Why We Need a More Nuanced Conversation about Post-Partum Sex

by | Jun 11, 2021 | Sex | 39 comments

Nuanced Conversation Postpartum Sex

When we first wrote The Great Sex Rescue, and started talking about some of the terrible things that we found in evangelical sex books, we didn’t know which themes were going to catch on. I actually thought it was going to be Every Man’s Battle calling women methadone for their husbands’ sex addictions, or Emerson Eggerichs saying that “if your husband is typical, he has a need you don’t have” in Love & Respect.

But over and over again, what comes up in private messages to me, and in comments on social media, is people very upset about Kevin Leman’s pressure on women to give husbands sexual favors during the postpartum phase. That’s what makes women’s blood boil the most. 

Camden Morgante, a licensed clinical psychologist who has been a guest on our podcast and has written for us about purity culture, joins us today to talk postpartum sex and her reaction to Kevin Leman’s advice!


“Give him a hand job.”

That is the advice given to post-partum women in books like Sheet Music by Kevin Leman:

There are times for whatever reason that a wife may choose to make use of… ‘hand jobs’. A woman…who has just gotten through a pregnancy…may genuinely feel that sex is more than she can handle. But with a minimum of effort, she can help her husband who feels like he’s about ready to climb the walls because it’s been so long.

Kevin Leman

Sheet Music

When I read that quote several years ago before getting married, I thought that sounded like a good compromise. A married man cannot be expected to go weeks without sex, right? That opens the door to temptation. Surely a hand job is a conciliatory act to tide him over until his wife can have sex again.

Fast forward to 2018 when my husband and I had our first child.

Amidst recovering from a C-section, dealing with breastfeeding challenges, trying to care for my daughter, and managing my post-partum depression, giving my husband a hand job was the last item on my “to do” list.

Fortunately it was the last thing on my husband’s mind too. He was also consumed with caring for me and our daughter by getting up during each night feeding, driving us to appointments since I couldn’t drive for a few weeks post-surgery, and cooking and cleaning.

What is missing from Leman and other male authors’ understandings about sex is that sex is not a need. Sex is a drive, it is an urge, it is a desire, but it is not a biological need. As Sheila, Rebecca, and Julia emphasize in The Great Sex Rescue, there is no 72-hour rule! And contrary to medical procedure, there is not a six-week rule for when a woman’s post-partum healing is up.

If we look at sex as just a biological need, there is so much we are missing in a biblical, holistic understanding of sex.

God created sex to be a whole-person, unifying, and connecting experience in marriage. If it were simply a biological need, God would not have created marriage as the only holy grounds for sex. If it were simply a drive or urge, God would not have asked us to reserve marriage for our spouse only. And if it were simply a desire, God would not have asked us to submit that desire to Him and steward our sexuality in a way that honors him.

And what the Christian books also misunderstand is that sex is not the only way to show love.

Instead, The Great Sex Rescue says:

Is it kind for a man for a man to ask for a hand job when his wife is unwell? […] Do we really believe that the kindness that flows from the Holy Spirit working in our lives would ask an exhausted, torn apart postpartum woman for a hand job?

Now, there is nothing wrong if she wants to give him a ‘gift’…But setting this up as the expectation—that she will provide release or he will sin, even if she is sick or unwell—is just not kind. 

The Great Sex Rescue

If sex is not about a physical release but about a holistic, intimate, and mutually pleasurable experience, then a hand job given out of obligation does not those requirements. It gives a physical release, and some women may choose to show love to their husbands in this way. But it is not a requirement, duty, or obligation. You don’t have to satisfy or pacify your husband for a lack of intercourse post-partum and “make up for it” with a hand job, like you would make up for a canceled birthday party for a child with a new toy.

Sex is one way we show our love, commitment, and intimacy with each other, but it is not the only or even the primary way. The post-partum period offers a beautiful opportunity for couples to express love in acts or demonstrations, in faithfulness and in service.

