Grab a cuppa, dads; this is going to be a long article.
For both women and men, mismatched libidos are a big concern in the postnatal period.
How you handle the issue of sex after having a baby can either do irreparable damage to your relationship (and sexual relationship) or it can make it stronger than ever before. The choice is yours.
All it takes is your willingness to understand what’s really going on for your partner, and then to demonstrate that understanding by converting it into words and actions. Knowing is knowing; understanding involves doing.
Most of the points raised here are facts, backed by science, with research links added.
Why doesn’t she want to have sex with me?
The first thing to know is it’s highly likely it’s not about you, dad….
It’s no secret: after having a baby, the frequency at which couples have sex usually takes a dive. The reasons for this are many and varied. Every woman and every birth and parenting experience is unique. And the reasons for your partner’s non-existent libido after she’s had a baby are also uniquely hers.
Several of the reasons below might apply to your partner. But rest assured, it’s highly likely it has nothing at all to do with the love or attraction she feels for you.
Neither will the situation last forever.
Dad, I really feel for you! Your partner probably does too.
Remember this great quote from Elly Taylor, author of the awesome book, Becoming Us: ‘Resentment is a contraceptive, but gratefulness is a great aphrodisiac’.
The first 12 months with a baby can be especially hard. Even after that, there will still be challenges.
You’ll get frustrated really quickly if you’re looking for a quick fix or if you think just one attempt at these remedies will be sufficient.
You need to do these things on a regular basis and be patient if you want things to improve.
It’s important to understand women and men are wired differently.
Although women have unique personalities, they are wired for similar needs – especially during pregnancy and birth and in the postnatal period.
This is a time of great opportunity for you to show your partner how much she means to you, by supporting, understanding and loving her. She will never forget it.
Why she doesn’t want sex
Here are 10 possible reasons why she is not wanting sex after having a baby;
Sex After Having A Baby #1. She’s utterly knackered
According to a poll in BellyBelly’s forums, the most significant reason why mothers felt uninterested in sex was a lack of sleep.
Almost half of the women who responded said more sleep would make them feel like more sex.
A recent study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found for each additional hour of sleep a woman had, the likelihood of her having sex increased by 14%.
They also found women with longer average sleep duration reported better genital arousal than women with shorter average sleep length.
Being a new mother is physically and emotionally draining on so many levels.
People often suggest, ‘Well, just sleep when the baby sleeps!’ but going by that logic, should she also clean when the baby cleans? It just doesn’t work that way.
When a mother has that small window of baby sleep freedom, she often ends up putting herself and her needs last, and the to-do list first. That only makes her cup feel even more empty and leaves her unable to give more.
‘I’m so exhausted that I feel emotionally numb. I want to feel turned on, I want to feel sexual desire, but there’s just nothingness, which is depressing. Without enough sleep, let alone me time, my cup is empty and I just can’t function. My basic needs as a woman and a human being need to be met to be able to give more. Of course, I want to make my partner feel desired. But when you function on autopilot, you do what you can just to make it through the day… then fall in a heap at night’.
Sex After Having A Baby #2. She’s already had someone all over her, all day
Don’t take it personally, dad, but after having a baby or toddler attached to her all day, the last thing she might want is someone on her all night.
Personal space can be a huge factor for some mothers, who feel like their touch or sensory bucket is overflowing. They might feel as though everyone wants a piece of their body when they have none for themselves.
A study on the Efé pygmy people found their babies were passed to an adult carer 8 times every hour.
By contrast, in Western society today, a mother is often home alone and left to hold her baby all day.
In some cultures, new mothers have 40 days ‘lying in, where mama is nurtured, has meals cooked for her and is taken care of, while she gets her strength back after giving birth.
These days, most mothers are expected to get on with it as soon as the baby has popped out. We praise ‘super mums’ and put them on a pedestal.
Babies and young children love to be held and attached. This is normal, healthy behavior. It makes them feel safe and builds their self-esteem, confidence and independence.
However, for one mama, being clung to all day with no extra hands to take the load can result in sensory overload.
One BellyBelly member says: ‘I’m very much in the over-touched boat and my husband touches me in a horny way all day. It drives me batty and has the opposite effect than he wants. It puts me off’.
Some mothers actually do want to be touched, but it’s the type of touching that counts:
‘I want physical touch, yes – meaning hugs, caresses – but I can do without the constant bum or boob grabbing or the feeling that every hug must lead somewhere’.
