Tag Archives: sex after childbirth

Q&A with J: Baby’s Here, But Sex? Not So Much.

Without a doubt, the time in our marriage I least felt like having sex was after my babies were born. You might think since they’re now teenagers, I’ve forgotten what that’s like, but I clearly recall the total lack of interest I had in being touched by another human being, much less fondled and sexed up in the marriage bed.

Looking back, I wish I’d handled it all so much better. Frankly, I’ve apologized to the hubster (and made up for it!), but I also learned a few things I can share with the reader who asks this question:

I am writing because I just had my first baby!! She’s wonderful and a great addition to our lives!!!  However, as I figured, things have changed in my anatomy. I don’t feel like myself physically or emotionally! We had sex for the first time at 6 weeks postpartum and it was awful! My husband was very sweet and kind about it!  He was very loving and gentle. What can I do about my brain and emotions to want to be intimate with him again? I just am looking for any advice I can find for sex after a baby! I am praying through this, but am looking for practical advice as well! Thanks!

Q&A with J Baby's Here, But Sex Not So Much.

My favorite line from this query is “I don’t feel like myself physically or emotionally!” Amen, sister. Pregnancy and childbirth take over your body like nothing else and change you. I’ve had lasting consequences from that experience, like a heightened sense of smell and new allergies. Go figure.

I’m not sure an alien abduction could rival the life-changing experience of hosting a tiny human being in your body and then pushing it out into the world. Then, while your body is still in full recovery mode, you’re supposed to figure out how to care for this baby. Welcome to Crash Course Parenting!

Now add your need to return to sexy wife status, and the pressure can feel insurmountable. Someone, send this lady on vacation, please!

But you’re not alone, and others have successfully tread the waters before. Or at least learned important lessons they can share from not doing it so fabulously.

Get a physical check-up. If sex continues to feel “awful,” there could be a physical reason for your discomfort. Tell your doctor what’s going on. Be honest, specific, and persistent. Your hormones could be so thrown off you’re not producing enough estrogen to lubricate and swell down there. You could have an infection. You could be slow to heal from tearing. Make sure your doctor does a physical examination of your body to see if something might be triggering your problems. If pain continues, check out my post on pain during sex.

Give yourself time. Most doctors prescribe 4-6 weeks to recover from childbirth before attempting intercourse. But honestly, the recommendation is built on averages. Some women can engage after 2-3 weeks, others need 8-10 weeks. Just know your particular situation may vary from the standard, and that’s okay. It’s an individual couple’s decision when to get back to making love. You definitely want to aim for it, but not push so hard that you dread the encounter.

And since I know I have hubbies reading: Listen up, guys. Want to make me madder than a plucked hen? Tell me your wife should give birth one day and meet your sexual needs within a week. Seriously? Have you ever gone through childbirth? No, you have not. It’s a beautiful experience, but it also wreaks havoc with a woman’s body. Rather than demanding sex on your terms, please dig deep for compassion and grace and help her through a difficult transition. Honestly, she’s more likely to want to make love to you if you’re helpful, understanding, and loving to her in this season. That’s how you’re supposed to treat your wife anyway. (Really. Look it up.)

Appreciate your body. Plenty of new moms do not feel great about presenting their naked bodies to hubby. However you felt about that big bulge in your belly during pregnancy, now that baby’s gone, it can look like a sagging sack. It takes a while for everything to get back where it belongs. If you’re nursing, you have the added awkwardness of leaking at inopportune times. Oops, sorry about that, hubs. Many moms have absolutely no interest in using their breasts sexually while they’re baby food factories. Which can throw off your marital sex routine.

But here’s the thing: Your body is incredible. Just look at that baby and imagine how God used your body to grow and nurture that little body with all its intricate parts. Most husbands also gain a fresh appreciation for the wonder of their wife’s body. I remember vividly feeling like a crazy mess a few weeks after my first kid, lying on the couch in my pajamas, and crying to my poor husband about my flabby, exhausted body. He shrunk back with shock and proclaimed, “I love your body even more now.” Hey, that body gave him a child.

Not only did God knit you together, he knit a baby in your womb (Psalm 139:13). Besides, you still have all those curves and fascinating places that thrill your guy. Remind yourself regularly of your beauty and embrace your self-confidence.

Rebuild your sexual intimacy. The reality is that your sex life is not the same. I venture to say it will never be the same as it was B.C. (before children). Your body has changed. Your relationship to one another has broadened. Your child is an ongoing responsibility. Your attention is more divided.

