Posted on April 29 2021
Nine months of pregnancy, many hours of labour, caring for a new-born round the clock, that is life of a new mum. Breastfeeding on demand, incessant crying for no apparent reason, being sleep deprived can drive a new mum crazy. Motherhood exhausts a person physically, mentally and emotionally. So if sex is not your priority, I definitely get it. After all, I was once in those shoes. Studies have shown that sex plunges into a all time low for new parents, and start to climb only 6 to 9 months after delivery, and we get to see more progress when kids start to go to school. However, it will be nothing like the early years during dating or early marriage when sparks flew for no reason. Hence, knowing the dip will happen and making plans to soften the fall will make things better. And no, there is no reason to blame yourself when you don’t feel sexy.
Gearing Up For Sex
For newly expectant mothers, congrats! Both you and your partner must be relieved that there is no need to time sex, check your ovulation cycle and now it’s the time to sit back and relax and wait for the arrival of the baby. Correct, but not for the latter. To help negate the non-familiarity of intimacy after the arrival of a baby, it is important to maintain our sex lives during pregnancy. But how?! Isn’t it dangerous to have sex during pregnancy, what if it causes a miscarriage? I feel awful with all that morning sickness. And yes, I think I look terrible with all the weight gain. I am in no mood for sex.
Fret not mamas-to-be, maintaining sex life does not equate to having intense regular sex as per before. It is about maintaining the intimacy between you and your partner. If morning sickness bothers you a lot, have your partner cuddle you for comfort. Let your partner massage your aches and sores away. As you feel better, physical intimacy is encouraged. In fact, some women have said having sex during pregnancy was the best sex they ever had. For the hormones during pregnancy are significantly raised and can account for more intense and prolonged orgasms. Sex is generally safe if your pregnancy is deemed as normal by your doctor. However, if there are medical issues such as threatened miscarriage, low lying placenta, twins pregnancy, sex is not advisable. As the tummy gets bigger in the third trimester, intercourse may get tricky. Caressing and lots of skin-to-skin contact are still better than none. You and you partner can also explore mutual masturbation if desired.
Most importantly, keep those hands on each other. Lots of hugs and kisses during pregnancy not only create abundance of love hormones for you but also for your little baby. Which definitely helps to keep things warm after the arrival of your little one.
When Can I Resume Sexual Activity?
When should we start having sex again? Simple answer is anytime when you are ready, fully ready. The body typically takes about 6 to 8 weeks to heal. Medically, most gynaecologists and midwives will give the good-to-go sign when the wound is healed, and lochia discharge has ceased. However, many new parents will still be struggling with care of the baby, figuring out a new routine and being very sleep deprived. Sex is just not on their minds. It’s okay to wait out a little bit. In the meantime, lots of hugs, kisses, cuddles. Regular heart-to-heart talks will help iron out challenges and build intimacy.
Am I neglecting my partner?
If you are worried that your husband might be feeling neglected, it might be reassuring to know that men also have a dip in sex drive after baby arrives. Nature has its own magic ensure things work. Post-delivery, your reproductive hormones crash to almost menopausal levels compared to the during pregnancy when the hormones can be as high as 1000 times of your baseline. In addition, low estrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness which makes sex uncomfortable. Breastfeeding produces lots of oxytocin which is a bonding hormone. Prior to having a baby, cuddling our partners is the best source of oxytocin to make ourselves feel loved and secured. But with babies strapped on to mamas for 24/7, most of them feel touched-out, and even suffocated. Hence, sex is just not that appealing. It has noted that papas have a decline in testosterone during this early phase of child giving, so that both parents can devote their time and energy to care for the new-born instead of conceiving another. These hormonal changes are also a normal evolutionary adaptive response to ensure your survival.
What can we do to improve intimacy?
Providing support for each other is important in building the intimacy during this period. Here are some suggestions:
- Regular communication
This will help to ease out any disagreements with regards to the constant changes with a new baby. Avoid building up minor disagreements into major arguments.
- Couple time
Make time for each other. Schedule it. Watch Netflix together, cuddle up, or have a simple dinner together. Sex is not the key here, but more of building the intimacy so that sex is less awkward when you are ready to resume. Arrange for baby to be cared for by a trusted caregiver so that you can enjoy your time together in peace.
- 2 hour “vacation”
Self-care is crucial in this stage so that we can have the space to care for our new-born and partner. 2 hours is good as it is sufficient for quality me-time as well short enough between feeding intervals if you are breastfeeding.
- External support group
Don’t be shy to ask help from your friends and your extended family. After all, it does take a village to raise a child. Caregiving on top of managing daily chores and a full-time job can be a stressful process for a nucleus family even with the help of a domestic helper.
- Re-establishing your own identity
Give yourself time to know you again. Bodily changes can be drastic for some new mummies, especially with weight gain, leaky boobs and for some, new caesarean scars. It will take time for you love your body again. Partners, do be mindful of this and continue to encourage your wives that they are doing fine and are just as attractive to you. New parents can also be lost in parenthood and stop relating to each other as lovers. It will take time for each parent to figure who their new self is.
When to seek help?
However, if things continue to go southwards, seeking professional help might be necessary. Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is sometimes the cause of low sex drive. It is defined as persistent deficient sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity that causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulty. It can be the result of extreme stress and tiredness of caring for your new-born, relationship conflict with your partner or other loved ones or even stem from hating the post pregnancy body. Regardless of the cause, if your lack of sexual desire is causing you and your partner distress, it is time to seek help.
Persistent low sex drive can also be a symptom of post-partum depression or anxiety. If you are also displaying any of these listed below, please seek medical help as soon as possible for treatment so that you can be on track sooner than later for your family.
- Showing disinterest in your baby or feeling like you’re not bonding with them
- Crying all the time, often for no reason
- Feeling severe anger and crankiness
- Loss of pleasure
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Thoughts of hurting someone else
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Excessive worry about the baby’s health, development or safety
- An overwhelming sense of burden, stress and concern about the ability to be a good parent
- A persistent case of the jitters or a constant agitated feeling
- Elevated heartbeat, rapid breathing and/or chest pain, suggesting panic attacks
Last but not least…..
Sex is not about penetration or orgasm. It is about the connection and intimacy you have with your loved one. Take your time to recover. After all, you took 9 months to have a baby, wouldn’t it be wise to take another 9 months to recover? It’s not wrong to have no desire for sex in the early months; don’t take it too hard on yourself!
Written by Dr. Angela Tan, doctor, intimacy coach and a 2-year-old mum who is still recovering from the side effects of pregnancy.
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Relevant Reads: Postpartum Sex: 8 Things You Should Know About Sex After Baby, Modern Motherhood - 18 Mums Share About Sex After Birth, Modern Motherhood - 9 Tips to a Healthy Sex Life
Credits: William Fortunato, Savannah Dematteo