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Love, Sex, and Romance: Is There Hope After the Baby?
Reason for Diminished Desire
- Stress and physical exhaustion —Sleepless nights, a newborn's demanding schedule, dirty diapers, sore nipples from breast-feeding, and the anxiety that comes with this fragile new life all compete with the energy you were previously able to contribute to building an intimate relationship with each other.
- Changing hormones —The significant drop of estrogen and progesterone after childbirth can cause postpartum depression or postpartum blues, which can interfere with your sex drive. Although this varies with each individual, feeling down after childbirth can last between a few days to much longer. Some women are more sensitive to hormonal changes than others.
- Physical discomfort —Unfortunately, the pain from childbirth does not end as soon as the baby is born. In addition to the physical pain it took to get your baby into the world, you will experience physical discomfort as your body works to repair the damage that occurred during the birthing process. An incision from an episiotomy or cesarean birth, hemorrhoids, engorged breasts, and a tender vagina are just a few of the pains that may be intensified during intercourse.
- Lack of privacy —When you are used to making love in your home—whenever and wherever the desire strikes, it may be difficult to resume the same spontaneity in the company of the baby. Even though you know the baby is oblivious and unaffected by your sexual activity, it can stifle the mood.
- Breastfeeding —Some studies show that nursing women regain their sexual desire earlier, while other studies show that their sexual desire decreases during the time they are breastfeeding. Why the contradiction? Some women indicate that breastfeeding satisfies their sexual need, therefore they are less interested in having their desires filled by their husbands. Sometimes breast leaking during foreplay can be embarrassing and reduce the desire for intimacy.
How to Bring Back the Love, Sex, and Romance
- Take your time —Most doctors suggest waiting 4-6 weeks, giving the body an opportunity to recover from the birth and the hormones time to return to their normal state. Rushing into intercourse before the tissue has had time to heal can result in pain and bleeding.
- Relax —The more you worry about the lack of intimacy, the more difficult it will be to regain it.
- Lubricate —The vaginal area may be dry during the postpartum period due to the altered hormone levels. You can use lubricating vaginal creams until the natural secretions return.
- Exercise — Kegel exercises involve tensing the muscles around the vagina and anus, holding for several seconds, then releasing. The repetition of this exercise will help to tone pelvic muscles, which are associated with vaginal sensations. Kegels can benefit both you and your sex life.
- Express love in other ways —Be creative. There are many ways to express love other than intercourse. Back rubs, cuddling, caressing, and holding hands can be a wonderful way to keep the passion alive. Intimacy without intercourse is often used as an exercise to improve a couple's sex life. Take advantage of this opportunity!
- Vary your position —This is a great opportunity to find new methods of lovemaking. Experiment to find what positions work best for you. Many women find that the side-to-side position or being on top is most comfortable. It allows them more control over the degree of penetration. This is especially helpful when the perineum is still sore.
- Make a date with your spouse —You may have come to a time in your life when you revert back to dating. Anticipating a date with your husband can be as exciting as the spontaneous romance you once enjoyed. Mark a time on your calendars (even if it is just for an hour or two) when you will hire a babysitter so that you and your husband can spend time alone. You will probably think and talk about the baby most of the time you are away, but being alone together reminds you that there is another important person in your life.
- Communicate —Good communication is a key factor in any healthy relationship, and especially throughout parenthood. Hopefully, open and honest communication patterns have been established prior to the baby's arrival. This will make it easier to communicate your frustrations, expectations, and desires.
- Do not resent and/or blame the child —Accept the fact that babies pose a challenge to a romantic relationship. They also bring a tremendous amount of joy, meaning, and humor to your relationship. Work together as a family to make the most of the blessing you have been given.
- Do not assume separate lives —Your roles as a couple now must expand to roles as parents. The new roles should not exclude the responsibilities you have to each other as a couple. It is important that you continue to nurture each other as well as nurture your new baby.
American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org
Womenshealth.gov—Office on Women's Health http://www.womenshealth.gov
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada http://www.sogc.org
Women's Health Matters http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca
Abdool Z, Thakar R, Sultan, AH. Postpartum female sexual function. Fur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2009 Aug;145(2):133-7.
Leeman L, Rogers R. Sex after childbirth: postpartum sexual function. Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Mar;119(3):647-55.
Postpartum period. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 18, 2014. Accessed July 14, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 07/2014
- Update Date: 07/14/2014