In The Great Sex Rescue, Rebecca shares her story of post-partum healing after a traumatic birth experience and a third-degree tear. Months after having a baby, she started initiating sex out of guilt for “depriving” her husband Connor. But Connor knew she wasn’t ready, and he gave her the grace to wait.

Connor’s self-sacrificial love meant that my fears…started to dissipate. He never pushed anything if I wasn’t feeling up to it but went entirely at my pace. In fact, he never even viewed it as ‘his’ sexual needs that were put on hold, but ‘our’ sexual needs. Making my physical recovery our priority proved to me repeatedly that he was not interested in a one-sided sex life. As a result, I had the space to recover not only physically but emotionally too. Because of how my husband handled this, sex stopped being something I dreaded. He took away all the guilt, all the fear, and all the unknown and replaced it with a true agape, 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love.

The Great Sex Rescue

The post-partum season is not sexy. It is not romantic.

There are no hot tubs and champagne toasts. Instead, there might be birthing tubs and bottles. There are no helicopter rides and roses. Instead, there might be wheelchair rides out of the hospital and flowers sent by grandparents that get overlooked. But the expressions of love between a husband and wife post-partum are so meaningful, giving us a chance to demonstrate agape love to our spouse.

When I gave birth, I felt affection in the card my husband gave me “from our daughter” saying what a good mom I already was.

I felt romance in the way we sat together with our daughter and painstakingly worked on breastfeeding.

I felt tenderness in the way he helped me shower and dress for the first time after my C-section, when I was unable to pull up my underwear or put on my socks.

I felt commitment in the eight weeks of parental leave he took from work to be home with both of us.

I felt partnership in the additional four weeks he spent at home with our daughter when I went back to work.

Contrast this with a therapy client of mine whose husband and whole family went to attend a football game days after she gave birth, leaving her and her newborn home alone.

What many Christian sex books have wrong is the emphasis on sex as a biological, physiological need that carries with it the obligation to meet your spouse’s need—at all times, regardless of circumstances.

If sex is not mutually connecting, consensual, and pleasurable, then it ceases to be godly. Despite the promises of purity culture or evangelical books on sex, sex can take place in a marriage without being pure.

In a Christian marriage, we are supposed to treat each other’s bodies as our own. In our case, part of my husband caring for my post-partum body as his own was allowing time for healing and recovery without any pressure or expectation for sex. And he did not just give me space—he actively participated in my healing in physical ways, through serving me and caring for me and our daughter, but also emotional ways, by continuing to affirm and show me love.

The pressure for post-partum sex exactly six weeks after delivery is part of society’s perpetuation of the myth that women should “bounce back” after having a baby and that men’s lives should change very little.

The expectation of a sexual consolation—a “hand job”—offered in the waiting period is part of Christian culture’s perpetuation of the myth that women are solely responsible for men’s sexual needs without any consideration of their own needs or comfort level.

In reality, becoming a parent was a complete transformation for both my husband and I—and for this third entity, our marriage. Continuing to share expressions of love and commitment during this jarring time period solidified our co-parenting bond and strengthened our marriage. It also helped me feel less alone in my post-partum mood struggles and eased my transition back to work.

We all know you can have sex without love. But you can also have love without sex. Let’s normalize showing our spouse love and dedication in the post-partum period without the unrealistic pressure or premature expectation of sex.

Sheila says; Thank you, Dr. Camden! And be sure to take Camden’s free quiz: Which Purity Culture Myth Affects You?

Nuanced Conversation about Postpartum Sex

Did you feel pressure postpartum to resume sex? Or was this not an issue for you? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Psychologist, Writer and Speaker

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8. Be sure to take Camden's free quiz "Which Purity Culture Myth Affected You?"

