For Dads/Partners: 7 Reasons Why Your Wife May Be Less Interested In Sex After Childbirth
The Physical Trauma of Childbirth Can Make Sex More Painful
Whether she had a vaginal or cesarean birth, your wife's body has been through a lot. Women with vaginal births may have experienced an episiotomy or vaginal tearing. Complications can include infection, scar tissue and issues with the repair work done after birth. Mothers who had cesarean births may feel tenderness at the site of incision for months after birth. Before resuming sex, mothers should explore their own body for tenderness. Any concerns about pain should be reported to the OB/GYN or midwife. Intercourse should be avoided until any issues with infection or pain are resolved. Even once healing has occurred, mothers may feel afraid of having pain with intercourse. Fear of pain causes tension and increases the likelihood of pain. It’s important to take sex very slowly if the birth was physically traumatic.
Postpartum Hormones Decrease Libido and Natural Lubrication
All moms experience a drop in estrogen in the early weeks postpartum. Women who are breastfeeding will have low estrogen for much longer, perhaps for the entire duration of breastfeeding. This is nature’s way of ensuring that couples don’t conceive another baby while they have a newborn. Low estrogen postpartum, just like during menopause, can lead to vaginal dryness and low libido. The vaginal tissues can become thinner and easier to tear during sex. Understand that the hormonal changes that occur postpartum aren’t permanent. Even for moms practicing extended breastfeeding, estrogen levels will usually return to normal when the frequency of nursing naturally declines. In the meantime, you will need to use artificial lubrication for vaginal intercourse.
She May Feel “Touched Out”
Moms provide comfort and care to newborns around the clock. They are constant contact with the baby and, perhaps, her older children as well. In those rare moments in which the children are in bed or in the care of someone else, moms may feel that they need a period of not being touched by anyone. Mothers need some time to feel like their bodies are their own. Find ways to make sure that your wife gets the time she needs to herself. Encourage her to go for a walk or spend time with friends.
Her Needs May Be Unmet
In 1943, Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of human needs. In his theory, humans were unable to achieve higher levels of personal development until more basic needs were met. This idea also applies to postpartum sex: in order for a mother to feel relaxed, focused and interested in sex (which is higher level functioning) she must have her basic needs met. When your baby was born, your wife’s ability to meet her own needs, both basic (food, water, hygiene) and higher level (autonomy, meaning, vocation) were compromised by the physical trauma of birth and the intense needs of the newborn.
Take a look at your wife. Ask yourself: How well are her needs being meet? Basic needs include: eating, drinking, going to the bathroom, showering, brushing her hair, having a clean physical environment. Other needs include feeling personal freedom, finding meaning in life, feeling that you are contributing in a positive way to the world and being recognized for your contributions. You will likely notice that, since the baby has come, some of her needs have been neglected. Helping your wife meet all her needs will make it more likely that she will find time to prioritize her sex life.
She May Be Stressed, Depressed or Anxious
The first year after childbirth is the time in which women are most vulnerable to developing a mood or anxiety disorder. In fact, women are 70 times more likely to commit suicide in the postpartum period than they are normally. As many as 1 in 5 mothers will have a diagnosable psychiatric illness during the postpartum period. All moms feel some increase in stress, even if much of it is positive, in that postpartum year. While men often use sex as a way to relieve stress, women are more likely to need their stress relieved before being receptive to sex. In other words, your wife needs to take care of her mental health before she will regain her sexual health.
She May Feel Ashamed of Her Postpartum Body
While some moms feel proud of their postpartum body, knowing that it represents the miracle of motherhood, other moms are more vulnerable to poor body image. While you may feel that she looks better than ever, she may not feel the same. While reassuring her that you find her beautiful is important, it is not useful if you pretend that no changes ever occurred. Instead, you can recognize the changes she’s discouraged about but reflect a positive view: “I know your belly is really different. To me, it’s amazing because you grew our child in your body. I’m so grateful to you. I don’t know how I would handle all the changes that you’ve handled in this past year.”
Moms May Not Feel Comfortable Getting It On with Baby In the Next Room
The moment that you get the baby to sleep might seem like the time to initiate sex. Some mothers may feel okay with this. But others will not. It’s especially challenging for mothers of fussy babies, since the mother may feel that it’s only a matter of minutes before the baby will wake up. That makes it hard for mothers to relax and get aroused.
Ultimately, it will be easier for a mom to focus on sex if she knows that her child(ren) are well cared for and unable to interrupt during sex. In order for that to happen, some kind of childcare will be needed. Mothers tend to be the one who arrange childcare, which can be stressful. Talk to your wife to see if she’s open to using childcare for a date night. If she is, take the lead and arrange for childcare yourself rather than putting the responsibility on your wife. One low cost option is arranging a babysitting swap with another couple with kids so you can drop the kids off at another home.
General Strategies for Dads/Partners:
For Moms: What You Need To Understand Your Partner's Feelings About Sex
Your Partner Wants More than Sex
Often, I hear from new mothers who feel like their partners are only interested in them for sex. These mothers feel like they are being pestered for sex non-stop and, rather than this making them feel loved and desired, they begin to feel used, as if their husband only values the sexual part of their relationship.
If you talk to dads, you get a different perspective. For many fathers, the desire to connect sexually with their wives is about expressing love and affirming that they are loved. It’s important that mothers don’t mistake their husband’s requests for sex as being “just sex” but to remember that it may be a request to feel bonded and connected to you.
Your Partner May Feel Left Out of the Mother-Child Bond
Before childbirth, couples often feel that their primary bond is with each other. After the birth of a baby, this dynamic may feel different. The close physical and emotional relationship between mother and baby may leave your partner feeling left out. Requests for intimacy may be a way of communicating a need for reassurance that your bond as a couple is still intact. If you aren’t feeling ready for sex, find other ways to communicate the strength of your bond with your partner. Even though you may feel “touched out” try to remember to reassure your partner with touch, eye contact and loving words.
Postpartum Mothers May Be More Irritable Than Normal: Dads Need Reassurance
It’s not uncommon for mothers to feel more irritable postpartum. The hormonal shifts, physical pain, poor sleep and constant demands of motherhood tax a mother’s ability to remain her normal, friendly self. It’s not uncommon to hear partners say “Since the baby came, it feels like my wife hates me!” If you notice that you’re feeling more irritable than normal, ask your partner to give you more support so you can get your own needs met. If your irritability is accompanied by other mental health symptoms (e.g. poor appetite, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, fears of hurting the baby, guilty feelings about being a bad mother) then seek a consultation with a mental health professional trained to diagnosis postpartum mood disorders. If you have been irritable, apologize and explain how you’ve been feeling. Give your partner more reassurance and ask for your partner’s support in getting your own needs met.
Dads May Feel Turned on By Your Postpartum Body
You may imagine that your partner is weirded out by having seen you give birth or that your partner is turned off by your postpartum body. However, he may feel more connected to you physically than ever before. If he’s expressing his desire for you, don’t reject it because of the way you feel about your postpartum body. Your partner thinks you’re beautiful--accept it!
General Strategies for Mothers: