Many couples struggle with sex after the birth of a baby. In fact, it is so common a problem that most people just accept that sex is off the table with a new baby in the house.
There’s just not enough sleep, time, or energy to go around. Midnight feedings, diaper changes, walks in the stroller, and well-meaning visitors stopping in to see the newest family member are simply draining. It’s no wonder that one in four couples have problems with sex after baby.
Plus there is no way to explain unless you’ve been there how a little 7 lb. being can turn your life completely upside down. You say good-bye to midnight ice cream runs, impromptu Sunday matinees, and sleeping in late on Saturday morning before heading out for a run. In fact, for awhile you may say good-bye to runs, too!
Even though the doctor may give two thumbs up to start having sex after 6 weeks, not every woman, nor man, is ready to restart their sex life. The 6 week mark simply means that a woman’s body has returned enough to its pre-baby state. It doesn’t mean that she is ready to have intercourse. She may still find that she feels fragile from the experience of labor and delivery. She may also have “baby blues,” the period of sadness that some women feel after they no longer have the attention from a pregnancy. Her body may still be secreting moisture that can make intercourse messy. If she is breast feeding, she may have trouble sharing her body sexually.
Besides it’s difficult for some to adapt to the role of being a parent, putting aside one’s own needs for the needs of an infant. Other people need time to get into the idea of playing two roles–parent and lover. Often one person is a little ahead of the other; patience is needed so that both partners are ready to resume their sex life.
By five or six months, though, the majority of couples are having sex again, even if it isn’t as frequent as either one would like. Moms sometimes complain of feeling “touched out” from holding onto an infant all the time. Dads complain of exhaustion from all the work an infant requires.
What can couples do about sex after having a baby?
- Talk with each other about what you are experiencing in terms of being a parent, a spouse, and a lover. Are you finding it a challenge to balance your roles, or do you find it fulfilling? Is there one role that is more of a challenge than another? Why? What role do you need to give attention to? How can you make time for each role so that you are or stay in balance?
- What do you need from your partner now to feel wanted and sexy, even if you’re not ready to have sex? What can you do for yourself to feel desirable, to remind yourself that you are more than a parent?
- Are there things the two of you can do to remind yourselves that you are lovers that aren’t all about intercourse? Can you put on some music and slow dance? Sit in the backyard and watch the moon rise together? Give one another a foot massage? Bring your partner their favorite snack?
- Is there anything uncomfortable going on in either person’s body that would keep you from having sex? Even caring for a baby can cause aches and pains as you twist and bend to feed, diaper, and carry an infant. If so, what do you need to feel more comfortable? Do you need a break? A table at the right height?
- Identify trustworthy adults who will give you respite from caring for a baby, even if it’s only for an hour while the two of you get a cup of coffee together. Just getting some fresh air and having a little alone time can make a big difference in reminding you that you are still lovers
What if your sex life stays in the doldrums for more than five or six months? It may be a sign that one or both of you is struggling with some aspect of life with baby. If you cannot figure it out on your own, or if you find yourselves fighting about sex or intimacy, then seeing a therapist who specializes in sex and couples therapy could be very helpful. Don’t wait for the problem to go away. Many couples get pregnant with a second child before they have resolved the problems that they had after the first baby was born. That might be a mistake, because problems can get bigger with each child that comes along. There’s no reason to be in a sexless marriage because there is an infant or toddler in the house; someone in your community or nearby will be able to help.