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Sex After Baby: What It’s Really Like

The week after I had my first son, Henry, I thought I was never going to have any more kids. But getting pregnant would be easy to avoid, because I also thought I never wanted to have sex again. Ever. The birth was traumatic to my lady parts, to say the least. And when the six-week recovery period was up, and I got the go-ahead from my doctor, I was scared to death to do the deed.

After talking to other mom friends, I realized I wasn't alone in my fear, anxiety and low libido. So I was surprised when this study came out recently claiming that postpartum women begin feeling desire and engaging in sexual activities sooner than the six-week waiting period that most doctors recommend.

Seriously? Who are these women?

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That's actually unclear, says Dr. Lisa Mazzullo, author of Before Your Pregnancy: A 90-Day Guide for Couples on How to Prepare for a Healthy Conception. "The study didn't have details of who they surveyed, how old the women were, how long they've been with their partner or how many children they've had," she said. "All factors which can affect postpartum libido."

In other words, younger women who have been with their partners for less than 10 years are going to generally have higher sex drives and more frequent sex, whether they've just had a baby or not. And since second and third labors are typically easier than first, your sex drive may come back faster.

Many women also feel compelled to have sex regardless of whether they actually feel sexual. "Some women feel a need to reestablish the bond with their partner that can only happen via sexual activity," says Miro Gudelsky, a sex therapist in Los Angeles. "And there is also pressure from partners to re-engage in sex, maybe before the woman is feeling completely ready."

Just remember: "Everyone is different and takes different times to heal and recover on emotional and physical levels," says Gudelsky. "It's important to pay attention to what your body needs and wants—not what your doctor has dictated."

So no matter where your libido falls on the spectrum in the weeks after you've had a baby, take your time and go at your own pace. When you are ready to jump back in the sack, follow these tips to ease whatever fears you have and make it a pleasant experience.

Love yourself. Literally. "Masturbation is a super important way to take a new mom's equipment on a test-drive," says Gudelsky. "It's also a great stress reliever, which is something every new mom can benefit from."

Make sure your body is ready. "Moms who are breast-feeding will have low estrogen levels, which can cause vaginal dryness," says Mazzullo. "Talk to your doctor about possibly supplementing with local estrogen or a good personal lubricant."

Take a mommy time-out. "Sexual activity is mental, so if you're sleep-deprived or overwhelmed, you won't feel sexy," says Mazzullo. "Ask your partner for some time off from household duties, even if it's just a few hours, so you can regroup and feel like yourself again."

Foreplay, foreplay, foreplay. "It's remarkably important to get comfortable with each other and make sure tissues stretch again," says Mazzullo. You may even want to have a few sessions of just foreplay with no sex to make the first time easier, she says.

Keep expectations low. "Things will be different. Body parts will be stretched, and sometimes torn with a need to heal. You will be exhausted. You will be mesmerized by the tiny creature you have created," says Gudelsky. "Proceed slowly, lovingly and with a sense of humor."

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