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

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Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Meredith

    My husband and I ended up going almost a year without sex. In the last few months of my pregnancy with my son (and I got pregnant with him a few months after our twin girls were stillborn) sex wasn’t working. I couldn’t feel any pleasure no matter what we tried. With 6 years of hindsight I’m sure it was because of the trauma of our girls’ birth/death. But my husband didn’t push it or act entitled to sex.
    Then after our son was born, I had a tear that didn’t heal properly, but my midwife didn’t catch it and it was 3 months postpartum till I finally got it fixed, which entailed another couple months of healing.
    Again- my husband didn’t pressure me. Was it ideal? No. But he didn’t die, and he certainly never acted like I was depriving him of a need. If anything I felt guilty because I was still so steeped in the complementarian crap that said I owed him sex.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Sounds like you have a great guy! And I’m so, so sorry about your daughters. That’s so tragic. I’m sure that played a large part in how you felt about sex for sure.

    • Camden

      I’m sorry about your long and hard recovery. What a blessing to have a husband who was patient and understanding.

    • Lisa

      I am so very sorry about your precious girls.

    • Anonymous

      I read about this in Great Sex Rescue too.

      I have a question that I had when I read it there too: Did Connor masturbate by himself during this time?

      My wife is postpartum. She was very sick during pregnancy which made sex rare and difficult.

      She also has stage IV cancer, discovered just at the end of the pregnancy, and is about to start very intense treatment (with 90% chance of cure), which looks it will make sex impossible for three months minimum.

      We have not resumed relations, and it may be the case that we do not again before the treatment starts.

      I am finding this very difficult. I have a history of porn addiction, which I found freedom from before marriage though I have had some isolated relapses with it (the last one was 11 months ago). I am a member of a 12 step support group and I have accountability partners from church.

      I could masturbate during this time, but I hate masturbation–I feel self-disgusted, triggered, and depressed if I ever do it. I am also committed not to.

      The world and my body and my addiction and my sin tell me sex is a need and I must have release, or I am not getting what I deserve and am entitled to.

      God tells me that, one day at a time, he has grace for me to live a life of love, joy, peace and self-control without depending on turning lovemaking into the false need for the fulfillment of a biological function so that I become enslaved to it.

      I’m not sure why I am sharing this anymore really; just interested in your thoughts and the question of whether or not Connor masturbated during this season which occurred to me when I read the book too.

  2. Tory

    This is so beautiful! I loved the author’s description of how her husband and she bonded over caring for their newborn. I had a similar experience where my husband cared for and supported me after my births; the last two of my births were at home and I couldn’t have done it without his support. He never pressured me for sex and made it clear that he was not interested in one sided sex. That being said, I wanted to find non-penetrative ways to be intimate during the postpartum period, because I wanted to feel close and feel good, and yes experience release together… so we would cuddle and make out and touch each other to orgasm (hope that’s not TMI) and it felt wonderful and made me feel like a woman again and not just a breastfeeding machine. So I would encourage other women to be open to something like that, not in an obligation way, but in a “try it, you might like it, you might just get aroused yourself” way. The other thing I do take some issue with is the statement that sex is not a need. For me, I would say that sex is definitely a need! Maybe not from a biological perspective but a need nonetheless. I don’t like the arguments that claim “you won’t die without sex!” You might not die, but your relationship may die. That’s like saying “hearing your spouse say ‘I love you’ is not a need. Asking about their day is not a need. Giving compliments is not a need.” No one will die if they do not receive these things, but we all agree these are important to a healthy relationship. So I think it is less helpful to argue about whether or not sex is or is not a need 🙂 but it definitely shouldn’t be an obligation during a woman’s postpartum period; and like I said, women should be encouraged to find other ways to be intimate with their husbands and find what works for them as a couple to still have that physical closeness.

    • Camden

      That is a great idea to find non-intercourse ways to stay connected. And I see what you mean about reminding us that are bodies are more than child-bearing and milk-producing! For some women, sexual intimacy could be a good reminder of that during the PP period.