You can’t have sex anytime you want anymore, because baby’s schedule is now in the mix. As your child grows, you’ll be faced with the challenges of getting interrupted, having to take extra measures for privacy, and finding time to squeeze lovemaking between Junior’s piano lessons and parent night. None of this means you can’t have amazing sexual intimacy! All of these challenges and experiences link you together more, making sex even more meaningful.

Simply keep this in mind and rebuild your sexual intimacy from here. Find out what arouses you, how to best prepare yourself for sexual intimacy, how you can creatively carve out time, what you can do to extend foreplay throughout the day (so that when you’re ready to go, you’re ready to go). Learn to laugh about those times when you’re right on the brink of making love . . . and kiddo yells, “Daddy, what are you and mommy doing?” from the other side of your bedroom door. Or other child-specific, funny-bone moments. Just take a fresh perspective of your sex life together.

Focus your mind on sexual desire. Finally, you mentioned getting back into things emotionally. That requires getting your head in the game, being able to switch from your list of Mama to-dos to what you and Papa want to do with each other. New mommy brains tend to be full of responsibilities, worry, and exhaustion. There’s not a lot of room in there for sexy thoughts.

Make room. Make it a goal to think something sexy about your hubby and/or yourself during the day. You can use a journal to record your thoughts, align that task with another (I will remember a great time we made love every day while brushing my teeth), text your husband something romantic, plan a rendezvous. Ask for help from your husband for that mental shift, by letting him bathe the baby or rock him to sleep while you take a few minutes for a soothing bubble bath, a chance to make the bedroom nice and light candles, or slipping into something that makes you feel desirable.

When there’s so much else going on, we have to make a conscious decision to focus on sex with our husband. If you make it a priority in your mind, over time you’ll likely find your emotions following. You will reawaken love for him and your sexual intimacy.

That concludes my advice this time around. I’m curious to hear from my readers. What tips worked for you or what lessons did you learn from your own experience?

Also see A Month Without Sex?! Advice for New Moms.

A Month Without Sex?! Advice for New Moms

Last week, I invited readers to submit their questions to me with the promise that I would answer in future posts. For the next few weeks, I’ll cover one topic each Monday. Today’s question was the first submitted, and perhaps the most time sensitive since the reader is pregnant and expecting “any day now.”

My husband and I (married since last May) have what I would consider a healthy sex life. We are expecting our first child any day now, and I’m worried about that month after the birth of our child. How do we keep the spark while we are both dead tired and unable to have intercourse? I have always had a fairly high sex drive, so because I know I’ll be able to satisfy my husband in other ways I’m quite worried mainly for myself. Any post-birth coping tips for that first month? It makes me sad to miss out on a month of sex before we even have our one year anniversary.

First, what a great attitude about your marital intimacy! Your husband likely feels lucky already. 

Mom kissing baby

Photo credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

Second, congratulations! Psalm 127:3 says, “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.” I love my children with parts of me I didn’t know existed until they came into the world and stole my heart.

That said, children are also an interruption, a frustration, and a pain in the posterior at times. (Just ask God about His children.) They can seriously disrupt a couple’s sleep schedule and sex life.

And it starts on Day 1 when the hospital, for some inexplicable reason, sends you home with a small human being and no instruction manual. Here you are, wiped out from childbirth, with nothing more than high hopes, a collection of baby supplies, and tidbits of advice from here and there, and you are handed a living, breathing infant.

Consequently, in the first few days, most wives are not thinking, “Oh no, why can’t I have sex?” They are thinking, “Why can’t I have sleep?!” They are wondering how they can afford food now that half their budget goes toward diapers. They are eyeballing the section of their belly that used to be a taut baby bump and now looks like a satchel of blubber. They are considering how scared they are to let out that first bowel movement. (Am I telling the truth, moms?)

Even the husbands may be wondering when the little guy will stop crying or how much pee and poop an eight-pound baby can manufacture! Daddy may feel a bit overwhelmed too.

So yeah, “dead tired” as the reader describes sounds about right.

Then there is the medical restriction on not having intercourse while your nether regions heal from pushing out a head that felt the size of a Mount Rushmore resident. (Okay, it’s not that bad. You’ll do fine! I promise.)

