Having a new baby in your life is exciting. Tons of change, little sleep, a dose of anxiety, and poop…lots of poop.
About six weeks after the baby comes, your doctor typically tells you that it’s okay to go back to your normal sexual activity. However, while it may be safe to have intercourse, it may be the last thing on your mind. And when you do have intercourse, it may not initially feel like it once did. Over 90% of women say they have some sexual issue during the first year after having a baby. That may seem like bad news but there’s also good news: these issues are normal and usually go away with time.
Low sex drive and discomfort are the most common sexual problems after having a baby.
Low sex drive is normally caused by exhaustion, hormone shifts, anxiety, and the changes in your relationship with your partner. Since taking care of a newborn is so tiring, you may find it difficult to muster the energy to feel romantic. It’s also challenging to flip the mental switch from “mommy mode” to feeling sexual with your partner. It can be difficult to relax enough to feel sexual when you’re dealing with all the worries of being a new mom. Your sex drive may return to normal once you’ve begun getting more sleep and adjusted to your larger family.
As if the lack of sleep and general feeling of being overwhelmed weren’t enough to prevent some women from being in “the mood,” those who breastfeed have a few more reasons for lower sex drive. Levels of the hormone prolactin are higher when breastfeeding. Prolactin’s job? To lower a woman’s interest in sex. This hormone is nature’s handy way of trying to prevent a new pregnancy when there’s still an infant to care for. Also, women who breastfeed may not want to have their breasts touched during intimate moments. It’s hard to think of a body part as sexual when it has been used for feeding just moments before.
Some women tell me that their overall sexual desire never returns to what it was before they had children. I tell them: That’s because your life is different now: your attention is on multiple people, you have more complicated priorities, and you’re older. You can still have passion, good sex, and intimacy but you may have to adjust your expectations as to how often it can occur and how spontaneous it is. And since it takes two to have sex, your partner needs to keep their expectations “in check” too.
Keep in mind that if you don’t desire sex at all and it’s been a year since you’ve had a baby, you may want to speak to a therapist or physician as there may be something psychological or medical going on.
That brings us to post-baby sexual discomfort.
You know how when you fly on a commercial airplane and the flight attendant tells you to be careful when opening the overhead bins as items may have shifted during the landing? The same thing can be said for your nether regions after going through pregnancy and childbirth (vaginal or cesarean section). These physical changes may make intercourse challenging at first. Some women report feeling pain, some say they feel mildly uncomfortable, and others say they notice no change. If you’re determined to make it work when it seems difficult, I have three words for you: lube, lube, lube.
While most pain goes away after the first few attempts at intercourse, if it doesn’t or you consider the pain significant, go see your doctor.
While this all may sound daunting and scary, it’s all incredibly normal. Even with a beautiful baby, it is common for mothers of newborns to feel alone during moments of insecurity. During this time, it is important that you use your support system (family, friends, counselor) to discuss your concerns, sexual or otherwise. Sometimes simply putting your worries into words can make you feel better.
About the Author
Noelle Pomeroy, PhD, LMHC is a Clinical Sexologist and Licensed Mental Health Counselor. She owns Jacksonville Center for Sexual Health located in Julington Creek area and Ponte Vedra Beach. Dr. Pomeroy lives in Mandarin with her husband and two daughters.
Thank you to Jacksonville Center for Sexual Health for sponsoring this post.