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!
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?
20 thoughts on “Q&A with J: Baby’s Here, But Sex? Not So Much.”
Here’s my experience. I hope it’s helpful for the new moms. For me, sex hurt a LOT. I went to the doc twice and everything was fine. But I think my hormones were just making me super-dry, which made things really painful. Honestly, I didn’t feel like my normal self again (in regards to sex) until my period returned. (For me, that didn’t happen till about 10 months because I was breastfeeding – I still am.) BUT, that was a HUGE turning point in my experience. I guess there’s something good about having my period after all 😉
I also went to the doctor twice, got told my pain was normal, and finally went a third time. I was super-dry, but it wasn’t until her physician assistant did a physical exam that they discovered my extremely low estrogen. With a bit of cream, I was cured. I only say that so some poor wife doesn’t unnecessarily wait, thinking she has to get her period before things work right. We were good to go way sooner than my period returned.
Thanks, C! Glad you got your mojo back!
I should clarify: I don’t doubt one bit that it was a hormonal issue! I just wanted to comment to encourage the ladies who, like myself, prefer to avoid artificial hormone treatments, and let them know that there is hope! Most women’s hormones go back to normal once they start ovulating again. I opted to wait until my body normalized itself, rather than seek further treatment.
That sounds like a progesterone issue, FYI! Your levels plummet after childbirth and you don’t produce it until you ovulate, which would explain why things felt more normal once your period returned. Super interesting stuff. I just started researching this. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of info on breastfeeding and hormone imbalances yet…
This is all so good and so true. I would also add although I know I’ve seen it here on this blog before that your hormones continue to be different throughout breastfeeding and for several months as your body moves from pregnant mode back to normal. I’m 6 months postpartum and things feel much better now than they did even at 6 weeks. Also baby #2 was less challenging than baby #1 to recover from (probably due to the second degree tear I had the first time and didn’t the second). I look forward to when my baby weans because I feel like things will feel even more spectacular again then. My babies are 13 months apart (whoopsie! Nursing is NOT A METHOD OF BIRTH CONTROL, I repeat FIND ANOTHER METHOD TO SPACE BABIES) so I went straight from pregnant, to nursing, to nursing while pregnant. It’s so amazing to not be pregnant and just have the nursing hormones going on!
Thanks, M! Great addition.
It was really hard for me to feel sexy after the kids, but I really desired sex. I wanted to be with my husband, but I was really tired. I think a lot of it for me was mental. I don’t drink, smoke, cuss…nothing that signifies me being an adult and able to make my own choices. So, as silly as it might sound, I could have sex, and that was my grown up outlet. Most of the day, I just felt like a housemaid and babysitter. When I could be intimate with my husband, it was the only time I felt like an adult.
By the way, “I don’t drink, smoke, cuss…nothing that signifies me being an adult and able to make my own choices” — that’s not adult stuff in my book. Being a good wife and and a good parent, yes. 🙂
Thank you so much for your opening comment about the stage of life I am in. I have three littles and… yeah.
I want to second the hormonal thing. I can’t remember much about sex after my first two because my PPD was so bad, but after my third I was surprised to find that I was just plain numb down there for a long time. It didn’t matter how much lube or what activity we did; I could not get aroused. Period. But I knew it was likely temporary (and it was). It was very discouraging for a while but if you can encourage moms to remember that sex WILL get better as your body heals and hormones return to their prepregnancy state, but let’s face it, that will take MONTHS, even past the one year mark if you are breastfeeding.
Still, I am thankful for that time–as awful as it was–because it helped us to discover that sex is about intimacy even more than it is about pleasure. I still could enjoy my time with my husband even though I could not orgasm. Communication was very important. My husband was discouraged that I didn’t even want to try for orgasm for a while and I had to have a frank conversation with him to let him know that the pressure to orgasm was actually ruining sex for me during this season. I asked him to let go of my orgasm for a while and I would let him know when I wanted to try for it, assuring him that it had nothing to do with him and everything to do with the physical (and TEMPORARY) changes in my body. We grew so much as a result. It sucked; not gonna lie. But I am on the other side of it now and my orgasm is back and better than ever. We had to relearn sex. It was hard, but only a season. Focus on intimacy! Because sex is better than ever now!
I also recently started a progesterone cream, which is more common than low estrogen. It has made a HUGE difference 17 months postpartum. So if things don’t get better, like you I recommend getting your hormones checked.
I was the opposite. I was voracious for sexual intimacy. I only lasted 3 weeks post partum and I tackled hubby!! Body image issues?! Sure, my belly was still like a bowl of pizza dough, but my breasts were so full and big and gorgeous! I would nurse baby in the morning and lay him down to sleep, then climb into bed and initiate…on 4 hours of broken sleep. I couldn’t get enough!!
My hormones have always been out of whack, but seemingly opposite of most women.
I kind of wish I had that sunlight through the sheer nursery curtains rock a bye baby feeling other women had. Instead, I was like, get this baby to sleep so I can have sex with hubby! Every man’s dream, perhaps, but I missed out on something.
Just shows we’re all different.
Note to husbands: sometimes you just need to “suck it up”. A bit crude but effectively tells guys in guy language to forget your sexual needs. Husbands need to focus on caring for Mom (wife) and baby. Life is not all about your sexual needs. For me, I did not touch my wife sexually for at least 3 months. She had no drive at all due to hormones and lack of sleep and I respected that.
Thanks for that bit of shaming language. I’m sure all the guys appreciate you “keeping it real”
I didn’t read that as “shaming.” But I understand why that wouldn’t come across well.
Baby #1 – no sex drive for 10-12 weeks after, easy delivery. Baby#2 – major sex drive by 2 weeks, which lasted until around 6months, when I was beyond exhausted, as this child NEVER SLEPT! Which is all great when you have just one child, but any more then that and it gets very rough.
But boy were there body image issues. Giant red stretch marks, saggy skin, and leaking! You forgot to mention what happens when you start leaking breast milk during sex, for me this was a major turn off, even if I kept a very tight nursing bra on, for almost 3 months I’d leak every single time we had sex, through everything and sometimes occasionally after. Hubs thought nothing of it though. Any of it, the skin, the marks, the leaky breasts.
I can laugh about it all these years later, but I can still feel all the emotions like it was yesterday.
“I will remember a great time we made love every day while brushing my teeth”
Wow, that was super-bad grammar on my part! LOL. Try: “Every day while brushing my teeth, I will remember a great time we made love.” 😀
I heard one postpartum mom say that her vagina was too loose after childbirth. She was taught Kegel exercises to strengthen her pubococcygeus muscles and sexual pleasure was greatly enhanced for both her and her husband.
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