Post-Baby Sex: Yes, It’s Possible!
by Laura Roe Stevens
Having a baby is a wondrous time. It’s filled with overwhelming love and awe for the little person you two have brought into the world. And yet, at the same time, it can be filled with much anxiety and stress. As a new mom, your body is recouping from childbirth and perhaps a C-section, and the little sleep and long days caring for your infant can banish any thoughts of sex. I remember fantasizing about a full night’s sleep when my son was having crying jags every two hours and I was breastfeeding on demand. Poor husbands don’t always understand. Most obstetricians advise women to wait four weeks after delivering vaginally and six weeks after a cesarean before resuming sexual relations. But what if it’s been three months after giving birth and you still can’t muster up the energy? It’s understandable, on the one hand. Perhaps you, too, are breastfeeding on demand every two to three hours? Perhaps your child has colic and you’re enduring long, crying jags daily? The lack of sleep and long days wear you down. But they are also wearing down your relationship with your partner.
Any couple who goes two weeks without having sex (exempting the period just after birth, or illness) is currently in a “state of an emergency” in their relationship, says Barbara Bartlik, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York, whose private practice specializes in the treatment of sexual problems.
“If it has been more than two weeks without sex, it is an emergency,” explains Bartlik. “That’s because an orgasm releases oxytocin, the bonding hormone. This hormone actually makes you feel more bonded to one another.”
For that reason, Bartlik explains that couples should try to find the time at least once a week—even in those early parenting days. For the other days of the week, luckily, touching will help keep the bonds strong too.
“Reach out and touch every day. When you walk by, touch. Hold hands. Give massages. Touching also releases oxytocin. Orgasms, however, bring oxytocin levels up to five times the base line. So even if you don’t feel in the mood, you should do it any way,” Bartlik urges.
For those who are seriously sleep-deprived and perhaps also caring for other children as well as a newborn, Bartlik advises having a talk with your spouse. Let him know that if you had a bit more help, you’d be more inclined to help in the bedroom. Sexual bribery? Perhaps. But let’s face it: it’s the truth. So ask him to share some of the night time diaper changes. Perhaps dad can give baby a bottle of pumped breast milk at one point in the night too? You may be surprised at how motivated he’ll become, if he knows you’ll be in the mood once a week.
If your baby won’t take bottles, or you aren’t comfortable giving them and are breast-feeding on demand, you can still garner more sleep if you nap during the day when your baby does. This will mean you’ll need to let some of the house-work slide, or that you may need to hire a sitter, or request help from family, if you’re also caring for a toddler—but it’s absolutely worth it.
Another way to boast energy levels, and to lose some baby weight, is to start exercising. My strategy was heading to the beach with my infant snug in my bjorn and walking with other moms. It was nice to stretch my legs, breathe fresh air, and have some time to chat with friends with babies the same age as mine. I didn’t realize that walking every day helped in the bedroom too.
“Exercise helps with libido—it actually raises sex hormones. Another bonus is that when you exercise more, you actually need less sleep,” Bartlik explains.
So, plan a strategy including exercise, more help from the hubby, and the much deserved nap—and hopefully you and your partner will be on the road to raised oxytocin levels soon!