Plus, how to overcome the most common sex-life saboteurs.
Getting hot and heavy soon after giving birth can seem as likely as getting eight full hours of sleep. While some new parents still find time to get busy between the sheets, what's really going on when it comes to postpartum sex?
Related: Your Guide to the Fourth Trimester
Researchers at the University of Michigan surveyed 114 partners of new mamas, and found that a third of them had intercourse six weeks after birth. Sixty percent of partners reported receiving oral sex, while a third of birth mothers did. The study, which focused on factors both physical and psychological, suggests that the journey back into being intimate are extremely nuanced and complex for new parents. The couple doesn't simply fall back into the exact same kind of sexual relationship they had before the baby was conceived.
Doctors typically give the okay to have sex four to six weeks after giving birth. Here, common sex saboteurs, plus how to overcome them for a strong, sexy relationship.
The sex saboteur: You're super stressed Almost everyone who reported not having sex in the study, cited stress as the cause (followed by fatigue and time). We bet you're not surprised: You're light on sleep, heavy on to-do's, and you can hardly find the time for a quick shower, nevermind a steamy one with your partner.
Overcome it: "Stress decreases the desire for sex," says Kristen Mark, PhD, a sex researcher at the University of Kentucky. "But once you make time for it, sex ultimately reduces stress." The solution? Try these 6 Stress-Relief Tips That Really Work.
The sex saboteur: Your "hot spots" have changed "Breastfeeding can make you feel like your breasts—originally a source of erotic pleasure—are now only for delivering food to your baby," says Mark.
Overcome it: The shift is normal, but it isn't permanent. Set some ground rules: If something isn't a turn-on anymore—or if you have a new mood maker—let your partner know.
The sex saboteur: You're worried it will be painful From tender nipples to vaginal dryness, postpartum discomfort hardly puts you in the mood. Plus, your vagina will be tender and more sensitive, so the first time could hurt a little.
Overcome it: Use a lubricant the first time you get back in the saddle to minimize friction and pain. Lubes come in silicone, water, petroleum, and oil varieties, but Mark suggests one that's water-based. It's safe to use with condoms, and rinses off easiest, preventing bacteria growth and urinary tract infections.
The sex saboteur: You feel guilty After the birth of your first baby, you may be torn between asserting yourself as a parent and being intimate with your partner. In fact, trying to be supermom, worker, and wife (phew) could lead to feelings of inadequacy and depression, according to a University of Washington study. Your sex drive definitely isn't served by the weight of feeling like you're not measuring up to your new role.
Overcome it: Try not to stress about juggling parenting and partnering. With time, you'll be able to balance everything—from burping baby to scheduling date nights—with your eyes closed. Take it one day (er, poopy diaper) at a time.
Ready to get back in the sack? Don't forget these Post-Baby Birth Control Options.