    • Maria Bernadette

      I think that context matters when saying “sex is not a need.”
      Say that someone says….
      “Women owe their husbands sexual release.”
      And another person responds with “Sex is not a need.”
      Someone says “Sex is an important part of marriage.”
      And the response is “Sex is not a need.”
      Same statement, two entirely different meanings.

  3. Anon

    As a man this really makes me realize how horrible I have been to my wife before. I never pushed her verbally and I have always taken care of our kids and home when she has been pregnant but I am pretty sure I have shown my discomfort of not having sex and that’s not good. I guess it’s because of that mentality that sex is a “ need”.
    We had our third kid 3 months ago. This time to be honest we have had very little sex. I honestly don’t feel much desire for my wife and I think she feels the same. The attraction isn’t there. Both are exhausted and emotionally distant. I have been kind of scared that this will affect us long so tried to hint things and maybe make time for us sexually but I see now that it’s better to let that go. None of us are up to connecting sexually and maybe it’s bette to leave it at that for the time being.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Anon! I’m so sorry you’re struggling like this. This IS an exhausting time for sure. What I can say is that if the attraction isn’t there, sex isn’t going to fix it. What’s likely to help is to work on your friendship more. Be a team and partners in parenting. And really talk to each other. If you can feel like you’re in this together, and if you can really share with one another, the sexual part can blossom a lot. I’m not saying don’t have sex; I just mean that’s not going to fix the underlying problem. I hope you can find a way to build intimacy. I know it’s rough at this stage in life!

    • Camden

      I understand the lack of desire and energy for sex after having a baby, especially with other little ones to take care of! I agree with Sheila’s advice to find friendship ways to connect and remind yourselves that you are still partners and best friends, even though sex may not be very active right now.

    • Chris

      Anon, you have to be careful that this doesn’t become a habit. Once the sexlessness goes on long enough, habit sets in. Now you have two problems: the original cause (busyness) and habit. The busyness is a season. The habit can be harder if not impossible to break. You can take comfort in knowing however that you are in good company.

      • Lisa

        I disagree. You have to be careful that exhaustion doesn’t become a way of life. Adding sex to the to-do list won’t improve a marriage. It’s really hard to lighten the load with three young children, but as the baby gets older, it is important to brainstorm how to give each other time away from the house and kids as well as having time together.
        We have five children and we often went on dates with a baby. Babies often fall asleep during dinner or a romantic stroll. It was a time where we could be together and talk without interruption. Having the baby with us didn’t inhibit our conversation. We have had so many people come up to us to admire our sleeping baby in a fine restaurant. Pumping and bottles never worked for us so we just figured out another way
        The point is to increase rest and rejuvenation and spend time together. When the relationship is good and you’re not exhausted, attraction and arousal will follow.
        Having sex just to have sex, when you’re too exhausted to be aroused won’t fix anything. For most women, sex without arousal just plain hurts.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, this is really true. And sex without any kind of connection makes sex feel like you’re being used, which solidifies the negative associations with sex. If there’s distance, work on the distance. Make sure she has time to herself. Ask others to help. Do something together.
          And I love your thoughts about taking the baby on dates! So good.

          • Andrew

            These are two sides of the same coin…

            “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.”

            Becoming a habit of not having sex is indeed a way open for all kinds of temptations. Paul talks of “no-sex” time in the context of sanctification, which is the most holy thing you could spend that time off (i.e. doing it for God). But this case is far from this, and yet more inclined to be attacked with temptations.

            I get the point of the book, comes off with a vibe of “the new christian morality” that our century is so concerned with, but with this topic, as with any other topic concerning life, thorough exegetic and hermeneutical Bible study is required.

            Don’t be fooled thinking “well it makes sense” kind of thoughts are a good substitute for actual Bible studied doctrines.

            Be blessed!

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            You are writing this on a post about post-partum sex, and saying that we shouldn’t take time off.

