No one, much less our mothers, would openly talk about postpartum sex when we were pregnant. Sex is taboo, as far as our conservative Asian culture goes. So how did I get voluntary contributions by 18 modern Singaporean mums to share about their first after-baby bedroom exploits?
As a mum with five kids, ranging from the ages of four-months-old to 21 years old, I have experienced two decades of changes in the role of motherhood. The rapid advancement and relentless onslaught of technology into every aspect of our lives have created systemic behavioural changes among mothers even as we adapt to new ethos – a result of this irreversible interconnectivity. Tech productivity has made it possible for modern mothers to trade family-time with me-time: what we collectively dub self-care in its current manifestation. The seismic repercussions of the third wave feminist movements in the 90s and the global impact of the #metoo movement have ripped open a fault deep inside the cumulative history of motherhood that threatens to explode into a modern zeitgeist defined by the sexual awakening of woke mums. We no longer want to be silenced.
Let’s Talk About Sex (After) Baby
Closer to home, the most telling sign of this change among increasing numbers of Singaporean mums is the willingness to talk about sex and ask about sex. Mums are asking questions, and they want answers. What is it like to have sex after an episiotomy, after a c-section, after not sleeping for two days in a row? What is the best position to avoid hurting the c-section incision? When is the best time to do it? These mothers are not asking for medical advice; they seek peer opinions – topics and information that were traditionally taboo to be shared in public but have been a mainstay in western podcasts about family and motherhood in recent years.
Conversations are being ignited at all levels: from the traditional press and social media to the heart of mainstream consumerism itself. Sex toys and intimate health products are openly sold in pharmacies, speciality stores catering to mums and babies, and beauty retailers. More and more mothers are empowered to prioritise their well-being, and sexual wellness is a crucial factor in their physical and emotional health.
Still, you would be surprised that despite the burgeoning public conversations about postpartum sex, new mothers are still ill-prepared for the whole post-baby coital experience. The experience of matrescence (the transition to motherhood) is as varied as the mothers themselves and to encapsulate everyone’s personal experience into an article is undeniably challenging.
Hence, we have crowd-sourced real stories, anecdotes, and tips from local mothers who hope that by sharing their stories and the lessons learnt, new mums can better manage the process and know that whatever they are going through, they are not alone.
1. “I waited three weeks after natural birth to initiate intimacy. I felt physically ready and craved adult attention after spending three whole weeks round the clock glued to a newborn. No preparations needed, but I told my husband to stay away from my boobs since I felt all touched out by then. I also asked to do it in the bathroom since I was still having lochia.” (Karen Lai, IT specialist)
2. “I got the all-clear from my gynae on the fifth week as I wanted to start exercising again, so I figured it was ok to resume our bedroom activities too. Initially, I felt a little weird, with some discomfort, so I wanted to go easy. I anticipated that it would be dry; hence I had some lubricant ready. Unfortunately, we kept getting interrupted by my crying baby!” (Alicia Chan, Civil Servant)
3. “I was utterly turned off by sex after birth, and I didn’t feel any urge to be close to my husband. Perhaps I was suffering from the blues, but I didn’t realise it then. We slept in different rooms since I was tending to our newborn, and it was only until 12 weeks later when our child was sleeping better that I decided to resume our sex life. I was also paranoid about getting pregnant again, so I was not into it. My husband was very patient and kept talking to me to try to ease my mind. The first orgasm post-birth was very intense! I wasn’t expecting that.” (Betty Wee, Teacher)
