Sex after childbirth can be a tricky thing, and many new moms aren’t ready as soon as new dads are. It’s important for men to first understand the many physical and psychological reasons a woman needs to wait, and then to learn how to make the experience as comfortable and enjoyable as possible once the time comes. Compassion, patience and expressed love are crucial at this time in a couple’s life. A man may need to practice penis care in the form of a little more masturbation during this time, but he can rest assured that, if the situation is handled respectfully, his sex life will return soon enough.

1) The fear of pain is real. Whatever kind of birth a woman has - vaginal, assisted vaginal or C-section - she is susceptible to postpartum pain, particularly during intercourse. This pain can present for weeks or even months.

It’s not considered safe for women to have sex for the first two weeks after any form of delivery; the body needs to recover, and she may be bleeding during this time. Sex while bleeding can increase her risk of infection. If she delivered vaginally, her organ needs to recover; if she had a C-section, her abdominal wound needs to heal. Six weeks is the generally administered advice for waiting, but she may need longer.

2) She may not be in the mood for a while. There are a number of reasons that a new mom may not be feeling frisky, and they don’t have anything to do with her attraction to her partner. One reason is hormonal: Women have less estrogen available within the first four to six weeks after delivery, and for the duration of time they breastfeed. This can cause vaginal dryness as well as loss of libido.

Also consider the exhaustion she must be feeling. After nine months (give or take) of carrying around a baby in her belly, then going through childbirth, she is taking on the demands of parenting a newborn (as her partner is as well). She may have absolutely no energy available for sex at this time.

3) She may not be feeling good about her body. Body self-consciousness is highly common among all women, but perhaps more so among those who are pregnant or have just given birth. Her body is changing rapidly; if she’s breastfeeding, it’s also in high demand as essentially a food source for another human being, so she might be feeling a bit like her body isn’t hers anymore.

4) She may be depressed. Postpartum depression can be severe, and can easily impact her desire. It’s important for a woman with this condition to have a good support network, and for her partner to be a part of it.

What Can a Man Do?

First, being fully supportive and accepting of his partner’s limitations around sex is crucial.

To combat pain when sex is resumed, men should have on hand plenty of lubricant and should assume positions that won’t put pressure on her sore spots (such as spooning if she had a C-section). If it turns out she’s still too sore, offer to provide manual or oral pleasure instead.

To help her feel better about her body, remind her of the amazing feat it just accomplished - bringing life into this world. Appreciate her body - provide intimate touch (if she wants it): cuddle, caress and kiss. Show her that you cherish her, inside and out.

Finally, guys can do themselves and their lovers a favor by maintaining excellent penis care during their sexual hiatus. Along with relieving sexual tension on his own, a man can start using a penis health crème (health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil) to give his lady something special to come back to when she’s ready. A crème with Shea butter acts as a great moisturizer, while vitamin A helps fight unwanted odors that may be present. Healthy penis, happy penis.