            You are thus part of the problem. Telling a woman who is exhausted and getting used to her baby that God wants her to help her husband ejaculate is so, so wrong.

            I’ve got more on what 1 Corinthians 7 means here.

  4. Jane Eyre

    We all go through different phases of life and should act appropriately for that phase. We are all called to not have sex when unmarried; kids are not sexual beings; eventually, most couples succumb to age and physical limitations on sexual expression; and, yes, the postpartum period and other illnesses limit sexual activity. Bodies change over time, and part of loving your spouse is to love their bodies at every age and after illness. (“In sickness and in health….”)
    The amount of time that we have freewheeling sex with young, hot, healthy spouses is actually quite small. Maybe it is the most enjoyable or the most memorable, but it is hardly the standard.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You left a comment like this a few months ago and I ended up using it in The Great Sex Rescue! It’s so true. Did you see it by any chance?

    • Camden

      A great reminder that marriage and love is “in sickness and health”, including post-partum recovery, aging, and all the other changes life brings us!

  5. Veronica

    I would disagree with the past where you’re comparing your experience with your client’s. That may have been just what she needed. I’m assuming that since it’s your client you know more, but we’re not given that extra info, just basically told that it wasn’t good. I have had 3 CS, and my husband wasn’t able to take much time off of work, nor did I have much help other than occasionally being asked by family if I need help and having a load or two of laundry done and having a few meals brought in. It wasn’t a big deal. I received even less help and meals after my VBA3C, and my husband wasn’t even less time off of work. For me it hasn’t made me feel unloved or that he hasn’t taken care of me. There have been some times that he’s taken all the kids and left me with the baby and I need the peace and quiet. My point is that everyone is different and it sounds like you’re comparing what happened to this lady and putting it in a bad light when we don’t have that info and some of us would love that.

    • Veronica

      And when I say taken care of me I mean in the sense that he hasn’t stayed home with me for long after baby was born. He doesn’t care how long it takes to get back to “routine” sex because he wants me to be ready. He changes diapers and gets the older ones ready for bed and helps around the house in the evenings. He works like crazy and he’s awesome for me.

  6. Lindsey

    This is a really hard one. After having my first baby, I also had a large tear and I needed stitches. It was so painful for weeks I couldn’t hardly sit down, I could only sit on one of those donut things. My husband only got about 2 wks off of work. I had an extremely difficult time breastfeeding, and my daughter was colicky. My husband would help hold and calm our baby in the evenings. And people from church were so kind to bring meals. Around almost 6 wks postpartum he went on a work trip for almost 3 wks (he was in a touring band). To be honest I was relieved to not have to have sex for a few more weeks, haha
    So by the time he came back and we had sex it had been 2 months. By that time I felt more ready- although not completely ready. But we went slow. It’s hard reading this post b/c my husband was not able to take much time off back then . I was mostly doing it on my own. Thankfully God gave me grace. It was very hard, I would have loved to have my husband more involved but not everyone has that option.
    That’s awesome that you had that support and help! But also to the women who’s husbands might not have flexible jobs, remember you’re still a team even when it might not feel like it, it might look different for every couple.

    • Maria Bernadette

      I think it’s great that your husband tried to take more time off work for you, even if he wasn’t able to.

