I was reminded by my mentor and supervisor, Ricky Siegel of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes, in supervision the other day about the typical guideline that most couples will hear after having a baby: “no sex for six weeks.” Period. And not information that is usually followed up with any further helpful advice.
We discussed how unintentionally harmful and inaccurate this statement can be. First of all, there are many ways to remain sexual and enjoy erotic connection that do not necessitate vaginal penetration. And secondly... at a time when couples are facing seizmic shifts in the roles they play within their relationship (becoming parents and negotiating gender roles, all while still wanting to remain lovers), the first medical advice they hear is to disengage their eroticism. So the stage is primed from the very beginning for the baby to take precedence over the relational process this couple is accustomed to. Time to shift this information into the baggage category we need to discard.
Now, it’s not to imply that women should necessarily be in a state of erotic awareness after the process of birthing a child… not to mention the sleepless nights, the sore breasts, the overwhelming emotional roller coasters, and so much more. At the same time, erotic disconnection is not necessary - and yet very much implied when the directive has been to “stay away from sex.” I don’t often hear of doctors who say instead… “give your vagina and perineum a break for the next six weeks and try to find time, energy, and desire to find other ways to connect sexually. Orgasm can be helpful in regulating mood and managing stress as well as pain. Even if orgasm doesn’t happen, taking time to cuddle, massage and experience erotic pleasure might be a helpful way to cope with the many changes you’ll both be facing these next few months... "