He looks at you across the dinner table on your first night out since the baby was born. He's flirting, you think, but you hardly notice because you've been secretly checking your watch under the table, counting the minutes until you can get home to make sure your babysitter hasn't dropped the baby. He reaches for your hand; you're still thinking about the baby. You hear something in the background which sounds like a baby – and your breasts fill up with milk. He tells you how much he loves you and you start to leak. He is definitely trying to set the stage for a romantic and intimate evening and you, on the other hand, have to excuse yourself to change your breast pad in the bathroom. How can he think about sex when sex is the furthest thing from your mind? You haven't thought about sex for, well, it's been about four months. Last night, he told you that he misses being with you. You start to feel bad. But then you check your watch again; only 15 more minutes, you think, and then you can go home and be with the baby. And you wonder "What is wrong with me?"
There are so many explanations for why new moms aren't in the mood to have sex after the baby comes. A low sex drive can be frustrating for both you and your partner. But don't despair; it's a normal part of the picture. Here's why.
After the baby is born, estrogen and progesterone levels drop, which can contribute to a decrease in your sex drive. If you are breastfeeding, a hormone called prolactin becomes elevated, which can further suppress other hormone levels, and with them, your sexual desire. It can take months for your hormone levels to go back to their pre-pregnancy levels.
I don't need to tell you that new moms frequently suffer from exhaustion. But fatigue and exhaustion can wreak more havoc on your body than you may realize. Studies have shown that disrupted sleep, night after night, can contribute to stress, moodiness, poor decision-making, a decreased immune response, and lowered sex drive.
As discussed above, many women are self-conscious about the changes in their bodies during the postpartum period and anxious about whether their partners will still find their bodies attractive. While these feelings are normal, they can get in the way of the desire to be intimate with your partner. (Refer back to page 1 for ways to love your post-pregnancy bod)
Depending on the type of delivery you experienced, you may have incisions that have not yet healed and are still quite painful. Even if there is no episiotomy or Cesarean scar, the perineum, or area between the vaginal and rectal openings, has been stretched (beyond belief) and is most likely pretty sore. For many women, the thought of putting anything even close to that area can evoke fear and anxiety, which in turn can dramatically lessen sexual desire.
In breastfeeding women, elevated prolactin levels and lowered estrogen and progesterone levels can result in vaginal dryness. Without proper lubrication, sex can hurt, and as a result, women may steer away from relations with their partners, especially while breastfeeding.
Doctors recommend waiting six weeks after birth to have sex because it gives the body a chance to heal. At this point, for most women, postpartum bleeding will have stopped, tears, sutures, and lacerations will be healed, and the cervix will have closed. But that doesn't necessarily mean you feel ready. If you aren't, there is nothing wrong with you. Some women just take longer than others to be ready. I can't stress enough how individualized this all is. The decision to have sex after the baby comes is definitely not a one-size-fits-all milestone. Everyone is different. It is important to keep the spark in your relationship alive and it is as essential that you feel comfortable – physically and mentally – resuming sexual activity. For more ways to reclaim your body, health, sanity and sex life after having a baby, check out The New Mom's Survival Guide.
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