Talking – even thinking – about the “s” word can be a sore subject after giving birth. That’s why we’ve gathered some expert tips on easing yourself back in
You’re tired, your body has changed and baby is keeping you up all night – it’s no wonder, then, that jumping back into bed with your partner scores low on your list of priorities. In fact, according to a recent survey done by the NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, 41% of us would like to have sex more often than we do. They asked 1,000 UK-based mums and dads with kids up to age two, and it turns out a quarter of us are doing it just once a month, and nearly one in ten every six months.
Why? Well, naturally, more than half of those mamas now having sex less often are just too tired. Nearly a third feel too self-conscious about their postnatal body or simply don’t feel sexy. And 22% feel they haven’t recovered enough, neither physically nor emotionally.
So, the question begs: how do we get back to sexy again? Let’s hear it from the (s)experts…
It’s totally normal
“Some women may feel ready to resume their sex lives after having a baby within weeks, while others may not feel ready for months,” explains Agnes Hann, Research and Evaluation Manager, NCT. “It’s completely normal if sex isn’t high on your agenda at this time as it’s a period of huge readjustment and recovery. Exhaustion and increased demands on your time may affect how ‘in the mood’ you feel and the type of birth you had may affect how quickly you get back into having sex.”
Catriona Boffard, a clinical sexologist (catrionaboffard.com), agrees. “It’s okay if you’re not okay. Pregnancy, labour and being a new mum are hard. Hormones, bodily changes, a newborn – it can all be very overwhelming. If you find you don’t want sex at all after several months, your mood is low, or you even cringe at your partner’s touch, seek help. It’s really normal for women to experience these sorts of things and talking through it can mean you feel like a new person.”
Importantly, Hann adds: “Talk to your partner about how you feel and try not to compare yourself to other mums.”
Eschew any pressure
Kate Moyle, a London-based psychosexual and relationship therapist (katemoyle.co.uk), says mums can feel plenty of anxiety about pain, about how different it will feel, and not knowing how your body will react. “Men, too, can feel under pressure to perform.
“Sex was something you used to do for fun, pleasure and intimacy, and that can be difficult to remember, especially if getting pregnant was difficult, as it can become all about the act and doing it at the right time to maximise chances of conceiving.”
Boffard agrees. “Be kind to yourself. After having a baby your life will be completely different. All your time is dedicated to your new little one, and your body no longer feels like it’s yours. Don’t beat yourself up if you and your husband haven’t been intimate for a while. Try and connect in little ways like kissing, hugs and holding hands.”
Moyle advises that you “spend time getting to know each other’s bodies again and be playful with touch.
“Offer each other a massage, dim the lighting or do something like have a bath together before going to bed – anything that helps you to relax more and feel more comfortable. There is likely to be some sense of anticipation, but we want it to be excited not nervous and setting the scene a little more than you used to can really help.”
It’s about shifting your focus from performance to pleasure, says Boffard. “For the first few months after having a baby, your body goes through numerous changes and ‘exhausted’ takes on a new meaning. So try and focus energy on pleasure and the journey of sex, rather than ‘performing’ and the destination.”
In order to quash the fear, there are a few things to remember, says Moyle. “If you are feeling really tense, then one group of muscles that you are almost guaranteed to be tensing is your pelvic floor.
“Try and relax, remembering that sex is something you used to enjoy, and that the vagina is incredibly elastic – hence how we can pass a baby through there.”
There are other ways to help you relax and feel sexy, adds Boffard. “Buy lacy nursing bras or something sexy to sleep in,” she suggests. “The smallest addition can have a big impact.”
Set time aside
“If you are waiting for a day or night when you aren’t tired, it won’t happen,” Moyle asserts. “One of the biggest losses of parenthood is spontaneity. Having a young baby is exhausting and it’s pretty likely that sleep is at the top of your priority list. But, also, the longer you leave being intimate again the more of a monster it can become, and it really doesn’t need to be.”
Boffard says it’s important to remember your partner. “A lot of partners feel less of a priority once the baby is born. Remember that your relationship and sexual intimacy are the reasons for the baby, so make sure to include your partner in as much as possible and steal moments where you can just for the two of you.”
Moyle’s advice? “Decide on an evening and/or morning when you know the baby will be sleeping and spend some time together paying each other your full attention without any distraction. Turn off all screens, phones and notifications. The same principles of bonding with your baby apply to adult relationships, too. Things like eye contact and touch promote feelings of closeness and bonding, and release the chemical oxytocin.” (AKA, the “love hormone”.)
Hann agrees: “The dynamics of a relationship often change when a baby comes along but over time the partnership can become stronger.
“Making time for each other is really important and couples who are happier together are more likely to be happy in their role as parents, too.”
Try something new
Pillow App for Couples has expert-written, audio-guided, follow-along episodes, which are meant to help bring the two of you together. There are specific sessions for post-baby folks. It’s worth a try, right?