My doctor has cleared me for sex and exercise, but I don’t feel like my body is ready for intimacy. How do I know when the time is right?
What an important question you’ve asked. Our bodies go through extensive transformation both during and after pregnancy. Our emotions go on a roller coaster ride since a pregnant woman’s hormone levels change drastically immediately after giving birth. Then, factor in the hormonal changes that come with breastfeeding, and the responsibility of caring for this new bundle of joy. Your physician is primarily concerned with your physical self and how your body is healing from childbirth when considering whether you’re cleared for sex and exercise. However, there are so many individual factors that contribute to your wellbeing that it makes good sense to consider your whole self.
I consulted Andrea Wallenbeck, LCSWA and founder of Longview Counseling in Raleigh, NC for help with this question. Her quick answer – trust your own body wisdom. “If you are not ready, you are not ready,” Andrea said. She also suggested being curious about what is getting in the way. “What are your hesitations about having sex again? Is it about your body? Your relationship? Your exhaustion?” she asked. The birthing experience can be very triggering emotionally for some women, and talking with a licensed therapist can help you process what is surfacing.
Andrea said it’s important that you ask for what you need and be specific about what will fill your cup. “Is it three nights of sleep, a visit from a friend, a new vibrator, pelvic floor physical therapy sessions, a spiritual ritual, or perhaps some magic lube?”
Finally, Andrea said connecting and communicating with your partner is essential. “Intimacy with your partner can be so many other things than penetrative sex. How can both you and your partner connect in meaningful ways and have your needs met?” she asked. This is another area where working with a skilled therapist can be super helpful and rewarding.
The bottom line is, listen to and take care of yourself. You are worth it, and so are your relationships.