After having a baby, it’s very common for your sex life to take a back seat, at least for a little while. Here are some tips to help you resume old habits as quickly, painlessly and comfortably as possible.
After having a baby, it’s very common for your sex life to take a back seat, at least for a little while. In fact, NCT research shows a fifth of new dads (21%) experience less sex or intimacy with their partner after having a baby.
It should be no shock that as much as you’d both like to jump back between the sheets, the only thing you’re likely to be getting in bed is – at the very most – a few hours sleep.
Here are some tips to help you resume old habits as quickly, painlessly and comfortably as possible.
1. Getting the all clear
When your favourite footballer injures his knee, you don’t expect him to be on the field again until the trainer gives him the all clear do you? Well, your partner faces a similar situation after giving birth. After all that pushing, and in some cases stitches or surgery, your partner needs time to recover before resuming sex. NCT Head of Knowledge, Dr Sarah McMullen says many women wait until their six-week postnatal check before having sex again. “It is important to make sure that everything down there is healed before you start having sex again. Otherwise, you risk infection or pain and you might have to hold out even longer.”
2. Practice patience
Just because you have the green light to start having sex again doesn’t mean it will resume immediately. Emotionally, some women (and men!) are ready sooner and some will take a little longer. It is important to talk about how you feel, follow her lead and don’t pressure or make your partner feel guilty about not resuming your pre-baby sex life. Of course, empathy goes both ways. For mums, it’s important to find other ways to remind your partner just how important he is to you. Some men find it difficult to adjust to the baby being the centre of attention so a little special attention – whether it a nice/sexy text or ordering his favourite takeaway – can help remind him he is still desirable to you.
3. Understand your own libido
Believe it or not, new mums aren’t the only ones who may experience a drop in their libido when baby arrives. In many cases, men can experience a decreased sex drive due to exhaustion and stress – both emotions that go hand-in-hand with a new baby. In other cases, a lack of interest in sex can suggest something more serious such as postnatal depression (yes, guys can get this too). Sarah says: “If you continue to feel disinterested in sex, or feel low or anxious, try talking to your partner or a close friend about it. If this doesn’t help or you’re uncomfortable doing so, it may be time to see your GP. It can be hard to talk about these things, but seeking help early can make all the difference.”
4. Play it safe
Chances are adding to your brood is the last thing on your mind as you both navigate the joys and challenges of being new parents. Even if you and your partner aren’t quite ready to get back to doing the deed, your partner’s body can be fertile within 21 days after giving birth and before she even has her first period. There is also a common misconception that breastfeeding is a natural contraception. Sarah says chatting about contraceptive options before resuming sex is a good idea. “You might not have used contraception for quite a while, particularly if it took a little time to get pregnant. Different options might suit you now, and some need to have been in use for three or four weeks to be effective.”
5. Help her feel attractive
When a new mum feels anxious about her body, the last thing she probably feels like doing is being a sex kitten in the bedroom. For many new mums, her rounded belly that everyone thought was adorable has transformed into an unfamiliar post-baby figure which can take time to adjust to. Telling her she is beautiful – even if she is running on no sleep or is self-conscious about her post-baby body – may help to restore her sense of confidence. Sarah says, “For women, it can take time to adjust to the way their body has changed. Helping your partner to feel positive about their body can build their sexual confidence.”
6. Let’s talk about breasts
It’s likely you were well acquainted with your partner’s breasts before the baby came along. But if your partner is breastfeeding, you’ll need to get used to their dual purpose! Some breastfeeding women prefer not to have their breasts touched, but others are happy to and enjoy it. Take the time to talk to your partner about what she would prefer and explore what you feel comfortable with. Sarah also points out that breastfeeding could impact your sex life in a more unexpected way. “You might find that milk is released in response to the stimulation, which may take dads by surprise. The process of breastfeeding also changes the hormone balance of a woman’s body and can lead to vaginal dryness. Some water-soluble lube might be a necessary investment during this time.”
7. Life as a zombie
Your new baby has likely reduced both you and your partner to living life in a zombie-like state. While fatigue is not exactly the ideal state to be in to resurrect your sex life, it can also cause you to behave in all manner of weird and unpredictable ways. Sarah jokes, “There is a reason sleep deprivation is a torture method!” In other words, be prepared to cut yourself and your partner some slack. Being open to doing more around the house or accepting any and all offers of help from family and friends will also allow you both time to rest. After all, a rested parent is a sexy parent!
8. Keep the spice alive
Just because you or your partner temporarily lacks interest in or cannot partake in a little bedroom romp doesn’t mean the fun is completely off the table. As we know, there are plenty of definitions of sex and intimacy and these can be a fun way to ease back into the swing of things if discomfort or anxiety is a concern. Other things to try include kissing, cuddling, back-rubs, or foot massages – even simply stroking your partner’s hair can jump start the intimacy. Sarah says the hardest part is often simply setting aside time to do it. “Even taking 5 minutes a day to make time for each other will help keep your connection alive and make it a little easier to get back to having sex when you’re both ready.”
9. Missionary, doggy, cowgirl … oh my!
When you do get back in the sack, don’t be surprised if your partner starts requesting different positions, especially during your early foray into having sex. In many cases the physical and hormonal changes from pregnancy and after birth may prompt your partner to request different positions or alter her preferences entirely. Spending a bit more time on foreplay or positions that limit deep penetration may be preferable during the first couple of goes and can help ease you both back into the swing of things. While a change in sexual routine can be worrisome for some, it can offer a chance to re-explore the passion and fun you had early in your relationship.
10. Expect a stronger relationship
While your life won’t ever be the same as it once was, having a baby can actually make the connection you have with your partner better than before. NCT research has found that 44% of new dads felt they had a closer relationship with their partner after having a baby, and a further 19% felt they had a bond that couldn’t easily be broken. Sarah says, “The dynamics of a new family can mean there is less intimacy between mum and dad initially, but over time the relationship is often stronger than before.”
Helpful links to help you regain your sex life after childbirth:
This article also appeared in The Daily Mirror