A Change is Gonna Come: The Truth About Postpartum Intimacy

Ask any new parent if their sex life has changed postpartum. If they answer with a quick and cool “no, why?” they are lying to your face. Or at least hiding something. Because babies. Change. Everything.

I’m a reproductive social worker, doula, childbirth educator and mom, so I’m gonna tell it like it is:         it’s not uncommon for new parents to struggle sexually, at least for a little while. Why?

  • Adjustment to parenthood is epic in just about every way.
  • Physical recovery from birth is paramount and must be respected. The time it takes for a new mom to feel like herself again is dependent upon many variables, and intimacy can only happen when she is ready. Intercourse is commonly off limits until after a woman’s 6-week follow-up visit with her care provider (because it usually takes that long for the uterus to return to it’s pre-pregnancy size).
  • Perinatal discomfort is not uncommon (Jen’s Tip O’ The Day – see a pelvic floor specialist, your new best friend who can treat a variety of postpartum issues).
  • Women who breastfeed might encounter a decrease in libido.
  • 1 in 7 new mothers experience a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (which can be anything from the Baby Blues to a more serious experience with depression or anxiety – see Postpartum Support International for more information and support. Partners can struggle emotionally as well.
  • Hormonal levels drop more dramatically after birth than at any other time in a woman’s life and can manifest emotionally and physiologically.
  • ALL parents – whether biological or adoptive or those who employed assisted reproductive technology – will be challenged by copious amounts of unrelenting exhaustion.

No matter how you slice it, any new parent might say to their initiating partner, “sex? Now? You’ve got to be kidding”.

Before you swear off the whole baby thing, I write with tidings of relief. Having a little one can change your sex life for the better once you get your bearings. For instance, when you’re ready, change might translate to creative thinking, as in “let’s do it on the kitchen table ‘cause that’s hot (and we won’t wake the baby who’s asleep in another room)” or it could mean that you work The Quickie back in to the repertoire or maybe you’ll be inspired to buy some toys that are just meant for the grown-ups! If you’re lucky and have trusted family members with whom you can leave the little one, change of scenery can be one of the best changes of all.

Of course, all of the above will require some planning, and even when you do plan, babies don’t always cooperate. Just when you think you’ve nailed down their nap specs – BAM! HA! No sex for you!

So, just as in every other aspect of parenting, flexibility is key. Take things slowly, use lots of lube, manage expectations, and find your way.

Treating any sexual health issue requires trusted clinical guidance, self-compassion and patience. If you are facing fatigue, lack of arousal, stress, pelvic health concerns or communication problems with your partner after birth, don’t sweep it under the rug (because you’re not gonna have much time to sweep up much of anything). Reach out for help. At Maze, we can help you get back on track when you are ready both physically and emotionally. After all, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy your new addition AND a satisfying sex life! Contact us and see how we can help.

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