Sex After Baby: Will I Ever Be In The Mood Again?
First published in Parents and the City
Olivia Bergeron, LCSW
I see many new moms in my therapy practice here in New York City. From the Verrazano to the Whitestone, what do they all have in common? Pretty much without exception, for new moms sex takes a backseat. Between the almost hourly feedings and the turmoil of adjusting to a new role as parents, who has time for a shower, let alone lovemaking? If you add the baby blues, or even postpartum depression (PPD) into the mix, sex can drop down a notch below scrubbing out the garbage cans on a new mom’s priority list.
Of course, many women who aren’t depressed also experience a nosedive in desire following birth. While I don’t believe that New Yorkers are any different from women around the country in this regard, I suspect that this sudden bottoming out of our sex drive hits women here pretty hard. We are used to being in control, at the top of our game, sexy and sexual and now…fuggedaboudit. Lack of libido combined with the physical and hormonal changes that having a baby brings, can bring even the most active pre-baby sex lives to a screeching halt. Leaking breasts, excess weight and spit-up do not make for a very sexy feeling mama.
Incidentally, one of the most common symptoms of depression is decreased sex drive. So if your sex drive has plummeted, take some time to consider whether you might also be facing PPD. One in seven new mothers experience postpartum depression and one in five experience emotional difficulties beyond the baby blues. So if you are in this boat, please know that you are not alone and help is available in the form of support groups, therapy and even medication, if necessary.
Whether or not depression is playing a role in the lack of libido, the physical and life changes involved in having a baby can be incredibly isolating. Partners often report “missing” each other and their former sex lives. Sex can create intimacy and boost mood: great benefits for all involved. For women with a young child, lovemaking—the whole gamut from nonsexual touching to sex—can provide a welcome bridge back to their partners.
So how do you jump start romance when on a desirability scale of one to ten, you feel minus five? Here are seven tips to fan the flames and get your sex life back on track:
1. Have patience with each other. If you’ve been avoiding sex or just haven’t felt like it for a few weeks or even months, give yourself time following the birth of your child to get back to a semblance of normalcy. In the meantime…
2. Keep up the non-sexual touching. We all need to be touched and held. Touch can convey warmth and intimacy even if we don’t feel up to having sex.
3. Let each other know you find one another desirable. Telling your partner that you find them sexy and attractive (despite the spit up stains) can boost self confidence and provide reassurance that you haven’t forgotten each other.
4. Slow down. It may take more time and effort now to get into a frame a mind where you are able to tune out thoughts about baby and tune into your own sexual desires. Take the time to turn each other on.
5. Romance each other. Nothing sets the mood like a thoughtful gesture, a sexy text message or the old standby, wine and roses. We all need to be wooed, especially during this period of transition.
6. Listen. Physical changes after birth may bring about differences in sexual needs and wants. Speak up about your needs and listen to your partner’s.
7. Be “selfish.” Date nights may seem a distant memory, but taking couple time is essential to being good parents. Carve out time here and there to get away, talk and reconnect.
8. Get help. If it seems like nothing is working and you are concerned about rekindling your libido, seek out a qualified therapist to help work through your feelings.
Each couple is different and there is no magic formula that will work for all. However, maintaining honest communication and making time for intimacy can go a long way towards reestablishing a fulfilling love life as new parents.