Trying to rekindle your sex life following the birth of a baby can be a real challenge for many couples.
The life (and body) changing experience of a new baby turns everyone’s world upside down, and sometimes sex drives can flatline.
In those first few weeks when your body is healing from the birth experience, anything sexual is likely to be off the table.
However, what do you do when you’ve reached the point where you could have sex again, but you have zero interest in doing so?
Let’s explore this complex territory together.
What we’ll be looking into:
- The hormonal impact of childbirth on your sex drive
- Exhaustion and low libido
- Dealing with negativity about your body
- Fears over penetration
- Finding ways to reconnect as part of a couple
What are you dealing with?
There are many different reasons why you’re not throwing on your finest lingerie and dimming the lights to set the mood after having a baby.
Not only do you have a tiny human depending on you for their every need, but you are probably exhausted, feeling physically rubbish, and on a hormonal rollercoaster.
The Hormonal Rollercoaster
There’s no rule that says when you should start having sex again, so you shouldn’t feel the pressure to conform to anybody else’s timeline.
However, if you are worried about your lack of libido and want to explore how to change things, we’re here to help.
Problem #1: My hormones are all over the place
We hear you! There’s nothing like plummeting oestrogen, sky-rocketing oxytocin and a flood of breast milk stimulator prolactin to send you spiralling.
Oestrogen takes a hit from both the post-birth situation and an abundance of prolactin, leaving your libido lacking, your vagina dry and no sign of natural lubrication.
Plus, all that ‘cuddle hormone’ oxytocin means your instinctive priority is to hold your baby close, not your partner.
These are not the ideal circumstances in which to get it on.
What the experts say:
When contending with hormonal mayhem, the experts advise taking it slowly when it comes to getting back in a sexual mood.
Gynaecologist Sarah Welsh, who co-founded sexual wellness brand Hanx, says, “If the thought of full-on penetrative sex is a bit intimidating, start with cuddles, kisses, soft touch, back scratches and just being close.
“These are all things that create intimacy and can slowly build up to sex when you’re both ready.”
Problem #2: I’m tired beyond belief
Dealing with a newborn baby takes you to a whole new level of exhaustion, and knackered people do not feel frisky.
Instead, the sweet relief of uninterrupted time is usually dedicated to sleep so you can function in the zillion hours you have to be awake and catering to a small person’s every need.
When you are at that level of tiredness, it’s no wonder that sex is the last thing on your mind. So, how do you overcome such a big obstacle?
What the experts say:
This is where your partner needs to truly show up as a co-parent and give you space to rest and rejuvenate.
Kalmbach et al. found that extra sleep meant better genital response – even just one-hour of extra sleep increases the likelihood of having sex by 14%. It’s important to note that this study did not focus exclusively on new mothers.
Make sure that you are getting as much sleep as you are able while your co-parent takes over childcare duties and see what the impact is on your sex drive.
Problem #3: I don’t like my body after childbirth
Your body has done an incredible thing – it’s given life to another human being.
But pregnancy and birth often change your shape, and the psychological impact of that can be really difficult to contend with.
It’s hard to feel confident, sexy and up for it when you are dealing with unhappiness about your post-partum body whilst it’s recovering.
Whilst there’s no exhaustive list about why you may feel uncomfortable or unhappy with your body, you may feel this way due to some of the following:
- Loss or change of muscle tone and volume
- Pelvic floor weakening and issues with your urinary system
- Feeling like your organs have moved around during pregnancy
- Body sensitivity as a result of pregnancy-dependent operations
- Breastfeeding leading to fluctuations in breast size, soreness, asymmetry, leaking, loss of sensation in the nipples
- Unsureness on your body’s purpose post pregnancy
Whilst you may be able to partake in most of your usual activities after 6-8 weeks, full physical recovery or the resumption of normality can take much longer. This varies from person to person.
So, how can you overcome those challenges and get yourself in the headspace for passion?
What the experts say:
Experts suggest that you should explore your new body alone to get a feel for what works for you now.
Your body may not hurry back to normality, and you may have to find a ‘new normal’, but you can gain confidence and perhaps reduce physical vulnerabilities by spending time on self-pleasure in a safe, pressure-free environment.
Psychotherapist Vanessa Marin, who wrote the book ‘Sex Talks’ with her husband Zander, believes that masturbation can pave the way to better sex with your partner.
Vanessa says, “It’s the single best way to reconnect with your body, increase your confidence, and discover what works for you.
“A lot of people are shocked by how different sex feels physically [after giving birth]. What you used to like pre-pregnancy may not currently feel good for you.
“Explore different masturbation techniques on your own to get a sense of what your body responds to best.”
Problem #4: I’m scared of penetration
Whether you’ve delivered your baby vaginally or had a caesarean section, sex can be painful after you’ve given birth.
The idea of having penetrative sex might leave you full of anxiety because you are scared of getting hurt during the act.
It’s essential to discuss those fears with your partner so they understand how patient and gentle they’ll need to be if you are going to resume a sexual relationship.
This is a situation to approach with care.
What the experts say:
It’s important to get into a state of relaxation where you feel safe and supported by your partner.
Spend time being intimate without the expectation of penetrative sex – try massage, kissing, touching, and relaxing together.
Dr Sonia Bahlani, who treats patients who experience pelvic pain, advocates for plenty of foreplay and lubrication when the time comes to try penetration.
Dr Bahlani says: “Foreplay is no longer a nice-to-have — it’s a necessity!
“Between dryness and a slower arousal response, your postpartum body needs a little more time to ramp up before penetration.
“Talk to your partner and get clear on what you need to feel primed for sex. Since hormones can get in the way of your natural vaginal lubrication, using personal lubricants can help reduce pain during postpartum sex.”
Post-pregnancy, many feel fear with regards to resuming a penetrative sexual relationship. Specialist physio can help with this, but counselling and psychological therapies have been shown to be most effective when it comes to reducing physical pain during this time.
Problem #5: I feel resentful towards my partner
If you are the one who grew a baby inside you, gave birth, and may now be breastfeeding, it’s pretty normal to feel like you are doing the lion’s share of the child-rearing.
You could begin to store up some resentment toward your co-parent that you’ve had to go through things they haven’t.
When you feel those emotions, it can be tricky to switch them off and feel desire for that same person.
Communication can help you to work through this as a couple.
What the experts say:
Successful co-parenting requires excellent communication, but we can all be guilty of expecting our partners to be mind-readers.
Instead, it’s vital to talk about your expectations of your partner at home, ask for the help you need, and invite them to do the same.
Psychologist Dr Kristine Goto advocates for daily communication that involves active listening from both parties and vocalising gratitude for each other’s efforts.
Dr Goto says, “Take the time to check in and talk about your day and reconnect with one another.”
“It’s a big act of love to accept and listen to your partner. Really listen and don’t try to minimise their feelings.
“We have to reinforce positive actions and not punish one another. Something as simple as thanking your partner for doing something or letting them know you appreciate that they were OK when you forgot to do something can bring you closer to one another.”
Don’t stay silent – ask for the help you need
Please never be afraid to speak up about the problems you are facing and ask for help when you need it.
If it feels too difficult to speak to your partner or loved ones, seek advice from a health professional and don’t suffer in silence.
Everybody’s journey through early parenthood is different, so try not to compare yourself to others.
You’ll find your own way in your own time.
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