Becoming a parent is one of the great milestones in life. Granted it’s not for everyone, but for those who choose to have children, the impact on their lives can be monumental. Most of these changes are for the better and many parents will attest to the great joy that their children have brought into their lives. But there’s perhaps one apprehension that worries most parents-to-be: The question of Sex after Parenthood.
The image of the overworked, overly weary couple, desperately fighting against all odds to find some time together has become so iconic that it’s practically a media cliché by this point in time. The moment we see a husband and wife scrambling to be together under the sheets we instantly expect that they will be interrupted by a baby monitor or a knock at the door followed by tiny footsteps coming into the room.
But is finding the balance between sex and parenthood really such a struggle?
And, if so, what are the best ways to overcome this relationship hurdle? Read on to find out!
There is no doubt that childbirth can have an impact on a couples’ lives. From a purely practical standpoint, couples are advised to wait anywhere from 14 days to 6 weeks before resuming sexual activity (depending on the individual and the advice of their medical professional).
But sex between partners isn’t just a physical act, it’s a psychological one too, and refocusing from parenthood to each other’s pleasure can be a difficult transition for some.
Studies concerning this dynamic are sadly few and far between and can paint quite a divisive picture. On the one hand, a British study from 2012 reported that 63% of new parents said their sex lives had deteriorated after having children, with four in every ten new parents saying they found their partners less attractive too.
Conversely, research from Penn State found that after 12 months 55% of men said they were somewhat to very satisfied with their sex lives, whereas women reported being 69% satisfied after the same time (a very fitting statistic).
The takeaway here should be that, although sex after childbirth can be a challenge, the way that couples handle the situation can differ greatly and is very personal. Just because others have struggled doesn’t mean you will.
Equally, if you are finding it hard to resume sexual activity alongside your new duties as a parent there’s no shame in this. Life is all about finding the balance and over time your partner and you will find you ‘new normal’ and discover what works for you.
While each new couple will have their own methods for working through the transition back to sex there are some tried-and-true methods to help make things easier. Here are some of the best tips for regaining a sexual connection post-childbirth.
If one partner wants to resume sex but the other isn’t ready then this can cause a major relationship crisis depending on how it’s handled. Because of this, it’s important to have ‘the talk’ when it comes to sex and parenthood.
Check in with each other regularly and see how you’re feeling about sex, both physically and mentally. It could be that on any given night one or both of you are too tired for intercourse and that’s perfectly fine. These times should be approached with love and understanding.
However, if you’re both serious about resuming your sex life it is still important to set some clear intentions about how to go about this before trying your best to stick to them. Support each other in this endeavor, rather than applying pressure and remember you’re a team.
One of the biggest obstacles to sex after starting a family is that one or both parents can find it very hard to separate from the ‘parent role’ in the household.
When you’re in the task and caregiving mindset of ‘mother’ or ‘father’ it can be a real struggle to switch off and see yourself as simply ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ again.
Regardless it’s important for new parents to learn when to switch off and not let their duties as a parent detract from their duties to themselves and their partner.
If you struggle with this then take time, first, to disconnect by finding moments to look after yourself. Eat properly. Find some time to rest where possible. Find a moment to engage in some physical activity or a mindfulness exercise.
Once you realize that it’s okay to take time for yourself again then it becomes easier to accept and embrace the importance of your sexual health and wellbeing too.
Most new parents will soon learn to juggle their idealized expectations of parenthood with the messy reality of being a parent. ‘Perfect is the enemy of good enough’ and parents often learn this first hand.
This translates over to sex too.
While it would be nice if every sexual encounter were as long or as well-planned as past experiences life as a parent may mean reshuffling your priorities in order to fit in those all-important moments of intimacy.
Take any viable opportunity you can to do something sexual with your partner. This may not always be a full sex session but a cheeky quickie can sometimes be just as thrilling. Be flexible with your schedule and seize the moment. Sometimes the spontaneity of it all can be a turn on itself.
If neither of you are ready for this then start out in small ways and do so sooner rather than later. Flirt with each other, buy each other little gifts of appreciation, share a bath. Just remember: There’s no time like the present.
Orgasms are great but they’re not always necessary. Neither is full penetrative sex, especially if you’re both feeling exhausted.
In these moments it’s better to do something together than nothing at all, especially if you are still aroused.
In moments like these take a chance to explore each other’s bodies in new and different ways. Focus more on foreplay or exchanging passionate kisses. Make use of sex toys in order to enjoy some less physically strenuous forms of release.
Instead of thinking of sex as something with a set procedure and a clearly defined finish line explore where each moment can take you and enjoy the process.
Redefine what sex can mean for you and you may soon find that you’ve expanded rather than narrowed your sex lives.
And, lastly, the ultimate goal of resuming and maintaining a solid sex life after becoming a parent: Making intimacy the core priority.
Deep down many couples struggle with sex after childbirth because they feel like they’re lost that core connection with each other as a couple. Women may feel insecure about their post-birth body, mean may feel rejected in the relationship dynamic or any manner of other issues.
When you go to bed exhausted and your head is full of doubt and apprehension instead of mutual compassion then it can be very hard to be ‘in the mood’ for sex.
The best way to resolve this is to remember that your sexual desires stem from your desire to be intimate with each other and to make this known.
Find the time to engage in non-sexual activities together—such as date nights, shared dinners, or simply going to bed in each other’s arms. Hug each other, complement each other, and make sure your partner feels loved.
If you can emotionally support each other not just as parents but also as lovers then sex will seem like a much more natural progression.
Resuming your sexual relationship may be a struggle but with the right mindset, you can work together to make the process much more stress-free and enjoyable for the both of you.
Having regular physical relations with your partner also decreases the chance of arguments or fights.
Remember why you started a family in the first place and the bonds that led you to this point in life and you’ll soon find yourselves finding that balance as a couple once more.
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