Sex After Stillbirth
The death of a baby is one of the most difficult things that a couple will face together. It’s a major bereavement and this has a profound effect on every single aspect of daily life, particularly on your relationship.
With both partners experiencing deep grief, some may find comfort in the closeness of intimacy. However, others require a degree of comfort, but cannot stomach the thought of having sex. We all experience grief in different ways, so it’s easy to feel as if you are alone and misunderstood. Particularly, if you each have different feelings towards sex after stillbirth.
So how do you approach the subject of sex with your partner?
Sexual Desire After Stillbirth
Like grief, sexual desire is very personal and it differs from person to person. I’ve spoken to couples who didn’t have sex for a long time after they lost their baby, but I have spoken to couples who continued to have sex after stillbirth because they desperately wanted to feel close. One of the biggest issues when having sex again after stillbirth is where one partner is feeling sexual desire and the other one isn’t. This is quite normal, particularly as this is a very sad and stressful time for you both.
When partners feel a different way about sex, this can lead to problems. With one partner feeling hurt and rejected, and other feeling incredulous that ‘life can just go on’, this leads to miscommunication and difficulties within the relationship. Explaining that this isn’t a rejection of them, but something you are currently going through, may help them to feel better about the situation.
These feelings are not uncommon and do pass with time. Even if you don’t want physical contact but your partner does, consider a compromise where you do spend some time together enjoying a cuddle or holding hands. Explain that it cannot lead to sex until you are ready, but you are giving them the comfort that they also need. The longer you go without any form of intimacy, the harder it will be to start again.
Talking about Sex after Stillbirth
Couples share a lot of things together, you shared a child together and have a life together. However, a lot of couples find it difficult to talk to each other about sex. That’s a fact. If you are a couple who speaks freely about sex, talk about what you need and explain how you feel. Try not to put pressure on each other and respect the feelings of your partner. Communication is the most important element in rebuilding your sex life after a stillbirth.
If you feel uncomfortable talking about sex, write things down. I’m always much better with words than I am using my voice, and I prefer to write down my feelings than discuss them face to face. This is a method that works for me and it gives my partner the chance to digest my feelings before he responds to them.
Sometimes it helps to take a step back from the situation and have a chat with a friend, support group or family member. A fresh outlook can help to put things in perspective and give you the advice that you need. This is a time when you need your family and friends more than ever, let them help.
Being affectionate with each other after stillbirth
With some parents feeling immense guilt whenever they do anything nice after a stillbirth, it can be difficult to spent time with your partner without feeling as if you are leaving your baby behind. However, you will always love your baby and he or she will always be a part of your lives.
Spending time together helps to rebuild intimacy and will remind you how important your relationship is. Simply going for a walk, holding hands or having a nice dinner together is a gentle way to ease yourselves into being affectionate with each other.
When can you start having sex after stillbirth?
Physically, as long as there are no complications, there is no right or wrong time to have sex after stillbirth. It all depends on whether you have the desire and feel emotionally ready to have sex again.
If you regularly use sex toys, it may be preferable to wait until the vagina is completely healed and you’ve had the six week check-up from your Doctor before inserting anything into the vagina, simply to avoid the transfer of bacteria. Like everything else that we’ve discussed, having sex and carrying on a normal loving relationship doesn’t mean that you have forgotten your baby. Sex is an important part of a loving relationship.
Despite having recently given birth, your body is also getting ready for another pregnancy. Therefore, contraception is something which you will need to consider. Whether you want to get pregnant straight away or you need time to grieve before considering getting pregnant again, that’s absolutely your choice. Either way, you will need to consider forms of contraception.
Making sex fun again after stillbirth
When researching the article, I spoke to a number of couples about their feelings towards sex after stillbirth. One thing which stood out the most for me was ‘pressure’.
- Some agreed to having sex with their partner before being ready because they felt pressure to do so.
- Some made themselves enjoy sex because they felt pressure to ‘be normal’ and enjoy physical contact.
- Some felt pressure from friends and family who were expecting the couple to ‘get back on the horse and try again’
- Some women felt angry that their body had failed to protect their baby and hated it. They felt that they didn’t deserve to enjoy anything because they felt guilty.
All in all, sex is an important part of a relationship and for couples, it reaps great rewards. After orgasm, you release oxytocin, or the cuddle hormone as it is sometimes known, which will bring closeness to you and your partner.
One way to help make sex fun after stillbirth is to remove the pressure from the situation and relax. The more sex becomes an issue, the less enjoyable it will be. Try building up to it slowly and spend some time going on dates and holding hands. Saying no to sex may feel like a hurtful rejection at the time, but if your partner knows that you are working towards a solution TOGETHER, this helps to make things easier.
Another way to increase desire, is to read erotica or watch an erotic film. With your mind occupied by the storyline, this helps you to relax and takes your mind off the pressure. Erotica is a great way to build arousal and increase desire without expectation. For some great erotic writers, take a look at books from KD Grace or my Ten Books To Read After Fifty Shades suggestions.
Try booking a nice weekend away and enjoy a complete change of scenery. At home, you have a lot of sad memories to contend with and taking the weekend away, with just the two of you may help to rekindle the relationship. Even if you aren’t ready for sex, taking some time together to talk and enjoy each other’s company is a great starting point. Sex when it happens, will feel much more natural and enjoyable if you stick together.
If you find sex painful after stillbirth, this may be because you had stitches or experienced scarring. As long as you’ve had the all clear from the Doctor, you can start having sex again. Buy lots of water-based lubricant until your vaginal secretions return to normal and use it liberally. If the pain is due to scarring in a certain area, experiment with positioning until you find a comfortable position. This pain will ease, but it does take time. Again, communication is the key!
Avoid penetrative sex if you aren’t ready, but experiment with other forms of pleasure. It may be wise to hold off on vaginal oral sex until you get a clean bill of health from the Doctor, just to prevent the spread of bacteria, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy other forms of pleasure. Reconnect with foreplay and enjoy pleasuring each other just for fun. Without the fear or pressure of getting pregnant again, you are focusing on yourselves.
I have heard of erectile issues after a stillbirth, with some men unable to achieve an erection and others unable to climax or climaxing prematurely. Again, this kind of issue is caused by stress and worry. To help maintain an erection for a longer period of time, try a cock ring. Cock rings help to give a stronger and longer lasting erection and with many different textures, they can increase pleasure for both partners. I love the Rocks Off 8 Ball Cock Ring, or try a vibrating couples cock ring like the Rocks Off 8 Ball Cock Ring for mutual pleasure.
With feelings of anger towards your body, and guilt over the loss of your child. Having fun is the last thing on your mind. However, the stillbirth didn’t happen because you wanted it to, it is a horrible senseless tragedy.
You will always love your baby but quite often, there is very little that you can do to prevent a stillbirth. By taking steps to move on from this tragedy and find happiness in your life and your relationship, you are allowing yourself to properly grieve and find a way to heal. This takes a long time and you will always have good days and bad days, just remember that you are in this together.
Getting help for couples after a Stillbirth
For couples who need help and advice, Relate offer help for couples struggling with relationship, sex and family issues. Contact the website to find your nearest office.
If you’d like to make a donation towards a Cold Cot or help provide funds towards hospital memory boxes. Please contact the Maggie Pearl page on Facebook for more information.