3. Renew your courtship. Prospective and new parents often ignore what’s happening between them outside of the bedroom. “Hold hands. Go for walks together. Get back into courtship behaviors,” advises Eugene, Ore., sex therapist Wendy Maltz, M.S.W. “Trouble comes when people think their relationship can go on autopilot.”
These renewed rituals can have long-lasting payoffs. “The couples I’ve talked to who do this start a connection that lasts well into their lives as parents,” Barron says.
4. Make the effort. Speaking of courtship, it’s easy to let things go when you’re pregnant or a brand-new mom. But unless you make the effort to light a spark, spontaneous combustion is unlikely. Waddling around the house in a spit-up-stained muumuu, allowing days to pass between showers — these are not sex-inspiring behaviors. Do your part to make it happen, or it won’t.
5. Seize the moment. If you wait until the perfect opportunity (Your pregnant belly has temporarily deflated for romantic purposes! The baby is with grandma and you’re at a B&B in Tuscany!), your child may be in college before you have sex again. Yes, you should carve out time for serious lovemaking, but in the interim (read: your real life), make hay whenever and wherever the sun shines.
6. Go slow after the baby. Plan on a hiatus in the weeks after your baby’s birth. First, physical recuperation is a must. Second, the demands of early parenthood can be totally depleting. “The oxytocin released during breastfeeding is the same hormone that is released when a woman has an orgasm,” says Maltz, who is the editor of Intimate Kisses: The Poetry of Sexual Pleasure (New World Library, 2001). “To your body, breastfeeding can be like having seven or eight orgasms a day.” (Not that nursing feels like an orgasm, but it can be equally tiring.) Lingering soreness, constant fatigue and feeling “touched out” may all contribute to flagging desire. This is a good time for alternate kinds of connecting and communicating.
Once you’re ready and you have your doctor’s OK, around six weeks postpartum you can resume having intercourse; just take it easy the first few times. Because nursing can lower hormone levels, many breastfeeding women find a water-based lubricant helpful. Most women (men, too) may find a glass of wine salubrious. Just don’t overdo it if you are nursing.
7. Welcome the new era. A postpartum slump may be nature’s way of making sure your children are appropriately spaced. But don’t let celibacy become a lifelong habit — if it persists for months on end, talk to your doctor. Then again, don’t fret excessively about how your sex life has changed. It’s a cliché, but soon enough your “waistline” will measure less than 60 inches, your episiotomy stitches won’t throb, and your child won’t always respond by crying hysterically, Pavlov-style, every time you and your partner get near each other. Enjoy your new life, sexual challenges and all.