  7. SLS

    One of the things I enjoyed about TGSR is that it didn’t go to extremes. It affirmed God’s design for sex, explained the facts about male and female sexual needs, and uplifted women without bashing men. It was nuanced.
    Too often in human history we swing from one extreme to another when the truth lies somewhere in the middle. For example, St. Augustine was saved from a licentious culture but then became anti-sex.
    As I read the blog and the comments, I feel it is important to ask people to not fall into the trap of bashing and dismissing men and their desires for sexual intimacy. The phrase “you won’t die without sex” is factually accurate. However, when it’s spoken without context it can be an emotionally devastating thing to hear for men who honestly desire to be intimate with their spouse.
    Context is everything. If my wife is feeling unwell, I would never try to push her to have sex. There are some days though when she is not up for a full encounter but is otherwise well. I don’t think it is wrong to encourage a wife to engage in a hand job in that instance.
    Same thing vice versa. There have been times when I was not in a position to have a full encounter or even an orgasm for whatever reason but was otherwise healthy. I was more than happy to provide my wife with what she needed.
    In other words, occasional “one-sided” sex can actually build intimacy.
    In terms of post-partum sex the husband should be aware of his wife’s health and she should not be obligated to provide a “hand-job”. Guys need to understand that there are cases where any kind of sexual expression would be a burden on the wife. I cringe when I think of a guy pressuring his wife to have sex while she is still healing.
    That said I don’t think we should completely ignore the real physical drives men feel. The physical desire for sex can be very distracting from a mental perspective. In such circumstances I don’t think there is anything wrong with a husband masturbating (with his wife’s blessing) to remove the physical distraction and allow him to focus on other forms of intimacy without burdening his wife during the time she needs to heal.

  8. Anonymous305

    For me, the most painful part about the “hand job” message isn’t the fact that men feel a strong drive for sex, but the fact that it’s presented as if women’s needs either don’t exist or don’t matter. Saying “this is a hard time for him” without more implies that it’s either not a hard time or shouldn’t matter when she has stitches in her vagina and bleeds for 6 weeks and can’t sleep because the baby won’t sleep, etc. I’m willing to realize that he feels like exploding if he’s willing to realize that I feel like dying (I’ve never had a baby, but it hurts to imagine).

    • Natalie

      Completely!!! It totally reinforces the idea that “men have a need that women will just never be able to fully comprehend”, and minimizes the fact that women can (& should!) like sex too and crave it just as much as men depending on the man or woman. But it’s just that: a craving, a desire. Both genders can want sex for purely physical reasons, purely relational reasons, or a combination of both. And acting like it’s always the man who wants/needs sex for primarily/purely physical reasons is, I think, doing a huge disservice to men and really damaging wives mentally and emotionally with how they view their own sexuality and sexual role in their marriage, and how they view their husbands and his sexuality. I know this is something I’ve really struggled with in my 12 year relationship with my husband, oftentimes putting my own ideas of his sexuality and what he should want onto him, even if he wasn’t really that sexually demanding in real life. It really made the first decade of our relationship pretty terrible, especially sexually.

    • Lisa

      I healed really quickly after all five of my births, never had any tearing, but the exhaustion is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. There’s a hormonal high for the first few days but it wears off. Caring for a newborn is so intense. Personally, I found that months 2-4 are harder than the first two months because no one is helping you anymore and everyone expects you to do everything you always did. I look back at pictures of myself at that stage and I just look so darn tired.
      One thing that Shelia mentioned in the podcast that is so true– if it’s not your first baby, you get almost no help. Everyone loves a first time mom! She’s so cute and excited and needs all those cute things! When it’s not your first baby, you don’t need all the cute baby things. You need meals and help. Desperately. I remember living on 4 hours of sleep a day while trying to recover from birth. Toddlers don’t understand that mommy just had a baby. I looked fine on the outside after I had a baby but I was still a person in recovery. Another factor is that since I gave birth at home, there was this assumption that I’m superwoman. Nope, just chose a homebirth midwife. I needed the same recovery as a woman who gave birth without complications in a hospital.

      • Katie

        We just had our ninth baby two months ago. He was born unassisted at home. I have absolutely heard those super woman comments. However, we have been extremely blessed to have a faith community comprised of our church, biological family and dear friends from a Christian camp we’re a part of who totally took care of us after this birth. We received meals for more than two weeks and another weeks worth of freezer meals. The camp took a love offering for us specifically to bless us with eating out money and we still have quite a lot of that left (eating out is so expensive with this many kids and the camp directors know this with eight of their own). I wish everyone could be treated like this by the Church after birth. I really believe it would make things so much simpler for moms and families during this period.

