Sex after Baby
by Linda Plenert
Dear Ate Anna,
I had a baby two months ago. At my six-week check-up the doctor said it was OK to have sex again. I know my husband was happy to hear the news, but I don’t seem to have any interest in sex. My husband is trying to be patient, but I am starting to feel like there is something wrong with me. Is this normal?
You have just gone through a life-changing event. Your sex drive is probably just suffering from sleepless nights, tiring days, and a baby with many needs. If you are breastfeeding, your hormone levels are still not the same as before you got pregnant.
Many women are physically ready to have sex before they actually want to make love again. Sex might be the last thing you are thinking about now, but eventually you will get your sex drive back. Some women can hardly wait to get the “green light” from their doctor, but it sounds like you are not one of them. Even these women often feel too exhausted in the early weeks and months of parenting to enjoy sex the way they did before the baby arrived.
There are several factors that can affect a woman’s sexual desire: how much sleep you are getting; how much help you have at home; whether or not you are breastfeeding; whether or not you have any “baby blues” or postpartum depression. As well, new babies take a lot of time and a lot of energy. Remember that sex also takes concentration, time, and energy. As a result, many couples find that sex drops down to the bottom of their to-do list. Changing from a couple into a family is a big adjustment for both partners.
If you are doing everything that relates to the baby, talk to your husband about his role and what tasks he can take on. This can help him have a more realistic picture of the work involved in caring for a young child and to understand your fatigue. Spending time together figuring out how the changes have affected your relationship may help to renew your connection with each other.
The important thing is to talk honestly with your husband about how you are feeling. If you are not ready for sexual intercourse yet, say so. If you are worried that intercourse will hurt, talk to him about what feels good and what doesn’t. Try exploring other ways of being intimate – snuggling, kissing, caressing. This is a time when some men choose to masturbate because their sexual libido is causing frustrations, but they don’t want to cause any discomfort for their partners. Don’t force yourself to do something you don’t feel ready for, but don’t shut yourself off from receiving intimacy in other ways.
When you feel ready to have intercourse, take your time. Use plenty of water-based lubricant, especially if you are breastfeeding. The hormonal changes associated with breastfeeding cause vaginal dryness in many women. Try different positions to see what feels comfortable. Talk to each other about how things are going and if it hurts, stop. You can try again at another time.
And don’t forget that sex makes babies. While it’s true that breastfeeding (every two hours and no supplements) can delay the return of a woman’s fertility for up to six months, this is not a foolproof form of contraception. Use birth control unless you are thinking about having another baby in the near future.
Some women find it difficult to combine their identity as a mother with their identity as a sexual person. We are not taught to think of mothers as sexual people, although they are. Some breastfeeding women (and some partners) feel uncomfortable about enjoying the breasts in a sexual way since they are now nurturing a baby. Remember, enjoying your breasts sexually and nursing your baby are two separate activities. And your body is designed to enjoy both.
Kathryn, if it’s possible, try to find some time to do things that make you feel good. It could be soaking in the bathtub or going for a walk outdoors. Feeling relaxed can make a big difference. As well, remember that relationships are based on trust and understanding, so keep the lines of communication open. Both you and your husband can try to focus on enjoying time with each other in whatever way feels good right now.
Ate Anna welcomes your questions and comments. Please write to: Ate Anna, Suite 200- 226 Osborne St. N., Winnipeg, MB R3C 1V4 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit us at www.serc.mb.ca. You will find reliable information and links to many resources on the subject of sexuality.