From the fear of getting pregnant again, to getting comfortable with your new body, postpartum sex is more than just physical.

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Illustration by Brittany England

The following submission is from a writer who has chosen to remain anonymous.

All right, I’m about to get really vulnerable here and admit something kind of scary and very embarrassing for me: I had a baby months and months ago, and I can count on one hand how many times my husband and I have been intimate since then.

Actually, you know what? Why even pretend — make that half of a hand.

Yup, that’s right.

I’ve worried that something is wrong with me, that something is wrong with my husband, if we’ll ever get back to “normal,” or if our marriage is doomed forever.

But then I decided to just stop worrying, because you know what? Having a baby is hard enough without those who just gave birth also feeling pressured to have sex before they want to.

The truth is, we talk a lot about when you’ll feeling physically ready to resume sexual activity after giving birth, but the emotional factors have a lot to do with getting in the mood too.

Here are some of the very real emotional roadblocks that you might encounter as a new parent, so that if you experience them, you can know that you are not alone.

If you are freshly postpartum, this might be a very real fear for you, especially if neither of you have taken permanent measures for sterilization (and hey, even if you have — fear is a valid emotion and we’ve all heard the stories of vasectomy pregnancies).

In our case, I would say this has been one of the biggest factors, if not the number one factor, in our lack of bedroom activity. Simply put, I had a really difficult pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum experience, and I truly believe my body would not handle getting pregnant again.

We had discussed our birth control options while I was pregnant, with the mutual decision that my husband would take the step toward getting snipped. But due to a few different complicating factors, it hasn’t happened.

Because of that, truthfully, I’ve been terrified of sex. Not only is my desire for any sexual activity super low right now, thanks to breastfeeding and no sleep, and all the other demands of life, but sex, to me, just seems like far too great of a risk to take without infallible reassurance I won’t get pregnant again.

While sex for my husband might just be a fun time, sex for me right now feels like dangerous, risky business — and not in a good way.

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I start thinking of the trade-off of those few minutes (ahem) with what could lead to 9 months of discomfort, hours of labor, and months of recovery for me, and it just starts to feel… not at all worth it.

I’m sorry, but for me right now, that’s the truth. Things don’t feel the same, body parts are in different positions, certain parts may be leaking, and how on earth are you supposed to feel sexy if you’re constantly worried about going through the ordeal you just endured again?

On top of the fear that’s held me back from even wanting to consider sex again, is the fact that my priorities just don’t include sex right now. I am so deep in survival mode right now that I literally have to wait for my husband to return home and relieve me of childrearing duties just so I can do basic things like use the restroom or take a shower.

Our baby has never slept through the night — he gets up at least two or three times a night on a good night — and because I have a remote job from home, I’m working full time while taking care of him full time as well.

By the end of the day, all I want to do is sleep any precious few moments I can. Sex, again for me, just doesn’t feel worth the trade-off of losing any amount of sleep.

There’s a lot of talk about the physical side of postpartum sex, but how your sex life looks as someone who has just given birth is deeply personal and involves more than just a body that is healed.

Having a baby changes your life and your relationship in such drastic ways that it can feel difficult to just try to jump right back into how you used to do things without exploring the ways your relationship has changed.

An interesting 2018 study compared sexual satisfaction among two groups of postpartum women — one that received standard postpartum care and one that received couples’ and group counseling.

The group that received counseling on intimacy, communication, women’s sexual responses, and psychological and social issues surrounding postpartum sex had much higher sexual satisfaction after 8 weeks than the control group.

Imagine that, right? Acknowledging that postpartum sex might involve more than just a person healing down there and resuming activities as normal actually helped women to have better sex lives? Who would’ve thunk?

The point in all of this, my dear fellow parents, is to not only reassure you that you are most likely doing far better in the bedroom department than I am, but to remind us all that when it comes to supporting and educating people about how to navigate life after having a baby, we still have a lot of work to do.

So if you’re struggling with your sex life right now, first of all, don’t beat yourself up about it. There simply isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to approach sex in the postpartum stage, and every couple will be different.

Instead, take the time to acknowledge the real physical and emotional factors that might come into play, communicate as a couple, and don’t be afraid to seek professional help as well. (Check out Healthline’s guide to affordable therapy.)

It’s your sex life, and your postpartum experience, so only you can know what is best for you and your partner. The most important thing is ensuring that you feel comfortable, and sex continues to be a positive experience for you when you feel ready — not something you feel guilty or shameful about.