re good to go—but there are many options, according to the ACOG.
Does breastfeeding affect sex?
A little-known fact about breastfeeding is that it puts your body into a kind of temporary menopause (though not completely—remember you can get pregnant), particularly for the first six months, explains Conti. The biggest side effect of this possible condition is extreme vaginal dryness, which can make sex painful.
If you want to have penetrative sex while you’re breastfeeding or pumping, doctors recommend using lubricant or vaginal estrogen to increase wetness. In some cases, you may just need to wait it out. “Sex only really started feeling comfortable when I stopped pumping after six months,” says E.J. “That’s when it started feeling good again.”
Will it be the same?
You may find that what feels good during sex changes after giving birth. Some women who previously orgasmed through G-spot stimulation now prefer clitoral stimulation. If you’re breastfeeding, your nipples may feel especially sensitive—and not especially sexual. Many of the women we spoke with said that while they were breastfeeding, their breasts played a much smaller role during sex than before.
“It is definitely possible to have a great sex life after kids, and maybe to even have it be better than it was before, because having kids forces you to get creative,” explains Marin. That goes for everything from carving out time to get it on to finding the position that feels best post-baby. As with all things sexual, the best thing you can do is experiment until you discover what works.
“It’s really important to acknowledge that sex is going to feel different, and to cut yourself some slack,” says Steph Montgomery, a writer, women’s health activist, and mother of five. Also, communicating your new preferences to your partner is essential. “I’ve found that missionary sex with him on top, and sex with him on top in general, is just not comfortable anymore,” she says. She now prefers all fours. “It sort of takes the pressure off—literally.”
Is there anything I can do to improve my post-baby sex life?
Kegel exercises, which involve contracting and releasing the vagina, can help strengthen the muscles in and around your pelvis in the postpartum period. That increased muscle tone in the vagina can make sex more pleasurable for women, says Dr. Minkin.