  9. Anon

    My second baby was an emergency C-section following a placenta abruption and then attempted vaginal delivery. Two attempts to take fetal scalp sample before they made that decision (anyone else experienced that horrible cone thing?). Lots of people, examinations and inspections then the C-section had to be done with spinal anaesthetic after they failed to intubate me for a general…so altogether fairly traumatic. I coped with being poked about by unpleasant equipment and various hands by mentally dissociating myself with what was going on, and that dissociation lasted for a good long while after we started having sex again. I was somewhere else in my head and just going through the motions. I didn’t have any therpeautic input, the trauma faded after a while but adding my comment to say that it’s not just physical healing that needs to happen after the birth. My daughter is absolutely beautiful and now at university – what a differnt outcome it might have been but for all the fast intervention that happened, so I don’t want to sound ungrateful. God bless the NHS.

  10. Natalie

    Great post. Spot! My husband has always been a good guy, but earlier in our relationship when I’d offer sex because I felt it was my obligation, he’d accept it without question (even if he was t super stoked on the quality or how into it I was). Now, we only have sex if we’re both into it or think we could both get into it once we’ve got things rolling, and the connection and quality of sex is night and day better!!!
    I had to laugh at the “postpartum period is not sexy” bit. 😂 My husband was always like “mmm, I can’t wait till you get those big breastfeeding boobs. They’re gonna be HUGE”, fantasizing about all the motorboating he’d be doing… only to find that in reality, breastfeeding in those first couple days and weeks when the milk is first coming in is anything but sexy: stretched skin, heavy and painful, hyper-tender to the touch, painful/chapped/cracked nipples, veins popping out over the skin that’s been stretched too thinly too quickly, etc. (at least that was my experience, especially with my first when I grew 3 cup sizes in the first week postpartum. OUCH!) Yeah, postpartum isn’t sexy. I feel like if the husband is kind and empathetic towards his wife, he’ll see the state she’s in and do everything he can to care for her… not demand she do something for him sexually that he wants or thinks he needs.

  11. Lisa

    This is my thought.
    My husband has not had a vasectomy but I have many friends whose husbands have had that procedure. The aftercare is that men should take it very easy for 48 hours after but can usually return to work after that if they’re job isn’t physical. A job with manual labor will have to wait. Full recovery takes much longer than 48 hours, though.
    How many men are up for sexually satisfying their wives while they are swollen and at high risk of injury in such a tender area? Surely it’s quite simple for them to give manual or oral simulation, even though they have an ice pack on their groin, right?
    What about after surgery to repair an inguinal hernia? There’s nothing wrong with their hands or mouths, so why should their wives need deprived?
    Of course the answer is that there’s nothing beautiful and sexual about demanding sexual favors from someone who is in pain and needs to be careful with movement and strain. If someone is healing, the focus is on their healing, not what someone else can get from them.

      • KG

        I am currently 12+ weeks post partum. Hubby & I have not had sex since sometime in my third trimester (I was uncomfortable in any position, & he had a fear of hurting me or our daughter, so we decided together to wait until after birth). We talk regularly about how we’re feeling about our marriage & sex life, but I’m just not ready yet (because of exhaustion with baby & exclusively breastfeeding, I’ve had absolutely zero pain, thankfully). Hubby has not pressured me at all. He’s said that he misses it (when asked, it wasn’t something he threw out there to guilt or shame me), but he’s been wonderful. And frankly, he’s almost as exhausted as I am. I am so thankful for the husband I have!! Sometimes I take for granted just how fortunate I am!! Thank you for the reminder.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I hope you get some sleep soon! I know it’s such an exhausting time. I’m glad you have a great husband. You’ll get back to each other soon.

