For a woman, giving birth to a child is a tremendous experience. Giving birth affects women in various ways and on many different levels – including physically, emotionally and sexually. Many women experience a change in the way they view their bodies after having a child. Even women who are typically satisfied and accepting of their bodies have been known to feel disassociated from a body they feel no longer belongs to them.
Women are quite used to body changes as they have been in flux from puberty to pregnancy – and of course cyclically, from premenstrual to menstrual symptoms. Moments after experiencing the miracle of giving birth, a new mother may suddenly feel dominated by a body that does not feel like her own. The abdominal muscles may have difficulty functioning, which makes even getting up out of bed not the easiest task to complete. A new mom may experience episodes of urinary leakage, which is never fun to deal with. Her breasts may have turned from what was once regarded as private and sexual to more functional and indeed less private – albeit they play one of the most important roles in motherhood, to provide the necessary nutrition to the newborn child.
Each woman will react to these changes in different ways. Some think if they ignore these changes, eventually everything will just go back to what it was pre-pregnancy on its own. For many cases, this does have to some extent. Other new moms may obsess about their bodies, determined to return to that pre-pregnancy state as quickly as possible. However the reaction, both emotional and physical recovery from childbirth can be made smoother by accepting and loving her body the way it is, realizing that it needs nurturing just as her new baby needs nurturing. Take the time to learn and understand the changes that have taken place during this time period.
Along with physical body changes, there can also be sexual changes that may happen as well after childbirth. While some women can ease comfortably back into resuming sexual relations after giving birth, other women may find that they have little to no interest in sex (many women report decreased sexual desire during the postpartum period) and are often too tired to even contemplate sex. When some women do find themselves wanting to be sexually active again, they may find there is dryness (due to hormonal changes) and pain the in the vaginal area. The birth process may have left scar tissue and tears which can make for painful intercourse.
If a woman is feeling that having sexual relations is just another demand on her overworked body, it is important that she communicates her feelings to her partner, who may be feeling rejected without even realizing that she is feeling overwhelmed – emotionally and physically. Also during this time, women often crave physical and sensual touch from their partner, but not necessarily intercourse. This is also important to communicate.
Allow yourself as a new mom to really feel and understand the way your body is now working. Tell yourself what you love about your body. Treat your body (and spirit!) to a warm bath, a massage, or something else that brings you relaxation. Decreasing the demands that you may have made on yourself as a new mother (not to mention partner and any other roles you may have) will help to relieve some of the stress.