After my last baby was born sex became less interesting to me. I thought it would soon go away but five, six, eight months had passed and the very thought of sex actually disgusted me. Breastfeeding all day, running after kids, working and everything else left me wanting nothing but my bed at night. It was painful in the physical sense and it was also painful emotionally, explaining to my husband that I loved him and found him attractive but I had no desire for intercourse. Though, I never denied my husband, it was obvious to him that I was not there. I just could not come to enjoy the experience. Thank God for an understanding husband–thank God that that season has passed. – Mom of 4
Finding intimacy with your partner after having a baby is a difficulty most new parents face. Many moms report that they have zero interest in sex at all. Even if the doctor has given you the “green light” to go ahead, the situation may not be ideal to create a sexually intimate environment again. Babies bring so many changes to a family that alter the relationship you once had, even if it isn’t your first baby. According to Ann Herreboudt, a London postnatal counselor, about 40% of the first-time mothers she sees have no sexual relations with their husbands for up to two years. Let’s review some of the reasons moms may have a lack of interest in sex.
The biggest change new parents see is the sheer and utter exhaustion that comes with caring for a newborn. Parenting is a new level of exhaustion most people have never felt before. No number of all-nighters in college can prepare you for what it feels like to care for a newborn. The exhaustion alone is enough to kill any spark of intimacy you may have, even if you don’t mean for it to happen.
The exhaustion that comes from becoming a parent, whether it is your first child or not, is not a long-lasting exhaustion. Even if that toddler comes creeping into your room at 3 years old, they don’t need you like they did in those first few months. You will be tired, but you won’t be I-need-an-IV-full-of-adrenaline tired. This exhaustion will pass as your baby grows. It may feel like you will never sleep again, but you will. It is okay, and almost vital, to put sleep before sex during this stage. Even if you get 20 minutes of rest every five hours for weeks, it is okay to momentarily pause your sex life, so you can sleep and, therefore, function. This phase will pass, and you will once again enjoy sleep – and sex – the way you did before.
Back to Work
Once you return to work, the levels of exhaustion may increase as you learn to balance work and home life. Dealing with deadlines, coworkers and bosses and then coming home to dishes and a crying baby can be a challenge. Work from home moms may feel the same levels of exhaustion, balancing work life and life as a new mom all at the same time. Stress, stress and more stress does nothing for a healthy sex life. It’s important to ask for help when you need it and avoid taking on more than you can handle. The dishes can wait!
Even if your baby sleeps well through the night from a very young age and is on a beautiful schedule, there are many other things that can cause a lack of intimacy. Postpartum changes cause hormones to fluctuate like they never have. This fluctuation can stall one’s libido causing your desire for sex to diminish. Thankfully, this fluctuation does not last forever. After some time, hormones will go back to normal and a sex drive returns. How long this takes depends on the woman and her body. Some go back quickly while it can take months for others to feel normal again. The key here is to remember that it took nine months to make the baby, your body is not going to immediately return to where it was, hormones included.
Approximately, one in seven mothers experience postpartum depression (PPD) can affect their entire way of life. When PPD hits, which can happen days or even months after giving birth, it can change your whole world. If left untreated, PPD can last for months with the possibility of becoming dangerous to both you and your child(ren). Outside of hurting intimacy between you and your partner, it is important to take care of your mental health after having a baby. If you ever feel you are reaching a point beyond “baby blues” immediately call your doctor and schedule an appointment. There is no shame is having PPD and your health is necessary to your child’s life. It is like flying on a plane and being told to put your oxygen mask on first because if you pass out, you can’t help anyone. If you are suffering from PPD, it is vital to take care of yourself first so that you can take care of your little one.
Not surprisingly, PPD creates a barrier that prevents sufferers from enjoying much of their life. This extends to your sex life, too. It is vital to care for your newborn, but it is also vital to care for your marriage. You cannot be there as a partner if you are not there for yourself. The good news is that there are plenty of treatment options – not all include medication if you are exclusively breast feeding or do not wish to take medication – and you can return to being who you are without the weight of depression following you around.
Some women experience vaginal pain during sex after giving birth. This pain may be the result of a vaginal or perineal tear during delivery, making sex painful. The pain leads to a lack of desire for sex. Who wants to be in pain? Healing can vary from woman to woman but if the pain continues months and months after delivery, it is important to reach out to an OBGYN.
After you’ve gone through pregnancy and delivery, breastfeeding begins. Not all mothers can breastfeed and some mothers choose not to breastfeed. Those who do breastfeed understand that it is not a walk in the park. Breastfeeding is hard and can be draining. A new mother can feel like the baby is constantly latched on. This may create a huge rift in your intimacy level with your spouse. Remind yourself that a baby will not breastfeed forever. How long you choose to breastfeed is your decision, but the amount of time you spend breastfeeding will wane as the baby gets older and especially after your child begins the adventure of solid foods.
Remember that it took nine months to make the baby, your body is not going to immediately return to where it was.
Many things that cause a lack of intimacy in a relationship after a baby are momentary. Though it may feel like forever, the time is shorter than you could ever imagine. The saying is that the days are long, but the years are short. In the moment, it may feel like an eternity, but then you blink, and those days of hardship and exhaustion are over. While you are in the moment and your sex life is all but non-existent, communicate with your spouse. The key is to understand each other through the difficulties of navigating parenthood. Do not allow the stress to create resentment. Do not let the challenge of parenthood lead your marriage to a bad place.
Although sex may not be possible between exhaustion, hormonal imbalances, and breastfeeding, intimacy itself is not completely gone. Take time for one another. Not everyone can hire a babysitter, but everyone can take a moment while the baby is sleeping (even if it is just 10-20 minutes) to be alone together. Discuss the day like you did before the baby came along. Whip out a board game! Sometimes you just need to play a fun game to step away from the stresses of parenthood. If you have older children, after their bedtime is probably best, but still carve out that little bit of time. Watching a 30-minute TV show together while eating popcorn or candy can refuel the relationship.
Intimacy is not always sex. The sex life will restart later when the baby is older and life changes, but intimacy can always be present.
New parents need to remember to put each other first. Babies are demanding, and life will change in a way you cannot understand until it happens. You and your spouse need to remind each other that you will still be a team long after the children are grown and leave the house. Purposefully create time for each other and remain close throughout all the challenges of parenthood and when you become empty nesters, your life together will begin in a whole new way.
Remember: this too shall pass.