Q: My baby is 8 weeks old, and my husband is pressuring me to have sex. I'm just not interested. What should I do?
A: First, recognize that you're not alone—many new mothers experience decreased libido due to hormonal shifts, lack of sleep, fear of pain with intercourse and the stress of caring for a newborn, says OB-GYN Tracy W. Gaudet, M.D., author of Body, Soul, and Baby: A Doctor's Guide to the Complete Pregnancy Experience, From Preconception to Postpartum (Bantam). Here are three tips to help you through this tricky time:
1. Be patient. Have compassion for the major changes your body and mind are undergoing, and encourage your partner to as well. While the majority of women are physically able to have sex six weeks after giving birth, nearly all need more time to adapt to their new role, Gaudet says. "Explain to your husband that this is a normal, temporary phase that many women experience," she adds. "If you try to power through it for his sake, the sex could be uncomfortable and decrease your desire even more."
2. Prioritize time alone together. "When you're busy with a new baby, private time with your husband is usually the first thing that goes out the window," says Gaudet. "That's a mistake." For women, she explains, libido is often linked with a feeling of connection—and that's difficult to achieve if you only relate to each other as parents. Make it a goal to have at least one "date" with your husband by the three-month mark, if not sooner.
3. Get creative. When you're ready to be intimate again for the first time, consider ruling out intercourse altogether. Instead, agree to give each other pleasure in other ways. "After you have a baby, fear of pain is common and is a big mood-spoiler," Gaudet says. "By taking intercourse off the table, you'll be much more relaxed and able to enjoy the experience."