Myth #1 You’ll be good to go at the six-week mark.
Truth: Every woman is different. One might be ready and wanting at week four, while others won’t feel into it (either physically or emotionally) for months. “It’s a fairly arbitrary number,” says Robin Milhausen, a sex researcher and professor at the University of Guelph. “It was developed years ago by doctors to give women a rest from sexual requests.” Remember, too, that we can get and give pleasure in many different ways—if you don’t feel ready for penetrative sex, there are lots of other options on the menu.
Myth #2 You don’t need birth control if you’re breastfeeding.
Truth: This form of birth control (called the lactational amenorrhea method) does work—kind of—with a whole slew of caveats. First, you have to be exclusively breastfeeding—no formula, ever—every four hours during the day (every six at night). You can’t have gotten your period back yet, and it’s only effective within the first six months postpartum. “The ‘perfect use’ stat is around 95 to 98 percent effective,” says Alix Bacon, a Vancouver midwife. “But the ‘actual use’ stat is about 91 percent effective. If that’s not good enough for you, use a backup.” It’s safe to be on the pill postpartum, although until breastfeeding has been well-established, your healthcare provider may recommend the mini-pill, which won’t interfere with milk production (it contains progesterone only, while other pills contain estrogen—which can decrease milk supply—and progesterone). “Sex is a spontaneous thing,” Bacon says. “Even if you feel that it’s 100 years away, have some condoms on hand.”
Myth #3 The first time will be awful.
Truth: It will be different, that’s for sure. “You might experience pain and tenderness the first time having intercourse,” says Rae Dolman, a Toronto-based sex therapist. “Take it slow. Some women are surprised, too, that there’s some pain and cramping with orgasm, which is very normal.” You may also feel your milk let down and experience some vaginal dryness. “Prolactin is released to help with breastfeeding, but it affects estrogen levels and can cause dryness,” Bacon says. Reach for the lube if that’s the case.
Myth #4 You’ll be all stretched out forever.
Truth: Sure, some stretching happens, but your vagina will bounce back—especially if you work at it. “Postpartum, I encourage every woman to invest in a visit to a pelvic-floor physiotherapist,” says Bacon. “They can specifically identify what areas need work and give you exercises to do to help tighten things up.” This can include regular Kegels, of course, but more advanced moves too, like The Elevator and The Diamond. Having a healthy and strong pelvic floor isn’t just beneficial for your vagina, either, says Bacon. “It will help your urinary tract, bowels and core strength, too.”