Sex After Having A Baby #3. She’s suffering from depression
A traumatic birth can really ruin a woman’s postpartum period.
If your partner is suffering from depression, it can affect her mood, energy and sex drive.
Unfortunately, postnatal depression affects many women. If your partner is suffering from depression, or you suspect she might be, it’s probably time to get some professional help and advice.
Check out our article for men: Post Natal Depression (PND) & Your Partner.
Sex After Having A Baby #4. She’s afraid of painful sex
Unfortunately, some births don’t work out as we had hoped. Even if they do, our postpartum sexual function needs a bit of time. Sexual desire and sex drive need to build up to get our sex lives going in the right direction.
Childbirth can leave women in physical pain or with damage to the most delicate, feminine parts of their bodies.
This can become a psychological problem because when a woman finally decides to have sex for the first time, she might be so worked up that it does cause pain.
Check out our article on painful sex.
Sex After Having A Baby #5. She might have dyspareunia (painful sex)
It might surprise you to hear that it’s not just vaginal birth that can result in painful sexual intercourse.
One mother says: ‘I had a cesarean for my first and the pain from sex was unbearable for six months. The second birth was an instrumental vaginal birth with a nasty episiotomy on my unstretched perineum (ouch!) and sex was uncomfortable for about 4 months’.
Giving birth can be traumatic for many women and, as a result, they might not want to be touched.
If this is the case for your partner, it’s important she seeks help to work through her birth trauma. Professional birth de-briefers do fabulous work, and so do counselors who specialize in this field.
Sex After Having A Baby #6. She’s breastfeeding
Mother Nature is very clever.
After your baby is born, she ensures everything is geared towards the baby’s survival.
Your hormones are working beautifully to make sure you have breast milk to feed your baby – as well as to prevent another pregnancy too soon.
However, these hormones are not pro-libido.
Yes, there is a biologically normal and justified reason why your partner’s libido is on vacation. And, just for fun, this is why she might also be experiencing vaginal dryness.
Vaginal dryness can make sex uncomfortable and even painful.
Find out more in Libido And Breastfeeding | Where Did My Sex Drive Go?
If there are no other factors in play, her libido will probably return when her hormones reach levels high enough for her to start ovulating and menstruating again.
Please do not ask your partner to give up breastfeeding for the sake of your sex life. It’s so important for the breastfeeding relationship to be supported and nurtured.
Breastfeeding lays the foundations for your baby’s health for the rest of his or her life. Breast milk protects your baby from illness, and infection and contains many wonderful ingredients for health.
Sex After Having A Baby #7. Low self-esteem
After a mother has had a baby, she might be self-conscious about having put on weight and because her shape has changed.
That beautiful round belly everyone thought was adorable has transformed into what she might see as a saggy, squishy jelly belly.
A mother’s post-baby shape doesn’t rate highly in society – and nowhere near as highly as it should.
She might feel ashamed and worried about what you think about her body.
One BellyBelly member says: ‘I feel so unsexy after having a baby. I’m all stretched and saggy. I’m bigger and I’m tired, so hair and makeup are minimal, if done at all. PJs and trackies are the norm. It makes a huge difference when hubby makes me feel sexy. When he kisses me in “that way”, when he touches me as he passes and if I feel like he thinks I’m sexy, I start to feel it myself’.
Recommended reading on self esteem.
Sex After Having A Baby #8. Are you a car thief?
You know… gone in 60 seconds! Well, it might not be 60 seconds, but you get my drift.
Imagine she does feel like having sex and you’ve been gagging for the opportunity.
Then when it happens, it’s all over in a flash; this can leave her feeling used and as though her own needs are unimportant.
She might feel like it’s another demand on her body: giving to others without getting anything in return.
When the pleasure is all yours, don’t expect her to be a repeat customer too soon.
If she wants to have sex, giving her an orgasm can be a great way to connect with her. Just don’t make the orgasm your sole focus, or she might feel pressure to perform.
Struggling with giving her an orgasm? A resource I recommend to my male friends (and their partners) is the work of Jason Julius.
I apologize that the landing page of his website uses strong language. But what he teaches is effective and not ‘pick-up artist’ style. It offers some very effective tips for giving women great orgasms, as well as a guided meditation to relax her.
If sex is more enjoyable for her and you know how to press all her buttons, she might want it more often. And, of course, when she has an orgasm, she gets a shot of oxytocin – the hormone of love and bonding. Orgasms are beneficial for physical and mental health in both men and women.
You might also like to try this book, Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of Female Orgasm.
