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    An LGBTQ+ Guide To Sex During And After Pregnancy

    Updated 20 December 2021 |
    Published 17 December 2021
    Fact Checked
    Dr. Jenna Beckham
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Jenna Beckham, Obstetrician, gynecologist, and complex family planning specialist, WakeMed Health and Hospitals, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, North Carolina, US
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    The queer experience is missing from the conversation around pregnancy and postpartum sex. Our guide will help you figure out what feels right for you

    Navigating your pregnant and postpartum body is a unique experience for everyone, and while there’s plenty of medical advice on how to physically reconnect with your sexuality during and after giving birth, mentally this can be challenging for many people. 

    During pregnancy and the postpartum period, it’s essential to take note of any sensations, emotions, and urges and not to feel guilty for experiencing any of them. Your brain and body have changed during the process, and — since you are in a new mental and physical state — this will feel uncomfortable at times. It will probably take some adjustment and an open mind. After giving birth, for example, your body goes through a series of changes known as “matrescence,” a similar state to puberty. 

    “Feeding can also negatively impact sexual desire due to the rise in prolactin levels [the hormone that encourages milk production],” Dr. Lorna Hobbs, a clinical psychologist, tells Flo. 

    “Increased prolactin is linked to decreased sexual desire. It’s also well known that sleep deprivation and the resulting tiredness also negatively impacts sexual desire. Getting a good night’s sleep can increase the likelihood of having sex the following day by as much as 14 percent.”

    During this time, you might not feel up to sex or masturbation at all; you might feel aroused at strange times; or you might feel as though your old sexual self is an iteration of the past — someone you’ve waved goodbye to and are now grieving. These feelings are completely normal. Postpartum is a strange time, and it’s accompanied by a range of emotions, as well as a physical healing process. 

    “Our sex education system has failed us [when it comes] to what to expect after pregnancy and has further failed the LGBTQ+ community in this respect,” Casey Tanner, a licensed sex therapist at The Expansive Group, tells Flo. “This leads to feelings of isolation and embarrassment around experiences that are perfectly normal and healthy.” 

    Experts say that sex begins and ends in the brain, and this applies to both partnered and solo sex. Often, the arousal we feel exists in a separate realm than our physical sensations. Being touched is great, but our imaginations are limitless. Pregnancy and the months and years postpartum are a great time to remember this. 

    After a vaginal birth, you will feel sore and may have stitches to contend with. The same goes for a caesarean birth. This means that touching the areas that need to heal will be a no-go for at least a few weeks. Avoiding the vaginal opening, anus, and perineum, or your caesarean scar, is a must while you recover. Your health care professional can advise on what’s best for you.

    Remember, too, that women and people with ovaries can start ovulating again as early as 25 days after giving birth, so condoms or a similar barrier method of contraception are a must to prevent unplanned pregnancy.

    But sex doesn’t just mean penetrative sex, and penetrative sex doesn’t just mean penises. “The good news here is that there are a number of [other] highly sensual and erotic activities in which you can engage solo or with a partner,” Tanner says. “After all, the clitoris is accessible externally, and if you feel up for it, clitoral orgasms are possible and safe.” 

    It’s easier to develop an infection if anything is inserted into the vagina during this time — this goes for toys and fingers, too. Your perineum and your anus, next door, will also feel tender, and according to Dr. Gunvor Ekman Ordeberg, OB-GYN, the risk of bacterial transmission around these areas is at an all-time high after birth. Of course, everyone heals at different rates, and it’s important to listen to your body. 

    But definitions of queer sex are myriad, and sex can include many acts and ideas. “Reconnecting with your sexuality after childbirth must be done at a pace you feel comfortable with,” says Dr. Hobbs. “It can also provide an opportunity to explore and re-define aspects of your sexuality and sexual relationship(s), and to try out something new. 

    “But because LGBTQ+ sex doesn’t have to happen in a particular way, open communication about what you like and dislike becomes really important. Talking openly about sex can be a turn-on in and of itself, but many of us have been raised in environments where talking about sex openly is a bit taboo and can carry with it some shame. Acknowledging this can be a good place to start.”

    Gently easing yourself back into things after having a baby is important, so let your body guide you and stop if a position is uncomfortable. You shouldn’t feel pressured to do anything that doesn’t feel good. 

    Here are a few ways you can reconnect with your sexual self:

    Erogenous touch

    Touching yourself or having your partner touch your erogenous zones (such as the neck, ears, and inner thighs) is a good place to start. 

    Therapists call this “sensate focus.” Massage, light tapping, scratching, stroking, and kissing will fire up the body’s nerve endings and encourage feelings of arousal. Of course, these feelings don’t have to lead anywhere, and it’s important to take your time or have your partner move slowly and purposefully. 

    “Sensual touch without the assumption that it will end in penetrative sex, or even orgasm, can be incredibly freeing and connective,” Tanner explains. 

    This might be a new practice for you if you’re used to getting right down to it, but it’s worth doing in order to focus on parts of your body that may have changed during pregnancy and birth. Set your own pace and spend time lightly touching your whole body. You can use toys like a glass or crystal massage wand or silicone probe to touch yourself or have your partner touch you. Spend time on your neck, belly, ears, and inner thighs and return the favor, gently touching your partner while kissing and talking.

    Clitoral stimulation

    Hone in on the clitoris, a pleasure center that bypasses the spinal column and sends signals straight to the brain. This means that every sensation can be felt, so start slowly by pressing it, having your partner blow on it or maybe kiss it, gently rub it, and then progress to suction and vibration tools. 

    “The clitoris has a plethora of nerve endings, and clitoral stimulation is the type of touch most likely to lead to orgasm for [women and] people with vulvas,” Tanner explains. “If you find that direct touch with a vibrator or finger feels overstimulating, try massaging the clitoris through the folds of the labia for a less intense sensation.”

    Using a clitoral pinpoint toy can be particularly effective here. You can take turns with your partner using this technique. Just make sure you’re both comfortable.

    Sex talk

    Indulge in speaking to yourself and to your partner as a sexual being. Sex talk can feel foreign after having a baby, especially if you don’t feel like the sexiest version of yourself. But in their 2002 book Sex Talk, Aline P. Zolbrod, PhD, and Lauren Dockett suggest that telling your partner they turn you on — or what you find sexy about them — can help you reconnect with your potential for arousal. 

    “Many people have what’s called ‘responsive desire,’ meaning that they become aroused only in highly sexy contexts,” Tanner explains. “Sexy talk can be part of creating a context that coaxes out desire and arousal.” 

    Ask them to do the same for you. Talk through fantasies and discuss the best sex you ever had with each other out loud. Tell each other sexy stories or use a mirror to tell yourself things that turn you on. Getting used to seeing yourself as the same sexy storyteller with the same imagination in a new body can be reassuring and thrilling in equal measure. It can also be gender affirming and help with feelings of dysphoria.

    “Many people can feel a little shy or self-conscious when attempting sex talk for the first time,” says Dr. Hobbs. “A great place to start can be as simple as commenting on what your partner is doing to you in the moment (e.g. I love it when you do X); commenting on what your partner did (e.g. I love it when you did X); and commenting on what you look forward to your partner doing (e.g. I can’t wait until you do X).”

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