With its attendant sleep deprivation and nearly constant physical demands, life with a newborn has likely left you feeling less than amorous, with sex a distant memory. But rest assured that your thoughts will eventually turn to re-establishing physical intimacy with your partner. And when that happens, you’ll need to think about something you haven’t had to in a while: birth control (unless, of course, you want to conceive again immediately). Wives’ tales notwithstanding, ovulation can occur as early as four weeks after delivery.
New parents need to treat the birth of a baby like a transition instead of a change. You’re not always going to be this tired, this nervous, this overwhelmed. Anxiety about the baby interferes with sexual feelings, and romantic patterns are disrupted. But after awhile, new parents are ready to redirect some emotion back to each other.
It all started with making love. But now that you’re pregnant, sexual intimacy might not be foremost on your mind: Your belly is ballooning and your mind is busy mulling nursery designs, so it’s not unusual for sex to drop a few notches on the priority list.
Is your pregnant belly the only reminder that you and your partner once had an active sex life? Sure, sex during and after pregnancy is definitely a new frontier, but it doesn’t have to be alien territory. Here’s a brief guide to keeping alive the sexual flame — and the spark of romance that lit up your libido in the first place.
Is sex after the baby, like easy labor, an oxymoron? You’ve said arrivederci to sleeping until 10, to catching a movie at the last minute, to your sweet little B-cup bra. Do you have to kiss your love life good-bye, too? No, but as with everything else, you will probably need to make some adjustments.
The Pain, the Pain
Most doctors and midwives advise waiting four to six weeks after delivery to have sex again, but it’s different for every woman.
Nothing could be farther from the minds of most mothers-to-be than the possibility of having a sexually transmitted disease. But while there are no statistics on the number of prenatal STDs, it’s likely that pregnant women reflect the female population as a whole. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, this means one-fifth already have an STD, and one in 20 women will contract one in any given year.
During my first pregnancy, my husband, Dave, and I spent almost the entire nine months preparing for the baby: furnishing the nursery, buying a layette, picking out just the right stroller and car seat. We thought we were as ready for the baby as new parents could be. Not long after Steven arrived, however, Dave and I found ourselves bickering and losing patience with each other. We had prepared our home for a new baby, all right, but not our relationship.
When I was asked to write about sex during pregnancy, I was thrilled. What a great service I could provide, I surmised, especially since I’d already been down that road twice. Now if only I could remember what having sex was like. I’m kidding. Your sex life will continue but, like the rest of your life, it will change. While pregnant sex varies from couple to couple, here’s what I hear most often.
My libido increases greatly when I’m pregnant, and I try to have sex as often as possible.”
— Judy T., mother of three
“Seeing my wife’s changing shape and knowing that the baby in her belly was a product of our love made my desire for her grow.”
— John K., father of two
“When I’m pregnant, I feel more womanly, feminine and sexual. I like being full and round. Luckily, my husband likes me that way, too.”
— Abby C., mother of four
Many women experience changes in their sex drive during pregnancy--increased and decreased libidos are both common. That said, take a look at any circumstances, past or present, that may be putting a damper on your desire. For instance, have you experienced any vaginal bleeding or been at risk for preterm labor? Did intercourse during your last pregnancy initiate contractions? Or how about the fact that this time around, you are the mother of a young child and are likely exhausted?
One of the most common reasons for decreased interest in sex on the part of either a pregnant woman or father-to-be is fear that intercourse will hurt the baby. I'm always happy to reassure my patients that with rare exceptions, a couple can enjoy sex throughout pregnancy. Natural lubrication should not be a problem, and orgasms are perfectly safe.
Hormones can affect your sex drive, too. Pregnancy triggers constant high levels of estrogen and progesterone, both of which suppress the production of testosterone, a vital hormone where libido is concerned.
No. "It takes at least three to six months for your genitals to get back to normal," says Laura Berman, Ph.D., director of the Berman Center in Chicago and co-author of For Women Only (Henry Holt & Co.). A perineal tear or episiotomy can cause a tight feeling in the vagina, which can persist even after the site has healed (usually four to six weeks after a vaginal birth). To help combat the tightness, you or your partner can gently stretch the area using fingers that have been well lubricated with K-Y Ultragel or Astroglide (available at drugstores).
Whatever your life was like as a couple, pregnancy changes it irrevocably. Your focus, once centered on just you two, zooms in on the coming baby. So begins the transition to parenthood, an experience that can strengthen your bond as a couple if you communicate and nurture your relationship.