Now that I’ve instilled dread into every pregnant wife out there, here are some tips. Because you are a beautiful, amazing wife and mom; your marriage can stay strong; your intimacy can be managed; and children are a blessing from the Lord.

Let yourself heal. If you attempt intercourse too soon, you may traumatize that area more and have to wait longer before trying again. Expect that there will be a period of time when your focus is on physical recovery and getting to know your baby. In fact, the Old Testament required women to refrain from sex for at least 1-2 weeks (and based on an interpretation I don’t want to cover here, up to 80 days) so that they could heal. These days, most doctors suggest waiting 4-6 weeks to resume intercourse.

Remember that sex isn’t only intercourse. If you can’t score the touchdown now, kick a field goal. (I’m American and don’t know how to translate that to soccer/futbol.) You need not define sex narrowly as the Tab A/Slot B conjoining. You can perform a “hand job,” give your husband a “blow job,” or mutually masturbate. As long as you are comfortable with it and focused on one another, find other physically intimate activities while your lady parts heal and your baby learns to sleep for longer than a movie lasts. In fact, you might look at this time as an opportunity to try something different, explore your spouse, or master a new skill.

If it’s time to resume and sex is painful, report it to your doctor. Then ask for a physical examination. For example, after the birth of one of my children, our attempts to copulate felt like daggers being stabbed into my vagina. Thankfully, I discovered that I was very low on estrogen, and my doctor prescribed a treatment cream which remedied the problem (see Pain & Pleasure). The first time won’t be as comfortable, but intercourse shouldn’t make you cringe and cry.

Engage in plenty of non-sexual affection. Baby will need lots of attention. It’s easy to redirect affection onto this little one and find yourselves not touching one another as much. But even if you can’t be sexually intimate, you can convey intimacy through touch. Reserve some hugs, hand-holding, brushes against a body, and cuddling for your husband. Remind him through affection that you still desire him and, when the time is right, you can resume sexual activity. A 20-second hug has even been shown to release Oxytocin, the body’s bonding chemical, helping you to feel connected.

Be amazed by your body. After the birth of the baby, your hormones can get as tangled up as a twisted slinky. Your body takes time to readjust. Plus, your body doesn’t look quite like it did before. Thus, many moms are prone to having low to no sex drive, crying for any and all reason, and standing in front of the mirror in a full-fledged pity party over the changes in their body. But moms, believe it when your husband says that you are gorgeous, he is amazed by you, and he wants you as much as ever. So what if you have circles under your eyes from 3:00 a.m. feedings? So what if your jelly belly hangs over your undies? You gave birth to a new life. You rock! You are beautiful, desirable, and sexy!

Remember “This too shall pass.” This proverb is often attributed to King Solomon. (It’s the same phrase you’ll want to repeat to yourself when your child learns the word whatever accompanied by an eye-roll, circa age 13). You’re spending the rest of your life with your hubby, so you’ve got umpteen years to go at it like wild monkeys. Having to sit on opposite sides and snack on bananas for a few weeks won’t seem like such a long time when all is said and done. Re-establish your sex life as soon as you can, but don’t sweat every moment either. Resume activity and increase sexual frequency as your body heals and the demands on your time decrease.

For even more tips on what I wish I had done in those years just after having children, see When My Sex Life Sucked, Part 1 and Part 2.

I wish you, Reader, and other pregnant wives the best with childbirth and the infant years. The days are long, but the years go fast. Enjoy your little one and let this time bring you and your husband together.

To ask me another question, head back to the original post HERE. I’ll get to each and every one eventually!

Feel free to post your own suggestions for pregnant and new moms in the comments. How did you get through those first months?

When My Sex Life Sucked – Part 2

In my last post, I started sharing lessons I learned from the time in my marriage when our sex life sucked. In the years surrounding my pregnancy and infant-caring, my sex drive was largely absent while my husband still wanted to go at it like soap opera characters.

Anyway, the first set of lessons involved what the wife could do herself to maintain a good sex life during those trying years. Now I’ll suggest a few things that couples can do.

Approach parenting as a WE thing. John Gottman, the well-known marriage researcher, has a fabulous section on this topic in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. He reports that “in the year after the first baby arrives, 70 percent of wives experience a precipitous plummet in their marital satisfaction.” We might expect this is related to fatigue, stress, health issues with a baby, etc. However, the key is “whether the husband experiences the transformation to parenthood along with his wife or gets left behind.”

