The words postpartum depression and sex could basically be juxtaposted in a Sesame Street song: “Which of these things is not like the other? Which of these things is kinda the same? Can you guess which thing is not like the other?” In other words, if you are recovering from postpartum depression, more than likely sex is not even remotely on the brain.
If, however, you are not in the category of postpartum depression, but like some 80% of all childbearing women who experience the non-clinical “baby blues”, you will likely feel a tad overwhelmed, tired, emotional, and cranky for approximately two weeks after you have a baby. Probably sex is not on your mind during this time either. More than likely, if you are a first-time mom, you will be marveling and how your baby entered the world through your body and amazed at how you survived this incredible marathon called childbirth. If you had a C-section, you are recovering from major abdominal surgery. And if you delivered vaginally, well, you know how very tender things are down there, not to mention the milk factory in process.
So, essentially, I am preaching at the choir when it comes to discussing postpartum sex. Anyone who has had a baby knows how bone-achingly exhausting life is after a newborn enters the world. Sleep is usually what most new parents state is not only rare but also a gift from heaven after baby arrives.
This brief article is meant to validate new parents that all will be well in the sex department. As a therapist, I see many new parents who wonder when they will “get their groove back” and shudder at the thought of ongoing sleep deprivation, spit-up cloths, and dirty diapers. I want to reassure all those new parents out there that you will, indeed, get your groove back. It just takes a little creativity and planning.
I have compiled a list of tips for the new parent, as well as some books on postpartum sex that I found enjoyable and light-hearted, given the intensity of the transition to parenthood. I hope the following is helpful and validating:
Some Tips on Reclaiming Fireworks with Your Honey After Baby:
1. Have a sense of humor. Understand that everyone under the sun who has given birth can relate to dealing with a change in the frequency and intensity of intercourse after having a baby. That doesn’t mean your sex life is forever ruined. It just means, at least for the time being, you are going to have to be creative about scheduling it. Spontaneity will return as the kids get older.
2. Be patient with your body and mind. A woman’s body is in the state of recovery after giving birth, and it’s very tender for reasons you obviously know. Given the hormonal fluctuations associated with childbirth and breastfeeding, a woman will likely need lubrication. Be prepared.
3. Schedule date nights and when the time is right, a weekend-get-away for adults only. It’s imperative to keep the connection going with your spouse. You are the foundation of your new family, and that foundation needs strengthening through regular dates sans bebe.
4. Focus on intimacy v intercourse. Once the doctor has given the go-ahead (usually around the 6 week postpartum mark), make sure that you take the pressure off and focus on sensual connection (i.e. massage, bath/shower together, etc.) If it feels right, continue with intercourse. The key ingredient is intimacy (which can include intercourse, or not).
5. Take care of your environment before you indulge. Women’s largest sex organ is the brain. When the dishes are done and those dirty diapers are out in the trash, we’ve returned our calls and shut the Blackberry off, we relax more. It also helps if the grandparents can take the kid(s) for a few hours (or a day!).
6. Embrace the quickie. Be creative when the opportunity presents itself. Find ways to enjoy your sexual connection which may or may not include intercourse (and in interesting, unexpected places).
7. Self-care. Engaging in activities that are good for the mind and body are important, including exercise, good nutrition, sleep, and social supports. Make sure these elements are in place and do some of these activities with your spouse. In turn, as more energy and good health arises through self-care, sex is more likely to be on the mind.
8. Schedule it. I know that doesn’t sound very romantic, but when you have a young child(ren), sometimes it’s impossible to embark upon such adventures without putting it in the calendar. Make sure you have time allotted for intimacy (including arranging babysitter) so that you ensure it happens.
9. Don’t compare. It’s fruitless to compare yourself to the neighbors and their frequency of sex life. Most everyone who has a baby will have a drop in the libido department (especially women) after giving birth.
10. Have hope. Your sex life will resume after having a baby. It may be a gradual process, but it is also an opportunity for creativity and connectedness with your spouse. Make tending to the intimacy in your relationship a priority.
- Great Sex for Moms: Ten Steps to Nurturing Passion While Raising Kids, by Valerie Davis Raskin, MD
- Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships by David Schnarch
- The Girlfriend’s Guide to Getting Your Groove Back by Vicky Iovine
- Love in the Time of Colic: The New Parents’ Guide to Getting It On Again by Ian Kerner and Heidi Raykeil
- Confessions of a Naughty Mommy by Heidi Raykeil
© Copyright 2011 by Andrea Schneider, LCSW. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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