Between dealing with sleepless nights and adjusting to your new responsibilities as a parent, it can be difficult to make room for your sex life.
Between dealing with sleepless nights and adjusting to your new responsibilities as a parent, it can be difficult to make room for your sex life. This is perfectly normal, as there are many changes to adapt to.
According to a number of studies, parents who have just welcomed a child into the world have little to no sex for the first two months. “In fact, 10 to 15 percent of couples don’t resume sexual activity until a year after childbirth,” says Dr. Viola Polomeno, an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa and a specialist in perinatal sexuality.
In general, parents start having sex again two months after their child is born. They may still have a low sex drive, but they have made love at least once.
Waiting for the mother’s body to be ready
Sexual desire decreases with the arrival of a baby for physical reasons. After childbirth, the mother’s body needs time to recover. It takes around three to six weeks for postpartum bleeding, or lochia, to stop. An additional recovery period may also be necessary in the case of a C-section or a perineal tear or incision.
It’s therefore recommended to wait until your postpartum checkup (four to six weeks after delivery) before resuming vaginal intercourse. “If you want to begin sooner, you should wait at least until your postpartum bleeding has stopped,” says Dr. Polomeno. “And it’s important to stop if it hurts.”
When should you consult a professional?
If you feel that there’s a problem in your sex life that’s affecting at least one partner and you can’t seem to fix it, you should talk to a specialist. “Things often improve after just a few appointments,” says sexologist and psychologist Dr. Michel Campbell. “The longer you wait, the harder it’ll be to find a solution.” It’s also a good idea to seek professional help if what you saw or experienced during childbirth is preventing you from having sex.
Dealing with mental blocks
Even if a woman feels ready to be physically intimate again with her partner, it may take some time for the couple to get their romantic groove back. Often, the fatigue and stress that come with looking after a newborn result in a lower sex drive. If this is something you’re experiencing, getting support from your loved ones or making use of local resources may help. Sometimes, all you need is some proper rest to restore your energy and libido.
Couples also have to adjust to Mom’s “new” body, which isn’t always easy. “After my third child, I had a hard time accepting my body,” says Florence-Élyse. Despite the fact that her partner, Patrice, found her attractive, she was less interested in sex. “We made love less often,” she says. “It took me a year to feel comfortable in my own skin.”
While women tend to fear their partner will cheat on them because of their decreased sex drive or because they feel less attractive, Francine de Montigny, director of Regroupement Paternité, famille et société, notes that “fathers can have insecurities too. Their partner’s lack of sexual desire can cause some men to lose confidence and start to think they’re no longer attractive.” It can help to tell your partner that you still think they’re sexy even if you’re too exhausted or not yet ready to have sex.
Adjusting to life with kids
The realities of raising and taking care of kids can also strain a couple’s relationship. “With our first baby, I was a perfectionist,” says Angelica. “Whenever my partner offered to lend a hand, I found something to criticize.” Olivier felt left out. “I could never seem to do anything right, so I stopped pitching in,” he says.
Since the birth of the couple’s second daughter, Angelica has been more willing to split parenting duties, which has brought her and Olivier closer together. The couple’s sex life is still on hold given that their baby is just a month old, but they’re already feeling more ready to be intimate again.
Mothers often feel tenderness and admiration on seeing their partner step into their role as a dad. These types of feelings can help reawaken sexual desire.
Staying connected with your partner through sweet and loving gestures will help you get your sex life back on track.
Other parents stop making time for themselves, much less for their romantic relationship. This is what happened to Lyne and Junior, who have a 9-month-old, a 4-year-old, and a 6-year-old.
“After my second child, I had a miscarriage and went through a period of depression,” says Lyne. “Junior and I grew apart and stopped spending time with each other. I eventually went to see a psychologist. Today, we’re doing a lot better.” The couple now set aside at least 30 minutes every evening when the kids are in bed to talk—or do something else!
Fantasizing is a great way to fuel sexual desire, whether you share your fantasies with your partner or keep them to yourself.
If both partners enjoy reading or watching porn together, it can help them get in the mood and heighten arousal. Porn can also serve as a short-term way for one partner to relieve sexual tension if the other is sexually unavailable. Sooner or later, however, the couple need to address what isn’t working in their sex life to avoid drifting apart.
Spending quality time with your partner can feel impossible when you have young children—especially if you’re trying to recreate your pre-parenthood lifestyle of romantic outings and weekends. It’s best to make peace with the fact that things have changed and get creative instead.
For example, you can plan a dinner for two after putting the kids to bed or squeeze in some one-on-one time whenever your children take their naps. These moments of intimacy are also beneficial for your kids, as they wind up with happier parents.
Sharing a room or bed with your baby can also get in the way of your romantic relationship. If you practise co-sleeping (link in French), it’s important to make sure the arrangement doesn’t keep you from having sex when the mood strikes.
Patrick and Gabrielle, whose 8-month-old daughter sleeps in their bedroom, have found a solution. “We have sex in the living room to avoid waking her,” says Patrick.
Getting caught in flagrante
What should you do if your child walks in on you having sex? You can say that you and your partner were giving each other a special grown-up hug. Tell your child to go back to bed and then check in on them to make sure they’re okay. If they have questions, give them age-appropriate answers.
Your child may also start to cry because they thought they were hearing cries of pain. Reassure them that nobody was hurting anyone and that what they saw was a grown-up expression of love.
If it took you a while to realize your child was in the room and they witnessed several sexual acts, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them. They may attempt to act out what they saw with other children. In this case, it’s important to explain that what you were doing was for adults only.
How to rekindle the flame
Little by little, couples who have put sex on the back burner since having kids can bring the passion back into their relationship. Dr. Polomeno has a four-step method for helping parents revive their sex life:
Start by rediscovering the pleasure of physical contact in simple ways, such as by cuddling, falling asleep in each other’s arms, or snuggling up on the couch to watch a movie.
Engage in more sensual activities like taking a bath together, giving each other massages, kissing, or caressing each other’s skin.
Move on to more intimate caresses and heavy petting.
Resume having intercourse.
Some parents may need a few months to get through this process. Others may breeze through all four steps in a day! The key is to respect your limits and go at your own pace.
Couples can also meet each other halfway if their needs differ. For instance, if you don’t feel like making love, you can offer to touch your partner instead. “This small compromise can make a big difference,” says Dr. Campbell. And you never know—stimulating your partner may end up turning you on as well! Remember, too, that the quality of your relationship affects your sexual desire. Maintaining a strong emotional bond therefore makes it easier to resume physical intimacy.