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Postpartum sex: A guide to intimacy anxiety after childbirth

There’s a lot to be anxious about in new motherhood: how to get the baby to sleep, whether they are getting enough food, why they are crying (or even why they are quiet), developmental goals…you name it, we’ve worried about it!

When I first became a mum, I was also worried that I wouldn’t ever feel like myself again.  I was nervous that my pelvic floor wouldn’t recover, and that my vagina wouldn’t feel the same.  Are my boobs supposed to hurt this much? When will my body feel normal? When will my mind feel normal?!

In the midst of this existential angst there’s also sex to worry about too.

Because despite our best-laid plans (and the pressures of a media judgement of female bodies and its ‘bouncing back’ headlines), birth and motherhood changes us.  Sex, particularly penetrative sex, is an emotional and physical rollercoaster, we put so much emphasis on it as a rite of passage – we judge ourselves (on when we first have sex, what kind of sex we’re having, how much of it we’re having) against what is perceived to be the “normal”.  So getting back to your perceived “normal” post hoofing-out-a-baby is a tough ask.

Your body is going to be different (note: different, not worse), at least for a little while.  You’re probably nervous about how your partner sees you post-birth, you might not be comfortable in your own skin for a time either.  You might be worried about your vagina and how it’s weathered the pregnancy and childbirth storm.  You might lack lubrication or be anxious about your c-section scar.  What if you’ve suffered birth trauma and just don’t want anyone near you?

Your mind is also going through some challenges.  Being a mum can be hard to get your head around.  You might be stressed, sleep-deprived, or experiencing postnatal depression.  You might not have the support network you need.  It can also be hard to go through all that physical change of carrying and birthing a baby alongside a partner who hasn’t, and who might not understand the emotional and mental impact that has.  So it’s no surprise that our libido seems to have gone into hiding!

These are all entirely relatable and common feelings, and in my book Get Your Mojo Back, Sex, Pleasure and Intimacy After Birth, I share my own experience rediscovering a fulfilling sex life after I had my first daughter.  I also share lots of advice and information on how to deal with it that I learned on my journey.  So here are my top tips.


Get to know yourself again. Your identity as a mother might be a totally different beast to your identity pre-motherhood.  And that’s ok.  But it can take some time to adapt to this, and it’s nearly impossible to do so when the baby is with you all the time.

When you’re ready and able to, let the baby spend some time with your other half, friends or family and grab even 10 minutes to yourself.  Do something that makes you feel like you – read, have a cup of tea, go for a walk, see friends, chat on the phone, do some movement (depending on how postnatal you are), revive your hobby…but do that without your little one.  You deserve to remember what it feels like to be on your own as well as being a mum, it allows you time to yourself and to consider your new identity from a different perspective (one without baby sick on your shoulder).


Get to know your body again. Your body has just done the most amazing thing, grown a tiny human, birthed it vaginally or undergone major surgery and here you are – still standing!  It might feel bruised and battered, and that’s entirely normal.  You might also feel strong, powerful and wonderful.  Either way that’s probably different to how you looked and felt before.

It’s really important to come to terms with your body as it is now, whether this is a passing phase or a more permanent change (usually a bit of both).  Spend time in the shower looking at and feeling your new body, take time in front of the mirror, or even just lie on the bed without any clothes on, getting used to that feeling of newness and change.  Be open to nakedness rather than hiding your wonderful body, especially if you are having trouble coming to terms with it.

Gradually you can work towards self-pleasure too – when your body changes, you might feel pleasure differently and be turned on by different things now and realising that whilst you are on your own can be incredibly empowering.  And useful – so that you can tell your partner!


With that in mind: talk to your partner!  Because if you don’t tell them how you’re feeling, they can’t know what’s going on.  I learnt the hard way that even though my husband had been by my side through the birth and afterwards, he didn’t experience things in the same way I did and didn’t understand the trauma it had caused for me.  If you’re not ready for sex, tell him/her.  If you’re nervous about your body, be honest.  If you’re worried it might hurt, say so.  Then you can work around these issues, take time, find ways to be intimate without penetrative sex and make sure you both feel loved and cared for still.


Conversely: don’t listen to your peers, they might be stretching the truth.  The bedroom is the only place where we can lie without being found out.  No-one is in there monitoring your nightly shenanigans with a clipboard.  Which means that when the antenatal class Whatsapp group lights up with tales of getting back in the sack, you should take it with a pinch of salt.  We’re all different and that means we’re going to be ready for sex at different times and in different ways. Don’t judge yourself by someone else’s libido, particularly when their motherhood journey might be so different to yours.


Clio Wood @andbreathewellbeing is a maternal health and sex positivity advocate, journalist, the author of Get Your Mojo Back, Sex, Pleasure and Intimacy After Birth, and Founder of &Breathe.

Clio create &Breathe, an award-winning retreat company, after she experienced the traumatic birth of her first daughter and subsequent postnatal depression, PTSD and pelvic floor issues.  Through her own experience and the creation of &Breathe she became deeply knowledgeable on postnatal and menopause health and sexual wellbeing and began to champion these areas through her writing, speaking and ultimately her first book, Get Your Mojo Back, Sex, Pleasure and Intimacy After Birth (Watkins, 2023)

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