Sex After Babyloss

Dr. Erica Goldblatt Hyatt, Erica Goldblatt Hyatt, DSW, MSW, MBE

Posted by: Dr. Erica Goldblatt Hyatt
Erica Goldblatt Hyatt, DSW, MSW, MBE

The loss of a baby can bring about a challenging time in your life. Depending on the stage of your loss, your body may be reacting in a number of ways. For example, is not uncommon for a mother to experience her milk coming in, which can be a constant and painful reminder of your baby (tip: applying frozen cabbage leaves to your breasts can help the milk dry up quicker and soothe any physical discomfort). You may be experiencing bleeding if you had a surgical procedure, and fluctuations in hormones may cause you to feel especially sorrowful. There are also numerous social, emotional, and psychological reactions to babyloss as you navigate how to tell friends and family about your loss, and talking to your partner about if you would like to try for another baby.

One aspect of life after babyloss that some people are afraid to discuss is the prospect of having sex again While it's important for your doctor to clear you for physical intimacy and provide you with important instructions for what may or may not feel normal as you begin to consider having sex after loss, this article is meant to serve as a helpful guideline for couples who are exploring how to re-initiate foreplay, sex, and intimacy after babyloss. Every couple explores this issue from their own perspective, so this is meant to be a general guide to help you get started.

1. Consider discussing the issue with the help of a therapist. It can be helpful to have  mediator present if you're feeling some nervousness about bringing up the topic of sex and the fears, anxieties, or concerns that you have. You may be feeling some unintended pressure from your partner, and it can be helpful to have a third party present to hear and interpret each of your offerings to each other. It can be vulnerable to bring this up in therapy, but clinicians specializing in sex therapy and babyloss are well-prepared to help you with this conversation and can help you both come up with goals for how to move forward. For example, here at the Center for Growth we can provide suggestions for activities and conversation starters to help you feel more prepared.

2. Schedule some couples' time to talk about it. It might feel tempting to bring up sex on a weeknight after the kids are in bed and you're both relaxing with your phones, but creating a separate space where you can both focus on talking about sex can be very useful as it may "set the scene" for a more thorough, open discussion. Plan a date night or quiet time together when you aren't stressed or thinking about other responsibilities in your life to help really focus on the topic.

3. Don't assume your partner knows what's happening in your mind or body. Everyone experiences grief differently, and in my clinical experience, men and women and individuals across the gender identity spectrum all grieve in different ways. Because no two post-babyloss grief experiences are the same, it can be helpful for you to let your partner know what you're thinking and feeling when it comes to having sex again. You may have shared some of your grief together, but as time passes, you may need to really invest in explaining where you're at, currently. You may have some anxiety that your partner can bear witness to, or can help soothe. Some common concerns include:

If I have sex again, does that mean I've moved on from my loss?

What if sex feels uncomfortable or painful? 

Will I need lube, toys, or other forms of enhancement or assistance?

What if I can't get into the mood?

What if I can't have an orgasm? What if I do?

What if I just don't feel ready at all, but my partner does?

Do I want to try for another baby?

Have my sexual preferences changed after babyloss?

These are all normal questions to explore with your partner (and, of course, in therapy) to help express what's happening inside your body. You may find that once you start bringing voice to your concerns, your partner will be better prepared and empathetic when you're ready to have sex again.

4. Consider "everything but". There's no reason to go for penetration the first time if you're nervous. Initiating kissing, cuddling, stroking, outercourse, and oral sex when you're ready are all valid ways of progressing through intimacy and becoming used to the touch and feel of your partner again. Go slowly and don't feel pressured to "get sex over with". As you reconnect with your partner in a safe environment, you may find that you're more willing to engage in different aspects of sexual activity as you acclimatize to becoming intimate again. Remember, always, always give yourself permission to stop. It is important to honor the feelings in your mind, heart, and body as you reconnect with your partner.

Sex can be hard to talk about when life is going completely as planned. In a post-babyloss world, thinking about it can feel full of pitfalls and traps. It's normal to want to get back in the saddle again, but it's also normal to want to delay. Anxiety and fear are common, as are excitement and anticipation. It's OK for things to feel clumsy the first time having sex again, but with time and practice, you'll feel more at ease. It is always helpful to check in with your therapist as an individual or a couple to make sure that you're honoring the many thoughts and feelings that arise as you move forward on your path to intimacy.