Parents with baby

Deutsche Fotothek via Wikimedia Commons

Having a baby is life-altering for most women, but not necessarily for some men. I was blessed to stay at home with my babies. However, that meant that my life was suddenly in a whole other place 24/7. Meanwhile, my husband kept going to work and living a lot of his life the same. He had added a baby to the mix, where the baby was everything in my daily life. I wish I had invited him into the parenting experience better, and frankly I wish he had jumped into it more assertively. We could have made our early parenting years more of a WE thing and thus lessened the burden on me. These days, we have a far more integrated approach to parenting our kids.

How would that have helped our intimacy? Well, that shared experience would have increased intimacy outside the bedroom and allowed us more time and desire to be inside the bedroom together.

Communicate openly about your sex life. My husband did not talk to me about how much he missed our intimacy. He was trying to be patient and understanding on that account and went without for longer periods than he should have. I in turn did not communicate what I was going through, or when I did, it was more like a pity party than an invitation to improve our sexual relationship. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that other couples do this too. Instead, couples need to honestly discuss concerns and look for ways to pursue satisfying intimacy.

Block out time for intimacy. Pre-children, most couples can make love just about anytime they want. After our workdays, we could have sex in the afternoon, evening, nighttime, morning, whatever. We could also do it in our bed, on the living room rug, in the shower, on the kitchen table, whatever. The point here is that our sex lives were flexible and mostly spontaneous.

Yeah well, forget that. When you have babies in the house, you may need to actually schedule times for intimacy. Sure, there are opportunities for spontaneity as well — like your child unexpectedly falling asleep in his bouncy seat and you and hubby running to the bedroom for a quickie before baby wakes up crying. But if you wait for the time when lovemaking fits into the rest of your schedule, you may find yourself waiting too long. Intimacy needs to become part of the schedule.

Have date nights that include intimacy. If you have grandparents, relatives, or babysitters to care for your little ones, take advantage of that. If not, perhaps you could barter with another couple or start a babysitting co-op where several couples take turns watching the kids while the others get a date night. In fact, things got better with our sex life when we availed ourselves of such opportunities.

Be more creative with sexual activity. There were times during my hormonal changes that intercourse did not feel good. Sometimes, it even hurt. That should not have quelled all intimacy. There are other things you can do! Sensual massage, a hand job, oral sex, and other activities are sexually pleasing and intimate in nature. They shouldn’t replace a sex life that involves intercourse, but they can enhance your sex life and carry you through periods when penetration isn’t comfortable. Speaking of which, you may need to try different positions during pregnancy or after childbirth to find a comfortable one for the both of you.

That’s a lot of lessons, huh? Summed up, though, I have learned how important it is to take care of yourself, communicate with your husband, and prioritize marital intimacy. That’s true at any time in your marriage; however, with pregnancy or young children in the mix, there are special challenges that can easily become big obstacles to maintaining a healthy sex life in your marriage.

What challenges to your intimacy are you facing with pregnancy, babies, or young children in the home? If you have passed that phase, what did you learn? What do you wish you had done differently to keep the spark ignited?

When My Sex Life Sucked – Part 1

I was tempted to title this post “When My Sex Life Sucked (and Not in the Good Way)” but decided that my junior high locker room humor probably didn’t need to take main stage. After all, this is a serious subject.

If you’ve read even a few of my blog posts, you know that I am highly in favor of marital intimacy. I flat out love sex with my husband. I desire it. I welcome it. I sometimes initiate it. I revel in it. I thank God for it.

No Trespassing sign

Photo credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

But lest you think that my marriage has always soared in the shake-your-groove-thing department, I will burst that fantasy bubble today. There was a time in my marriage when our sex life was gasping for air like a silent movie actress in a death scene. I had almost no sex drive, and he became very frustrated with my lack of interest.

When and why? It was around the pregnancy, childbirth, and infant years. That time was so hard on me and my body that I didn’t have anything left for the sex area of my life. In hindsight, several things should have happened. In this post and the next one, I will share the lessons I gained in hopes that another couple might learn from what we through. The first set of lessons here involve what the wife can do to sustain, or even improve, physical intimacy in the marriage. In the next post, I’ll speak more generally to couples.

Actively pursue personal health. When I was carrying babies, bearing babies, nursing babies, and caring for babies — better known as the alien invasion years — my body did not feel like my own. It was me, of course; however, my body had been irrevocably changed.