4. “Both pregnancies were very different. Plus the combination of having kids and being over 40 definitely does a number on your libido. The first time around I wasn’t as comfortable with myself as I had put on so much weight, so we eased back into sexy time about five weeks after my C-section. Second time around, I lost the baby weight really fast and was feeling more confident. But it took me four weeks to get back in the sack after another emergency C-section. I think one of the issues with sex after kids is women feel so “touched out”. Being grabbed by little hands all day, bodies producing food, minds always exhausted, that sex and intimacy is often the last thing on our minds.” (Grace Tan, Finance Manager)
5. “I had a C-section and breastfed, but libido was still high and unaffected. Yes, I was tired with two to three-hours of milk feed intervals daily, but I still had sexual urges. I was concerned with the long healing process of the C-section wound, so the immediate gratification then came from oral sex and being creative in bed with each other.” (Candy Low, Company Director)
6. “ I felt sticky, yucky and tired, and my body wasn’t feeling sexy at all. I needed some time before I felt like my sexy, confident self again.“ (Maya P, Entrepreneur)
7. “At first, I was afraid, but my fears were unwarranted. Despite my new stretchy skin and battle scars, the connection became even more potent than before. It surprised me, but I’m glad I kept an open mind despite the scary stories I’ve heard.” (Renee Lee, Marketing Manager)
8. “It’s daunting to think that you have to nurse both your baby and still take care the needs of your husband. Both need the same TLC (tender loving care) – some more than others. So, for your first sex after birth, my advice is to shut your mind off, brace yourself, slap your thigh and let him catch the first wave in! Promise you it gets easier after that – and better.” (Rae Lee, Banking & Finance)
9. “You have just given birth, please do not rush into it. There are other creative methods in the bedroom to give each other pleasure besides actual vaginal penetration. Always listen to your body, and be open about your discomfort with your partner.” (Leanne Gan, Advertising Manager)“
10. “My first baby was an easy birth, and I did not have an episiotomy, so we had sex in the fifth week. However, we took it slow and with the aid of a lubricant. It was uncomfortable at first as I was self-conscious, with my out of shape body and at the tail end of lochia. Thankfully, our sex life fell into place after that and we were doing it regularly. But no karma sutra experiments till many months later.” (Jennifer Tan, Auditor)
11. “My breastmilk was spraying everywhere. I kid you not.” (Angela B, Business Owner)
12. “My second child was via emergency C-section, and I waited for about eight weeks, got clearance from the gynaecologist before trying to have sex. Being open with your spouse and sharing your physical and emotional discomfort helps.” (Tabitha Teo, Consultant)
13. “ I waited 90 days instead of the six weeks that most gynaecologist and experienced mothers suggested because I wasn’t sure if my internal wounds have healed. I bled a little after the first time, but it got better afterwards.” (Lim Lay Ying, Finance Executive)
14. “Lubricant is your best friend.” (M Seetoh, Entertainer)
15. “My baby is almost nine months old, and I am still afraid to have sex. Initially, I thought I was an anomaly, but then I found out, after a night out of boozing with girlfriends, that I was not alone! Another one of my friends has not had penetrative sex for over a year and has no urge to attempt. Our husbands are super understanding, but admittedly, I might need to leap soon as I do feel stressed out about it.” (May Ling, Homemaker)
16. “You should neither feel pressured nor obligated into having sex. Oh, and please use some form of precaution when doing it, we are super fertile after birth, trust me!” (Jane Surin, Mummy Influencer)
17. “With both C-sections, I pretty much felt the same. Zonked out, cramps everywhere, and my boobs were totally non-existent; sex was at the back of my mind. I needed intimacy more than before, so we slowly eased into it. The lube is our best friend after all.” (Helen Ng, Dentist)
18. “I needed time to heal after a C-Section, and I was having trouble breastfeeding my premature baby. I barely slept at all as I did not engage a confinement nanny, so it was just my husband taking turns with me to feed and change a colicky newborn. He was as exhausted as me. Sex? What sex? But then, we found non-sexual ways to be intimate, bringing us closer despite the exhaustion. It took us about nine weeks before we felt normal enough to resume regular sex. By then, I have healed sufficiently, and there was no discomfort.” (Danielle Lee, Nutritionist)
Quotes by contributors have been edited for clarity.