Raise your hand if you’ve struggled or are struggling to get your sex life back to where it was before baby? If you were in a room filled with other parents I would assume majority would have their hands raised. The reason I say this so boldly is research shows it’s true! Dr. Natalie Rosen, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Dalhousie University, says 90% of new parents report that they started having sex again at three months, but almost 50% of new dads and 35% of new moms still report sex as being dissatisfying after six months post-baby. Even after 12 months desire is reported to have increased, however, still being lower than pre-pregnancy. The real question is- why is this such a struggle?
Sleep is one of the most common issues for new parents. With baby needing to be fed every few hours sleeping 8 hour stretches is non-existent and so is having enough energy to want to engage sexually. When parents are not sleeping their normal amount this has negative affects on the body. Your brain is not getting enough time to reset, process events of the day, and rest. This will affect mood, levels of energy and focus. All three of these components are necessary for sexually engaging your partner.
2. Physical Changes
Another factor that plays a role in women’s desire for sex are physical changes. Dr. Rosen mentioned that of the top five concerns body image for mom’s was one of them. There are many reasons why a new mom would be feeling physically insecure. Most women gain 25 pounds to 35 pounds while pregnant which is more than many have gained before. Along with the increased weight there are many other physical changes a woman experiences. One of these is their breasts enlarging due to their milk ducts filling. While men might become aroused with some of the changes, women may not be feeling confident in their new bodies.
3. Healing from trauma of birth
Along with the physical changes women experience they are also recovering from the trauma of birth. Regardless of how baby was delivered a woman’s body needs time to heal. Typically it takes 4-6 weeks for a woman to be cleared medically to engage in intercourse with their partner, however it may take longer due to additional time needed for healing. This may create more stress as women are scared not knowing what it will feel like during intercourse while men are eager to jump back into bed.
Lastly, as your family grows your time tends to shrink. What used to be just the two of you with endless amounts of time available to give one another is now the three of you and a little person taking up majority of your attention. Just the same for parents who already had children, as your family grows your time decreases. Some may argue that this is the hardest part of this transition period and biggest reason for not connecting physically or emotionally.
So, what can you do?
1. Give Each other Grace
First, give yourselves grace. Lots and lots of grace. This is brand new. You have never experienced these changes before and even if it’s not your first baby, each time has it’s own unique challenges. Remember, you are learning together. And you will do just that- figure it out in time. So, above all else make sure to give yourself, and your spouse, grace.
2. Be Honest
Second, be honest about your feelings and needs. Moms- I am speaking mainly to you. You do a great job making sure everyone is cared for, but you rarely do the same for yourself. Do not be too proud to say “I need help”. Learn to let your partner, and support system step in when you need to step out. Share how you’re feeling- physically, mentally and emotionally. The best thing you can do for yourself is be honest with others about your feelings and needs. Dads- be transparent about how you’re transitioning into fatherhood. Be honest about how you’re feeling watching your wife care for your baby and not be able to do more than make sure she’s drinking water, eating food, and taking a shower. Share with your wife, and support system, how you need to be supported and cared for. This allows you to show up for each other and rebuild the emotional connection that is crucial for when you’re ready to have sex again.
3. Do Not Compare
I repeat- do not compare. Your time table is your own. You do not need to go faster because you think this is when you’re supposed to be having sex. “Take things slow” says Dr. Lindsay Allen, OBGYN. Women- listen to your body and go at your pace. Men- follow your wife’s lead and learn how to engage her where she is at. This might look like massaging and cuddling, taking a shower or bath together, or getting creative with what physically connecting looks like at this time.
It is hard becoming a parent regardless if it’s your first or fourth. Your sex life will be different. It will adapt to the season that you’re in and will adjust to the changes. Don’t give up on yourselves or each other. There is always a way back to one another. You just need to find it!
Stechyson, Natalie. “It’s Not Just You: Some New Parents Stop Having Sex for Years.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 30 July 2018, www.huffpost.com/entry/parents-sex_n_6108750fe4b0497e670275b0.
Reporter, HealthDay. “Sleep Deprivation and New Parents.” HealthDay, Consumer Health News | HealthDay, 4 May 2021, consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/parenting-31/parenting-health-news-525/sleep-deprivation-and-new-parents-643886.html.
Johnson, Traci C. “Weight Gain during Pregnancy: How Much Is Normal?” WebMD, WebMD, 29 May 2020, www.webmd.com/baby/guide/healthy-weight-gain#1.
“Postpartum: First 6 Weeks after Childbirth.” Postpartum: First 6 Weeks After Childbirth | Michigan Medicine, www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/abl1277.
Holland, Kimberly. “Breast ENGORGEMENT: Causes and Tips for Relief.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 24 Jan. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/breast-engorgement.
Holland, Kimberly. “Sex after Birth: What to Expect and How Long to Wait.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 22 Mar. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/sex-after-birth.
Gordon, Sherri, and Carly Snyder. “How Having a Baby Affects Your Relationship with Your Partner.” Verywell Family, Dotdash, 13 Oct. 2020, www.verywellfamily.com/how-having-a-baby-affects-your-relationship-4797194.