Late night feeding and surviving on little sleep doesn’t do much for the libido. New moms may also be preoccupied with their newborns and unintentionally leave their partner out in the cold. Yet finding the time and energy to rekindle intimacy could be the last thing on your mind, so how do you overcome the feeling that you ‘should’ have sex and cultivate a genuine desire to reconnect instead?
Kate Moyle is a Psychosexual & Relationship Therapist. She believes that intercourse isn’t as important as re-cultivating connection, “When you’ve had a baby you don’t get time together like you used to, but you can still experience intimacy without sex. It’s about working out what that looks like for you as a couple while you adjust to a new normal.”
Pregnancy and childbirth is a transformational time for relationships, especially if you’ve been through IVF together or it took a long time to conceive. It’s an equally transformational time for a woman. Therefore the first step towards reconnecting with your partner is to reconnect with your own body.
Know your own body
Estrogen and progesterone levels drop dramatically in the first few days after childbirth. This has knock-on effects for your mind and body, but is completely normal and typically temporary. “Low hormone levels contribute to the baby blues,” says Kate. “You may also experience menstrual cramps as your uterus contracts back to its pre-baby size.”
Breastfeeding contributes to vaginal dryness or lack of lubrication, which can make sex uncomfortable or painful. Lubricant is therefore essential along with contraception since you can still get pregnant when breastfeeding.
The pelvic floor also weakens during pregnancy and childbirth, which is where Elvie Trainer can help. “Weakened muscles affect the vagina and will take some adjusting to. And even when you’ve recovered physically, you’ll need time to process mental and emotional changes since childbirth impacts each woman differently.”
Know your own desire
It’s unrealistic to think your sex drive will remain constant. “The female libido is multi-faceted. It ebbs and flows throughout life in response to what’s going on around you.” Besides it can be hard to juggle your dual roles as mom and lover, says Kate. “You may feel like you’re parenting your partner.”
“Remember that although your relationship and lifestyle have changed, you’re still the same people you were when you fell in love. Allow yourself to stop being mom once baby is asleep and just be in the moment. The best way to get turned on is to switch off and focus purely on physical sensations. Foreplay and non-penetrative sex can naturally create desire and arousal.”
Plus you have a six-week window after birth to explore alternative ways to be intimate since penetrative sex isn’t recommended before your first check up.
Take your time
The less you focus on rushing into intercourse, the more creative you can be, and the more fun you can have. “If you’re feeling tense, your pelvic floor will tense too and make intimacy painful. Putting yourself under pressure to have sex will also create feelings of anxiety. The goal is to get close as a couple, to spend time together, sharing touch – anything after that is a work in progress.”
Each couple has their own pace and style, so don’t worry about what you think you “should” be doing. Besides, being intimate in a small way doesn’t take long. Love Honey’s recent Mind the Gap campaign revealed the average time that couples invest in foreplay and intercourse is only 19 minutes.
“Spend just a few minutes in bed or on the sofa. Turn off all technology, hold hands, talk and make eye contact. Be open about your feelings, since a partner may feel rejected if your sex life doesn’t resume straightaway.”
Find your love languages
Good sex comes from good communication. “Most couples experience problems when they misunderstand each other. This can be especially sensitive if the misunderstanding is about sex,” explains Kate. “I work with many couples who worry that their partner is no longer attracted to them, or that they can no longer please them. Yet there are many ways to show your partner they’re still loved and appreciated.”
“Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages talks about physical affection, quality time, acts of service, gifts, and words of affirmation.” You can experiment with all of them to create new opportunities to connect. This is especially helpful for women who mostly experience responsive desire to different things at different times – unlike men who mostly experience spontaneous desire. So a relaxed and open mind is at the core of a healthy sexual relationship post birth.
If, however, you feel that things really aren’t right mentally, physically or emotionally, or the after effects of birth are lingering longer than you’d like, talk to a medical professional or psychosexual therapist who can help rekindle your desire.