Short answer: Yes!
Long answer: Keep reading.
Toward the end of nearly every Birth Boot Camp series, I ask the students to write down their most pressing questions about life after baby. Without fail, I receive at least one little piece of paper with the question, “Will we ever have sex again?” Most of the questions I receive are about sex and sleep. Most expecting parents want to know if they will ever be able to do either one of those treasured activities again. I hope that I can share a little bit of what I have learned over the years about sex in order to alleviate some of the fears surrounding this topic.
Disclaimer: I am not a sex therapist. I kind of wish I had decided to be one when I grew up, but alas, it is not to be. However, it is one of my favorite topics. It helps keep me in business. Most of my students and clients are in committed heterosexual relationships, so my comments will be run through that filter. Sexuality is as varied as there are people in the world, so please understand that the things I share are not absolutes and will not apply to everyone. As with all types of advice, take what you like and leave the rest. My goal in writing this article is to encourage rather than inform.
Below are a few nuggets of wisdom that have helped my husband and me over the years as we have worked on improving our sexual relationship after having our three babies.
You’ve heard it once, and you will hear it again. Communication is super important in a relationship, and especially about a topic as important as sex. Keep the lines of communication open. Share your feelings with one another, especially the uncomfortable feelings. Lean into the discomfort. Have those hard conversations. Try to stay calm and respectful when having conversations about sex. One of my favorite parenting books ever is And Baby Makes Three by Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman. This book is about preserving your relationship after baby, and I recommend it to everyone. If it is hard to make time to read, the Bringing Baby Home workshop is amazing and is based on this book. Couples learn how to communicate with each other during this workshop. The more my husband and I work on improving our communication with each other, the better our sexual relationship becomes.
Not much makes me feel like I can just take off running and start flying like when my husband finally understands me. And I can tell not much makes him feel better than when I finally understand him. Trying to really understand where your partner is coming from during this time will help fuel connection, which helps increase desire. If you really want to make sure that you have sex again, work on understanding your partner.
Dads, try to understand how much your partner has sacrificed of her body and soul to grow, birth, and nurture your new baby. She was willing to put her life on the line to bring a new baby into the family. We are blessed in this day and age to have wonderful technological advances that help most people come through the birth process alive. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t traumatic for many people. The trauma of birth can dramatically alter the rest of someone’s life. Even when a birth goes perfectly well, it changes people. You can’t go through a pregnancy, birth, and postpartum and not be a different person.
Once your baby has arrived, a lot is expected of you. It might seem unfair that you are the one that has to take care of her while no one is taking care of you. Try to remember that everyone’s work load increases with a new baby. Your partner has no choice but to take care of the new baby. Biologically, the baby is going to want more of her. Her body, her smells, her heartbeat, and her hormones are all geared toward keeping that baby, your baby, alive. Your job now is to keep her alive. And not only alive, but to help her thrive. She will remember how you made her feel during this time. A woman who feels loved and cared for will (usually) return the favor a hundredfold. A woman who feels pressured, overwhelmed, and unloved… well, there’s no telling how she will respond. She might come after you or she might retreat into herself. Either way, it won’t fuel her desire to connect with you. Try to think about things you can do to fuel her desire to connect with you.
And speaking of hormones. They. Are. Everywhere. It is going to take a long time before her hormones level out. Many women are at the mercy of their hormones and really do try to do their best with what is happening. Educating yourself on what exactly is happening in a woman’s body after a baby is born is helpful for understanding why certain things are happening.
Note about hormones: Keeping track of my cycles and understanding how desire fluctuates throughout the menstrual cycle as well as having a basic understanding of how sexual desire works has really helped us in this part of our relationship. One of the coolest books I’ve read about this topic is called Come As You Are by Dr. Emily Nagoski, and I highly recommend it to anyone who plans on having sex.
Moms, try to remember he is making sacrifices too. It is going to be hard for him to fill your shoes. You gave birth to a freaking baby. He can’t really top that. But he is learning his new role of parent, and trying to do things he has never done before. He is sacrificing his spare time, his ability to just get up and go like before, his time with you, his hobbies, sleep, and money. Yes, you are too, and then some. But what I am trying to say is that, yes, you are making so many sacrifices. But try to remember that so is he. Except for the pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding part, he is making many of the same sacrifices you are. Unless he is a complete abusive jerk, to which, none of this article would even apply.
To moms and dads, you are both making tremendous sacrifices for each other and for your family. A little recognition and appreciation from each of you to the other one goes a long way to fueling desire.
It is so important to have patience with one another. You are going to mess up on the whole communication thing. One of the most important things in determining how your communication turns out is how often you are willing to repair your mistakes when you make them. It’s okay to mess up and mess up often. Keep working on it. This is new territory for everyone involved. It doesn’t matter how many babies someone has had. This is the first time you’ve had to be a parent with THAT many babies. This is the first time you’ve had to navigate THIS particular postpartum. Try to remember the love that brought you together. This is starting to sound like newlywed advice, isn’t it?
Every couple has to decide what is and isn’t allowed in their sexual relationship. Most care providers recommend halting sexual activities for awhile after a baby is born to give the woman’s body time to heal. This period of time can vary from person to person. Some people are ready to resume sexual activities at two weeks, some are eager by their 6 week check up, and some just can’t imagine doing the deed again for a very long time. So many factors come into play here. A little creativity can be really helpful.
I think every couple at some point is going to have to come face to face with unmatched libido. What are your boundaries surrounding when one partner wants sex and the other doesn’t? What are your boundaries surrounding a prolonged and perhaps necessary period of abstinence due to health, travel, or other reasons? Is it okay if one partner seeks sexual gratification from sources outside of the relationship while the other partner is unavailable for whatever reason? Don’t just assume that you know the answer to these questions. And it is also okay to change your mind later if you didn’t quite understand how certain things would make you feel once complicated with postpartum hormones and a new baby thrown into the mix.
Having a new baby is wonderful but comes with its own set of challenges when it comes to sex. Sex can be such a wonderful experience, but it can also complicate relationships. But there is hope! Almost ten years and 3 kids later, my sex life with my husband is better than ever. It hasn’t been without its ups and downs, challenges, tears, and epic misunderstandings. But we keep working on this beautiful part of our relationship. We definitely had sex again, and so will you. Communication, understanding, and patience go a long way in ensuring you will have sex again.