When the time comes for lovemaking follow-ing childbirth, try to keep in mind its third purpose, its deeper significance, beyond pleasure and reproduction - that of meditative union. If a couple are both meditators, much pleasure and intimacy can be gained without any need for penetration. For a woman, sex is a time of taking into herself. The experience of birthing has been an intense time of giving out for her, followed by weeks and months of even more giving out to her baby. When sexual union does take place it will involve her need to be filled again - not so much with a penis or with pleasure - but with her partner's love, strength and vitality. If a man is aware of this he can provide not only a pleasurable experience for both lovers but an exchange of vital energy which greatly helps to strengthen the individuals and their spiritual relationship.
For a couple who are closely in-tune, and who primarily use their sex life for partner worship and self transcendence, a time will come when both partners intuitively know it is appropriate to resume full sexual intercourse. For a woman who has given birth naturally and is breastfeeding, and through that is experiencing a more open body and expanded heart, sex at this time can be a wonderful celebration of the emerging Mother Provider, Ma Shakti, the Tantric Earth Goddess. At this time the man has the opportunity to revel in his partner's spiritual bigness, her motherli-ness. This is of course a most empowering experience for the woman.
Upon resuming sexual relations after child-birth, there is the issue of contraception to consider. Here you must be careful not to make assumptions about your state of fertility. If you are not breastfeeding, ovulation can resume as soon as 6 weeks after the birth, but not always.
For those who are breastfeeding, the popu-larly believed theory is that breastfeeding, with its attendant prolactin production, inhibits ovulation thereby acting as a contraceptive, but the fact is that this effect is not consistent. Whilst some women do not resume ovulation or menstruation for the entire duration of the time they breastfeed, say 12 - 18 months, others can return to normal ovulation as soon as 6 weeks after the birth of the baby. Other return to normal cycles of menstruation, but where there is no ovulation.
Once you have fully weaned your baby,
your fertility cycle should become regular again, perhaps the same length as before, perhaps slightly different - but certainly regular. Be
aware that irregularities in the length of your cycle following childbirth indicate the same sorts of causes as normally attributed to irregular cycles, namely: stress, lack of sleep, and poor nutrition. All these things are obviously hangovers from tending to your baby, therefore restoring normal cycles after childbirth can best be helped by a good diet, early nights, and a regular yoga program of relaxation and stress management. (See Chapter 9, Prescriptive Yoga Programs - "Stress Management", page ).
If a woman has been using natural fertility awareness prior to pregnancy, such as mucus observation, temperature measurement and personal observations, she will notice the signs when her fertility starts to return. (See Chapter 3 - "Natural Fertility Awareness", page 95). But if in doubt about any signs - obviously err on the side of abstinence if contraception is your desire. If you have not used natural fertility methods before, too soon into the post-natal period is definitely not the best time to try and learn these things, or to rely on them for contraception. It is better to wait until your hormonal cycles have better stabilised and your cycles have returned to normal.
So what are the best options for when you want to resume sex after childbirth with the intention of contraception? Firstly, I do not recommend the pill - either the triphasic or the mini-pill variety. More than just tampering with a woman's hormonal mechanisms, taking a cocktail of synthetic progesterone is likely to have adverse effects upon milk production and upon the baby, since all hormones in a mother's bloodstream are known to cross through to the baby. See also Chapter 3 - "Oral Hormone Contraceptive - The Pill", on page 113.
Outside of the pill, there are the same other options as pre-pregnancy - barrier, IUD or abstention. A high commitment to not becoming pregnant is the first thing. Combining fertility observance with a barrier method (either diaphragm or condom) used at times of observed fertility, is often a happy compromise. If you decide to use a diaphragm, since your weight can fluctuate greatly this can affect its fit and effectiveness, you must have a new one fitted around 6 weeks after the birth - at the time of your post-natal check up is ideal - and it may need to be re-fitted again at around 6 months.