Deena Campbell Sengstacke is a New York City/New Jersey-based freelance beauty and lifestyle writer who I’ve known for years as a colleague in media. We ended up becoming first-time moms in the same year and even had the same due date in late August 2016. I ended up giving birth 2.5 weeks early, but we’ve continued watching each other go through motherhood in the same phases. Deena recently gave birth to her second child and confirmed that everything is less unknown the second time around, including sex after giving birth.
In case you didn’t know, having a baby, whether vaginally or via c-section, changes a lot. You generally feel like a truck ran up out of you so, obviously, you need some time to heal. The typical clearance period for resuming sexual activity post birth is six-eight weeks depending on how you delivered, but getting medical clearance doesn’t mean you’ll actually feel like yourself again. Here, Sengstacke gets real about how having sex after having a baby can be uncomfortable at first but gets better if you dust yourself off and try again.
MadameNoire (MN): How long did you wait before you had sex again after you had your first child?
Deena Campbell Sengstacke (DCS): They tell you six weeks, but I waited like seven or eight weeks just to be sure. I just wanted to make sure everything was okay. I thought it would be normal and back into the swing of things, but it felt like there was a block. It felt like I was a virgin again. It was like, “This is weird.”
I didn’t have a c-section, which I feel like some women who have c-sections feel like maybe they put things back wrong, or like maybe my organs are out of place, but I had a vaginal delivery. Apparently, [feeling weird during sex] is common though, because I’ve talked to other moms and with other mom groups on Facebook, and a fair amount of people have said the same thing, hat like, “Yeah, sex was awful at first. It felt like I was a virgin again.”
MN: So it was just basically uncomfortable and tight, right?
DCS: Exactly! It just wasn’t going in, and I was just like, “What happened?” It was fine after working at it, but no one told me that. No one. None of the doctors. None of my friends. None of my family members. It wasn’t until afterward where I was talking about it and actually Googling it where women were sharing that it happened to them too.
MN: Why is that always the case? No one says anything until you bring it up.
DCS: I know!
MN: I think I waited eight weeks after giving birth too because I was nervous about it feeling weird.
DCS: It’s also akin to like, I don’t know if you experienced this, but right after you deliver, they want you to poop at some point before you leave the hospital, and I was terrified.
MN: That’s a scary thing too [laughs]!
DCS: Yeah, it was kind of like that. It just felt weird, and then once it happened, you’re like, “All right, fine, It wasn’t that bad. I’ll poop again and be fine. [laughs]”
MN: How was your husband after that first initial time?
DCS: I think he was surprised too. With anything [related to] labor and pregnancy, he’s just kind of like, “Whatever you want to do.” But I think he was definitely shocked to discover that it was like this, and I was like, “Do you feel a blockage? I’m thinking maybe it’s something medical,” like something’s in the way and he said it felt fine, like normal. So he was just patient but was worried that I was in distress or uncomfortable about it. But it was fine eventually.
MN: So you just kept working on it?
DCS: Yes. That same session. [Eventually] it was fine. It was just the first initial try, and maybe even the second and third attempt in that same night, but eventually you just kind of work at it and there you go. It literally works itself out.
MN: What advice do you have to first-time moms who are going through the process? What should they consider when they prepare to have sex again?
DCS: It’s different for every woman. I have some friends who agree [with me], and I have some friends that are like, “What? Girl, I couldn’t wait to have sex again” and, in fact, cheated and only waited four weeks.
MN: OMG! I know! I’ve had conversations with women who said they were four weeks in and had sex and it was fine. And I couldn’t even fathom that for myself. But go ahead.
DCS: Yeah, and they were fine. So you know your body. Go at your own pace as long as you’re safe. But I feel like for those who struggled, like me, just be patient and take your time. Use lube.
MN: Because it worked itself out in the end.
DCS: It did, thank God. But I don’t know if that’s every woman’s case. Some women out there may still be stressed about it. I just feel like you just got to take your time. It’s a new beginning. You’re just learning your body again [because] so much is new and different.