You’re exhausted, stressed out and preoccupied with tending to your newborn’s every need. Who even has time to think about sex? Postpartum intimacy isn’t always a walk in the park. It can be painful, awkward, and you may find it insanely difficult to think about achieving orgasm from a place that, weeks ago, caused you so much pain you wanted to kill the very person who is now trying to get you off.
But sex after having a baby can also be amazing (as long as you’re aware of all that can go wrong). You and your partner are suddenly finding yourselves in uncharted life territory. You’ve created the most beautiful and special person either of you have ever met and you’re on this journey together. You also both really, really owe it to yourselves to take time out from your daily duties of changing diapers, feeding, soothing, repeat, so that you can remember that you are, in fact, a sexy, sexual person who desires, is desired and deserves a mind-blowing orgasm.
“The most common issue that parents face often has much to do with their own expectations,” says Rebecca Wong, LCSW relationship therapist and founder of Connectfulness. “Everything shifts after kids enter your family: time, energy, desire to be touched (stay-at-home parents are often touched out at the end of the day), physical recovery, hormonal desire, sleeping arrangements and perhaps even just your general feelings of well-being toward one another. All of this affects your desire to connect intimately with one another.”
Here are new parents’ most common sex gripes:
“It is hard to be mentally, physically and emotionally available for intimacy when one or both of you are exhausted,” says marriage consultant and coach Lesli M. W. Doares. “Even if you do find the energy, the quality of the encounter may not be what either hope for and this can lead to discouragement and hesitation the next time. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy if expectations are too high. Knowing that the exhaustion will eventually ease is critical and being patient in the meantime can help. It is important that couples stay connected physically so they don’t fall into the habit of not being intimate. It is also important that each is doing self-care so the effects of exhaustion can be minimized. This is often harder for new moms. Finding someone to watch the baby so the two of you can stay connected as partners is critical. If it’s hard for one of you to trust someone, you might want to find someone to help you work through that. If you can get away for an overnight or a weekend, that will help too.”
2. Physical changes
“There are a lot of physical changes that occur when a woman gives birth and her body may not feel the same or react the same as before,” Doares says. “This is perfectly normal and can be overcome by taking a position of curiosity and adventure — try new positions or new rhythms. Have a sense of fun, not dread.”
Sex and relationship coach Dawn Serra adds: “After giving birth, whether it’s vaginal or a C-section, give your body plenty of time to recover. If you want to get sexy before you’re fulling recovered, make a game out of having sex without penetration or stimulation of the sensitive areas. What can you do with your hands and mouths? Can you rediscover dry humping? Get creative and make it a game so that your changing body doesn’t feel like a burden (which doesn’t help the healing process).”
3. Touch burnout
“It’s very common for nursing mothers to experience touch burnout, especially on their breasts,” Serra says. “When a baby is constantly nursing, sucking, biting, and tugging on your breasts, it can be a real turn-off to have a partner try and do the same in the bedroom. All new parents need to understand that sex after baby can be incredibly different, but instead of seeing that as a bad thing, see it as a fun opportunity to redefine and rediscover each other. Treat like a curious adventure rather than a failure or a frustration, and you’ll set yourself up for long-term success.”
“An emotional red flag to be on the lookout for is resentment,” Doares says. “This can occur in either Mom or Dad. Sometimes Dad misses his wife, who can get a lot of emotional satisfaction from interacting with the baby. Sometimes Mom gets frustrated because she feels she’s carrying the parenting load. Often, the primary breadwinner will feel more pressure now that there is a child and be very focused on work. There can also be mixed feelings about staying home or returning to work that will play out in the bedroom. The best way to deal with these feelings is to be able to talk about them. Some of this can be done before the baby is born. A newborn requires a lot of time and you each still only get 24 hours in a day. Something has to give and if sex presents a challenge, this is one of the things that can get dropped. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a mutual decision and the relationship can really suffer.”
5. Body image issues
“Pregnancy weight gain is natural, but the way women lose weight afterwards is different for everyone,” says April Masini, author of four relationship advice books and the AskApril advice column. “Some women lose the weight easily, others take years to lose. This change, accompanied by postpartum hormones, can lead to a lack of self-confidence and a bounty of self-consciousness. Depression isn’t sexy, and body changes are difficult for many women to overcome. Sex lives falter as a result.”
If you’re still feeling disheartened by all of the sudden changes in your sex life, remember: They’re temporary. And, as Wong reminds us, not as difficult to address as we might think — as long as we stay focused on the moment.
“Turns out that overcoming many of these issues isn’t all that hard, it simply takes a bit of mindfulness and desire to turn towards and connect with your partner,” Wong says. “Pitching in and helping with the little things adds up — over time it’s those little things that becomes foreplay between the two of you.”