Sex After Pregnancy Loss Is Complicated


A month after my miscarriage, I returned to my obstetrician’s office for a follow-up appointment. She took a look at my uterus and cervix to be sure they looked normal, and we discussed whether my partner and I wanted to try again. Her recommendation was to wait three cycles before trying to conceive—if we decided to—and she otherwise checked in on my emotional state.

I felt a dozen emotions all in synchronicity when I got that first period following pregnancy loss. The blood: its color, its meaning. A flood of grief. That “at least your body is working” mantra. Remembering the blood that indicated the beginning of the end. A glaring reminder that I was no longer pregnant. Hope that there will be future pregnancies that last. Not knowing. No control.

Menstruation can mean so many different things to women around the globe, and for those of us who have miscarried, that first period after the loss can trigger unimaginable memories…and maybe even a little bit of hope. That hope hurled me back into that space, even if only potentially—the physical act of getting pregnant again, the mental strength that must accompany a post-loss pregnancy, and the emotional toll that the magnitude of such a thing would take on my ailing mind. I was still reeling from the trauma I’d just lived through, but tucked in somewhere deep was a trust that it would not happen again. It just couldn’t. And so, we proceeded.

As I’ve combed through the various elements of life after loss, I’m struck by the ways in which loss can upend even our very personal and often complicated relationships with our bodies. Pregnancy can leave us intimately connected with them one moment, then feeling as if we’re veritable strangers the next. Or worse yet, despising or rejecting the very body we’ve been assigned, the one we must continue to live in.

Considering the feelings of betrayal that so often invade the minds of people who’ve experienced pregnancy loss, we might become prone to reassessing exactly how we feel about our bodies, how we feel in them, how we touch them, and, critically, how we like them to be touched. We find ourselves reckoning with a coupling that is deeply troubling in nature: the intermingling of death and desire.

Even though a woman may feel adrift after a pregnancy loss, she still exists as a sexual being—but how do you balance the two? Pregnancy and everything surrounding it already has the power to change sex—its meaning, its purpose, its function, its feeling. Sometimes, once couples begin trying to conceive, the mood shifts, especially if it isn’t an easy road to conception (but this can also occur when conception happens fast). And because returning to sex after pregnancy loss also carries the potential of getting pregnant once again, hope and heartache might intertwine in a place previously uncomplicated by these notions.

I’ve talked to so many women about this because, as you can see, it is layered and intensely complex. For some, sex stops being a bonding point or a way to experience pleasure and starts becoming rote or even unpleasant. This happened to one member of my Instagram community, Yael, who messaged me when I asked for stories about this issue. “I didn’t really want to have sex. We only did it to try to conceive. I used to like sex a lot—we had a really great sex life. But when we were trying to get pregnant again after the loss, it just became a task. I didn’t even physically enjoy it anymore. I think my fear got in the way.”


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