  12. Mary

    My husband is not clumsy in bed. I have a high sex drive and can orgasm quickly and easily and regularly have multiple orgasms.
    But he likes oral sex and hand jobs and sometimes asks for them when I am on my period. I told him I don’t like it because I feel like I am just servicing him.
    He said that it hurts his feelings that he enjoys pleasuring me but if I am not going to get an orgasm that I am not in the mood for him.
    Also, he read about tantric sex and likes to delay his orgasm and it hurts my mouth to give oral sex for 20 minutes. I switch between manual and oral but a 10 minute hand job is also exhausting.
    I’m discovering that the disconnect is that I value the connection just as much as giving and receiving pleasure and that is sex’s purpose and I am not selfish for wanting it to be mutual.
    When I was pregnant I had varicose veins the size of my pinky in my vulva. I was always in pain and sex was awful. I couldn’t even see why my husband wanted sex with my ugly Godzilla vulva. We tried different positions to see if anything helped and after he discovered how painful it was for me hours later because my veins couldn’t disperse the extra blood flow, he stopped initiating. But at that point he would politely and gently ask for oral sex with a hurt look on his face.
    I just always wanted to cry. I would do it and hate it and he would never understand. He interpreted it as me having a bad attitude towards his body or pleasure. He always told me that I could say no but when I did, he asked me why. I told him this made me feel like I needed to have a “good reason”. The reason is that I don’t feel sexual, feel like a prostitute…and he didn’t get it because he is always willing to please me. I didn’t have the words for duty sex and feel like we just kept hurting each other. I had to mentally disassociate and hated myself and him and just couldn’t figure it out because I liked sex and loved him.
    It seems like a contradiction…that men need to be more interested in their wife’s pleasure and comfort than their own orgasm but the same doesn’t apply to a wife on her period or pregnant or postpartum. The difference is that if he’s successful, he’ll get an orgasm too! It’s mutual.
    But early in our marriage my husband struggled with a chronic health condition that infrequently affected our sex life. I remember as a newlywed initiating sex and him saying he just couldn’t get an erection that day. I didn’t realize how poorly he was feeling and my libido immediately disappeared and all I felt was compassion for him. I didn’t even think to ask for oral sex because I realized if something was bad enough to affect his sex drive, he might go through “the motions” of my sexual stimulation but ultimately he was unwell and needed to be served and not pressed upon to do something for me. I wished I remembered that when I was pregnant.

  13. Char

    Thank you for this article. My current situation is slightly different but related – my husband and I are going through IVF, and I’m 8 weeks pregnant. I got a sub choronic hemmorage after my first orgasm post embryo transfer and was put on pelvic rest until 12 weeks. That means no orgasms or penetration for me for 12 weeks. That is by *far* the longest we have gone without sex in our entire marriage. I could choose to give my husband a hand job – but I would have to work hard *not* to get aroused (I’m easily orgasmic), and that seems like a terrible pattern to get into. It’s fascinating to me the way we expect women’s lives to be upended by children – but men should just get to continue as usual. Fortunately my husband agreed that we both want this, and we *both* make the necessary sacrifices. I was a little concerned that going so long without sex would affect our intimacy – but it hasn’t in the least. We still snug and choose physical intimacy in non sexual ways. And if anything we feel closer in choosing to take on the challenge of bringing a child into the world together. This whole experience has helped me remember that sex does *not* equal intimacy. Intimacy is deep – and sex is only one part of it. I think a lot of marriage book authors often equate the two – and actually have a really poor understanding of what intimacy is.

  14. Anonymous

    Whoops, looks like I published my original comment as a ‘reply’ to someone else’s comment by mistake. Sorry! Hopefully my original comment still gets read…

  15. Anonymous

    Respectfully, I came to the comments section looking to see the challenges to your article and your responses. Unfortunately, I’m leaving with a bad taste in my mouth due to you seeking to only respond to the convenient comments and to ghost the challenging ones.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So, to be clear, you think women should be pressured to give one-sided sexual favours postpartum, even if they’re still bleeding and in pain?


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