Sexual Recovery After Having a Baby
Sexual Pleasure & Our Reproductive System
Our reproductive system is linked to our sexual pleasure system–and sometimes, this causes issues.
Couples trying to conceive can face all kinds of sexual challenges. In fact, some couples have trouble becoming pregnant at all because they are unable to have sex. For example, men sometimes ejaculate before they ever enter the vagina. They may also have erectile dysfunction due to performance anxiety, or delayed ejaculation because of fears about getting a woman pregnant. Women may have a condition called vaginismus that causes a spasm in the muscles around the entrance to the vagina that prevents penetration. Low sexual desire, sometimes related to infertility treatment or to depression if there have been miscarriages, can also affect fertility. These are all problems, fortunately, that can be helped by psychotherapists specializing in sex and couples therapy.
Sex and Pregnancy
The “6 week rule” is a myth of pregnancy. Somehow, magically, you’re supposed to feel the return of passion after 6 weeks. This is very unlikely due to lack of sleep and the baby’s demands! If you want to learn how to reconnect after baby, we have lots of ideas.
Fatigue is a given after a baby is born, but once baby is sleeping through the night and a routine has been developed, for most couples there is a return to normal sexual expression.
When there is not, then we have to do some exploration. Is there postpartum depression? Unrealistic expectations about motherhood and parenting? Has something changed between the couple now that they have added roles as mother and father? Sometimes kind of interesting changes happen, like being afraid the baby is going to hear the parents having sex and be scarred for life. (More scarring, we believe, is a child growing up in a home where parents have no sexual or affectionate relationship.)
Sometimes there is an unacknowledged problem in the marital relationship that doesn’t come to light without a little exploration. No one wants to think that there can be feelings of anger or resentment when such a wonderful event has taken place. But negative thoughts and feelings do develop. Not to worry–once these are brought to light they can usually be resolved.
The infant him- or herself can also have an effect on sexuality. Some infants are simply fussier or more demanding than others. This can cause fatigue, but also a feeling of inadequacy on the part of the parent. Such bad feelings can really take a toll on a parent’s self-esteem and depression can develop.
Finally, issues about one’s body, or one’s partner’s body, after pregnancy can take their toll. We don’t necessarily mean changes in weight or appearance, either. When women have a traumatic or unexpected birth experience (unplanned C-section, etc.) they can become disappointed in their body’s ability to function normally. This can lead to conflict about sex. Traumatic birth can also cause painful intercourse, and we can help with that as well; please see Dr. Buehler’s article on treating vulvodynia, or sexual pain.
Both people trying to have a baby and people who have already begun their family can benefit from these tips:
- Don’t fall into the trap of imagining how everyone else’s sex life is; just enjoy whatever you have
- Expand your idea of sex to include cuddling and bringing each other sustenance like a warm drink and a snack
- Try giving one another massages for relaxation
- Eliminate other stress in your life, including volunteer commitments and relationships that you find challenging
I am a mom–I’ve been there, done that. I’ve also worked with many, many couples who are trying to become parents. I am here to help you.
- Sign up for “The Intimate Times” newsletter. Receive very interesting updates about sex and intimacy.
- Professionals can sign up for their own newsletter with announcements of CE and supervision opportunities, plus special discounts.