Let’s face it — a baby changes everything.
(And I do mean everything.)
From the raging hormones to how your body feels and looks to the seismic life shift that comes with having a newborn, it’s a lot to manage.
And that’s before you throw postpartum sex into the mix.
While your doctor will typically clear you for intercourse around the 6 – to 8-week mark, that doesn’t mean you’ll feel anywhere close to ready, and that’s okay.
If you’ve recently had a baby and now getting intimate with your partner is the last thing on your mind, remember two important things:
- It’s completely normal.
As a perinatal clinician, I can’t tell you how often I hear this from women: “I’m doing everything for the baby, I’m exhausted, I don’t feel like myself, and frankly, I’m “touched out” from so much time physically caring for this new tiny human.”
Not to mention, physical recovery after birth can take up to a year, and you could be dealing with a number of psychological and biological issues, including painful breasts, incontinence, depression, pelvic floor trauma, anxiety, and a lack of vaginal lubrication — all things that can make sex sound less than desirable.
- You’re not alone.
While the postpartum experience does have a way of making you feel completely isolated and misunderstood, trust me when I say you’re not alone. In fact, it’s completely normal to have a decreased sex drive after giving birth. In one study of postpartum women, 20 percent had little or no desire for sex three months after delivery, and another 21 percent had a complete loss of desire or aversion to sexual activity.
This goes for men, too. Studies have shown that men’s testosterone levels dip when they become fathers, so it’s entirely normal for both you and your partner to experience low libidos during the first six to nine months following the birth of your baby.
Fortunately, with a little time, empathy, and open communication, most people find a new normal for their sex lives — and one that can be incredibly fulfilling, albeit different from their pre-baby days.
Set Realistic Expectations
Regardless of the situation, lack of intimacy in a relationship can lead to feelings of pressure, guilt, and resentment, especially if you’re worried you’re not living up to what you thought your intimate life would look like.
But before you beat yourself up too much, ask yourself a few questions to help set some realistic post-baby expectations.
- How important was sexual intimacy to you before having a baby? And how has that changed now?
- When do you feel most emotionally and physically connected to your partner?
- Are there identifiable situations or gestures that make sex more appealing to you? Are there things that have the opposite effect?
Taking the time to tap into how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way will allow you to have an honest conversation with your partner. Which takes us to…
Talk Openly and Often
I understand — talking to your partner about sex is uncomfortable for many people, especially during the postpartum period. But being clear about what you want during this transitional time in your life can be incredibly eye-opening and beneficial.
Rather than just focusing on lack of intimacy, talk about what you need from each other emotionally and physically and different ways to feel connected (cuddling, non-sexual massage, etc.). It takes time to build back up to whatever your new normal is going to be, but open communication is a crucial first step — and you might be surprised by what you hear!
Often people are afraid to have hard conversations because there’s an assumption that their partner is disappointed or resentful, but that’s not always true.
Be straightforward, and don’t let your feelings simmer under the surface for too long. Trust me, the worry is almost always scarier than the reality.
Seek Outside Help
As I said before, issues around postpartum intimacy are completely normal. So much so that doctors and therapists have dedicated their entire careers to the topic — and they can help!
Sometimes people are resistant to couples counseling, sex therapy, or help from a medical physician because they think it means something is wrong with their relationship or their body, but, honestly, lack of intimacy is an issue that most couples with kids deal with.
There are so many resources and professionals out there, and the TogetherWell team is happy to guide you in the right direction. To start, visit our Better Together page for a list of recommended resources or reach out at any time with questions.
And last but certainly not least, remember to take it slow and be patient with yourself and your partner.
Start having the conversations, find the time to connect, and prioritize yourself and your wellbeing during this challenging time and the intimacy will come whenever you’re ready.