I’m going to interrupt myself and admit that I don’t know whether all of the changes were due to pregnancy and breastfeeding hormones, or other issues such as sleep deprivation and stress. Having only gone the biological route, I don’t know any other. I would presume that adoptive mothers can have the same challenges with an infant in the home.

For myself, however, my body was low on estrogen and likely testosterone as well. I should have told my doctor how I was feeling and asked to have a blood test checking for vitamin and hormone deficiencies. I might have even considered an anti-depressant during the most overwhelming months. Perhaps that seems extreme; yet a temporary boost of energy to make it through those tough months might have done wonders for me feeling better about myself as a mom and a wife, and I would have been more available for my husband and my child.

Continue to emphasize your role as wife. For the pregnant or new mom, almost all of your body’s energy seems to go toward children. After having my hands on my child all day, and my child’s hands on me, the last thing I wanted was for anyone to touch my body. Multiple children means that there are multiple hands on you — some days making you feel like an octopus’s plaything. When you finally tuck those sweet babies into bed at night and listen to their surrendered breathing, and then your husband comes from behind and grabs your tush, your brain may scream, Get off, get off! Having another set of hands can feel like another set of demands.

But intimacy with my husband isn’t a demand; it’s a command from God, a way of being close with your spouse, and a sweet pleasure in its own right. I should have made more time and opportunity for those moments. I should have remembered that I was not only a mother, but a wife.

Let me be clear: I am not saying to ignore your parental duties. But I didn’t let my first child cry for a full minute before I was in there taking care of my little one. My infant always had my attention first. Looking back, it might have been okay to shove in some ear plugs, have a fun quickie, and then go get the fussy baby out of the crib. It’s easier to put off your husband’s needs since he is less likely to wail like a banshee for attention like your kids. But the need to be intimate doesn’t go away merely because you now have a tangible, physical result of intimacy.

Make sure your “Me Time” includes rejuvenating activities, not merely escapism. I took breaks from my kids, but the activities didn’t necessarily energize me. We all have activities that give us a respite from our daily ho-hum, and others that make us feel alive. Those two things are different. Escaping with a good film is fun, but for me reading and writing light a fire in my belly. Attending musical events and singing enliven me. Spending time in nature and dancing make me aware of my senses and surroundings.

But as much I love my scrapbooks, attending scrapbooking crops were social gatherings that I enjoyed but they didn’t refresh me. They drained me more and kept me in mom-baby mode as I slapped on picture after picture of my precious little ones. I wish I had taken piano lessons or joined a book club or started this blog back then. Of course, scrapbooking may be just the thing for you, or karaoke, or roller derby. The point is to find something that energizes you outside your role as mom. You’ll always be mom, but you are more than that as well.

Do things to make yourself feel sexy. It’s hard to make that mental transition from Mommy with the children to Hot Mama for the husband. I wish I had taken more time to have a bubble bath, get a massage, find pretty lingerie to fit my differently-shaped figure, or have a glass of wine or herbal tea now and then to tune into my body. I now know how important it can be to find those activities that trigger feelings of sensuality and self-confidence.

Despite the changes that happen in a woman’s body from childbearing, she is usually still very sexy to her husband. In fact, some husbands find their wives even more appealing after having seen the miracle that grew in her body. The female form is beautiful, and young moms may need some extra time to reconnect with their sexiness so that they can feel good about themselves in the arms of their husband.

It can feel selfish to indulge in these ways. After all, you don’t want to neglect your children just to luxuriate with Calgon. However, your children will be blessed by having a mother who has a great sex life with their father. And you are still totally hot! Tap into that and enjoy it.

Ultimately, all of these suggestions are about taking care of yourself. The responsibility of caring for a tiny little one (in and out of the womb) can be overwhelming for a woman. Your whole life is changing in a way that rivals an Extreme Home Makeover episode. Forget that. It surpasses tearing your home to the ground and rebuilding it. It is big.

It’s also wonderful in the long run to be Mom. However, as easy as it might be to get consumed by parenthood and lose yourself in the role of mother, you will have a child in your home for eighteen or so years and a husband in your home for hopefully many more. (I’m going for golden anniversary. How about you?) It is not selfish to prioritize your health, your personal identity, and your marriage. In fact, if anything, you will be a better parent for adding mother to your roles but remaining the fabulous you that you already are.

How well are you doing in balancing motherhood and self-care? Do you still feel sexy to your husband? Have you struggled with physiological changes?