Sex After Having A Baby #9. She’s on contraceptives
Pharmaceutical contraceptives, especially the pill, are well known for reducing libido –even without having a baby. If you also factor in the above reasons, no wonder she’s not interested.
One BellyBelly member says: ‘I had been on the pill my entire adult life until after having my first baby. Once my period came back and my libido came with it, I lamented all those years of lost libido I had on the pill. I’d never take it again’.
Sex After Having A Baby #10: She wants your presence
Women are wired for connection.
Most women need a connection before they can have sex, whereas men need sex to feel connected.
While a man might be feeling resentful about not getting the sex he craves to feel connected (or even loved), she might resent that he isn’t connecting with her and making her feel loved. This can lead to a decreased desire to have sex. Therefore, you have a stalemate and, because she is also tired and any of the above problems might also come into play, sex goes nowhere.
‘At the end of the day, I am tired and touched out and he expects me to perform like a seal for him in the bedroom. A little affection and attention during the day would be nice’ — Anonymous Facebook fan.
How you can help?
Find ways to take your baby off her hands whenever you can.
Play with the baby or wear your baby while she has a break. Talk to her about scheduling regular dad and baby time.
If she’s had any damage or repair work after the birth, it’s a good idea to get the midwife or doctor’s advice on when to approach sex, just to be sure.
Other than that, you need to be patient while she recovers physically and emotionally. Let her know that you’re supporting her and will be ready when she’s ready.
Touch and skin-to-skin contact is so important, so find a way to do that as best you can.
You might like to suggest seeing a sex therapist if the problem has become psychological and there is postpartum sexual dysfunction.
When pain is involved, pushing your partner for sex is only going to leave you feeling more rejected, when that’s not what she wants you to feel.
When you agree to resume sex, be sure to use plenty of lubricant (try this awesome organic lubricant) in case she is tender or nervous, and keep talking.
Dry sex, even if a little bit lubricated, can be irritating or painful. Be proactive in using water-based lubricants during sex, and let her know if she needs more, she should tell you.
Be kind and attentive, putting her first and doing little things she likes; it can go a long way.
Remember, women take a great deal more time to warm up than men, with or without a baby.
A woman needs around 20 minutes of warm-up time during foreplay. So take your time, and focus on connecting and giving her pleasure. Doing that will remind her how good it feels to be touched sensually.
Remind your partner how beautiful she is. Let her know (in a non-horny way) that you love and adore her.
Try foot massage and other non-sexual acts where you are enjoying other parts of her body. Maybe tell her what you love about that part of her as you go along. Even if it’s not perfect, who cares? I am sure you can find many things that are beautiful about your partner.
Focus on her more.
Make sex about her, not you. And trust when she has her sexual desire back, she will make it more about you too.
If you aren’t planning more children, have you thought about offering to have a vasectomy?
Or if you intend to have children in the future, have you looked at natural fertility management?
Read our article Natural Birth Control Methods – 5 Alternatives To The Pill.
Consider a post-natal doula or get some other paid home help with your baby.
If you aren’t getting outside help, then you’re it, dad. Depending on how old your baby is, you could take the baby out for a walk for an hour. Or you could take your baby to visit your parents at home if they are close by. Or just occupy baby in between feeds, out of the earshot of mama.
On the weekends, offer to be the first one to jump out of bed with baby, and do the first shift so mum can sleep in.
Parenting is a joint affair. When you’re home with your partner, remember you’re a dad, not a babysitter. You need to share the care of your baby.
Turn the TV off and ask her how she is. Ask how her day was, how she’s finding motherhood, what her concerns are and what she’s enjoying about being a mother. Ask her anything that shows that you’re interested in her and her feelings. Try talking while giving each other a foot massage, by sitting at opposite ends of a couch or sofa, which keeps you face to face.
For more information on doula’s, read the following BellyBelly article; What is a doula
Why pushing her for sex won’t get you what you want
One common complaint mothers have is their partners will do something they really appreciate – for example, give them a massage, and then push for sex.
Rather than an act of kindness, it becomes a trade, which creates resentment.
Some women feel pressured by their partners – sometimes daily – which not only builds resentment but also makes them back even further away.
A book I highly recommend is The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. Just as we speak different languages, we love in languages, too. For example, a woman might have grown up in a household where she saw her mother cook beautiful meals for her husband and keep a spotless home. Her mother channeled all her love into a language Chapman calls ‘acts of service’.
Good luck dad… May the force be with you.