Being a new parent is full of opposites. You look at your beautiful baby sleeping in their crib and you wouldn’t want to change a thing only to then wish that there was an “off button” when it’s 3 AM, they’re crying again, and you haven’t gotten a wink of sleep yet.
Life as a new parent is often exhausting and, for many, being sexually intimate with your partner is the last thing on your mind. But, there comes a time when you and your partner are looking to rekindle that spark. Unfortunately, in reality, there is usually a period between one of you being ready for the proverbial “roll in the hay” and both of you being ready.
In this article, we are going to address some of the most common struggles new parents have with re-igniting sexual intimacy in their relationship as well as a few tips for coping with these struggles — especially if you are ready for sexual intimacy and your partner is not (or vice versa).
Everyone handles being a new parent differently and will need a different amount of recovery time before wanting to engage in sexual intimacy, especially mothers who have just given birth.
After a woman’s body has recovered from giving birth, many healthcare providers will OK re-engaging in sexual intimacy. But just because you have been cleared by a healthcare professional to begin sexual intimacy doesn’t automatically mean that you or your partner is ready for it.
Here, we are going to talk about some of the most common struggles that many new parents face when they are beginning to re-engage in sexual intimacy.
Giving birth is treated as trauma by many healthcare professionals. It is only natural that post-birth mothers will need to give their bodies time to heal before engaging in sexual intimacy. This healing period will vary from woman to woman but is usually around 6 weeks.
While some partners may be ready to begin sexual intimacy once they get the OK from a doctor, it is extremely common for a woman who has given birth to experience pain when engaging in sexual intercourse. In fact, nearly 9 out of 10 women experience pain the first time they have sexual intercourse after delivery — regardless of how long they wait to begin sexual intimacy after childbirth.
Oftentimes this pain is often due to the vaginal dryness, thin vaginal tissue, and loss of elasticity in vaginal tissue that follows childbirth.
Another incredibly common struggle many new parents face when thinking about engaging in sexual intimacy is simply nerves. Rekindling that spark for sexual intimacy can be incredibly intimidating — especially if you are worried about pain or body changes that may affect you and your partner’s enjoyment of sexual intimacy.
Stress is another common struggle for many new parents. You’re spending most of your time caring for a newborn — making sure they are safe, fed, and happy — and most likely not getting enough sleep.
On top of that, many jobs do not offer long enough maternity or paternity leave for new parents to spend the time caring for their child — which, you guessed it, adds to the stress load. Who are we going to get to watch the baby when we go back to work? How much is daycare? These questions rolling around in your head can oftentimes negatively impact your sex drive.
The only universal for new parents is that babies are exhausting. It is no surprise that many new parents find themselves having a much lower sex drive due to sheer fatigue. Many parents of newborns aren’t getting nearly enough sleep and are devoting the majority of their waking hours to caring for their baby.
With some new moms, this general exhaustion can even turn into what is called postpartum fatigue which does nothing good for your desire to become intimate with your partner again.
Discomfort with Body Changes
Contrary to what social media tells us, your body is bound to look different after having a baby. Whether that means loose skin, stretch marks, excess weight, or anything else, these are natural results of childbirth.
Many women can feel less attractive or desirable once they’ve delivered their baby and not feel comfortable with their partners seeing or touching them intimately. Additionally, women who are breastfeeding can often have very sensitive breasts and can feel uncomfortable with their partners touching them altogether.
Decreased Sex Drive
The decrease in sexual intimacy post-delivery can actually be linked to the dramatic change in hormones mothers go through during pregnancy and delivery. When a woman is pregnant, she has a much higher level of estrogen and progesterone (which are both essential for your baby’s health) which increase her sex drive.
Once you have given birth, the level of these hormones dramatically decreases and goes back down to your pre-pregnancy levels. You may notice less of a sex drive while breastfeeding as well because estrogen levels are very low while a woman is breastfeeding.
Needing More Emotional Reassurance
The last common struggle we will mention here is the need for additional emotional reassurance before engaging in sexual activities. There can be many reasons for this struggle — maybe you are nervous about the pain or you are worried that your partner won’t enjoy being intimate with you, or maybe you simply need to hear your partner reassure you that they still love you even if your body looks different.
Regardless of the reason, many new parents find themselves needing an extra sign of emotional reassurance before they are ready to get back on board with resuming sexual intimacy.
Tips for Coping with These Struggles
There are so many reasons why your partner and yourself may be struggling to begin sexual intimacy after adding a newborn into your lives. Whether you are facing one of the common struggles mentioned above or something else entirely, there are a few ways that you and your partner can work through this together.
Arguably the most important thing for any successful relationship, open communication is essential to navigating sexual intimacy post-childbirth. Have an open and honest conversation with your partner about what you are feeling and make decisions about how to go about re-engaging sexual intimacy together.
Maybe you are ready for sexual intimacy but your partner is not or maybe you and your partner are both ready and you need to discuss using lubricant, going slowly, noting what feels good and what hurts, or trying different positions. No matter what part of sexual intimacy you and your partner are navigating, make sure that you are doing it together — and openly.
Supporting Your Partner
It may be that your partner just isn’t ready for sexual intimacy yet or maybe they are but you aren’t. There is nothing wrong with that, everyone has to go through their own recovery period after adding a baby into the family. Whether supporting your partner means giving them the time and space to determine when they are ready or having open conversations with them and checking in, it is essential to support your partner.
Maybe you are both ready for sexual intimacy again and supporting your partner looks like longer foreplay or allowing them to control the speed and position, maybe it looks like just sticking with foreplay for a while. Just remember that being sexually intimate with your partner is something that is for both of you. Both of you need to support each other while you are re-navigating what level of sexual intimacy you are ready for.
Another incredibly helpful resource to use while you and your partner are navigating sexual intimacy after having a baby is couples or sex therapy. Both are great options to strengthen the bond between yourself and your partner as well as facilitate a safe space for open communication and support as you both navigate rekindling your sexual intimacy.
Just because the decision of when to begin being sexually intimate with your partner is ultimately between the two of you does not mean that you need to approach it alone. We offer both couples therapy and sex therapy and we are here to provide any support you need. If you are unsure how to navigate sexual intimacy after your baby or you simply want a supportive and safe place to have that discussion with your partner, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow.