I recently listened to a podcast about mums and dads and maternity/paternity leave and sex life. It was an episode highlighting how difficult sex after childbirth can be.
Most couples are back at it before their child turns one, but for others, it can take a little while longer.
Sometimes the reason for the low sex drive or no desire for intimacy is the inability to find the energy for it – both mentally and physically.
First and foremost, you need to know that sex life after a baby can be a tricky thing. What worked for you a year ago won’t necessarily work now. And what works for your husband won’t necessarily work for you. Sexuality is unique, and it has a bit of a life of its own.
I, myself, have been on three maternity leaves, and my experience of my sexuality has been different every time.
When I speak to other women, they’ll often share that they found their experiences to change too.
This is because our sexuality is affected by so many different factors throughout our life, and it’s a lot more nuanced and can’t really be put neatly into boxes regardless of how much we’d like that.
I’ve listed four common reasons for low sex drive in women and men, which causes a lack of intimacy after a baby, but there are, of course, other things which may affect your sex life too.
Please do be aware that I said “can change”; perhaps your lust or your sex drive isn’t affected, or maybe the effect is positive!
When you’re breastfeeding your child, your prolactin levels increase significantly. These levels have even been measured to be higher in men who are on paternity leave.
Also, it’s found in men right after ejaculation/orgasm and is believed to be what causes him to need a little break before being ready for more.
Prolactin automatically reduces the lust for sex, thus instigating a low sex drive in your husband. Yep, Mama Nature is sneaky!
To start procreating straight after giving birth may not be the smartest thing to do if you’re living in the Stone Age, so yep, in this case, the biological logic can’t be argued.
When the nights of broken sleep turns into months of broken sleep – or a lack of sleep – this seriously starts to zap you.
It’s like the bank account you had with a huge excess, and suddenly it’s just full of red numbers, and your financial advisor is looking at you, very worried.
Let me just say: yes, something will happen to your lust and to your sex life. The energy is sparse, and honestly, you’d prefer to sleep.
Your mind is racing; your cognitive abilities start to ‘power down,’ it becomes difficult for you to stay focused, and what you just really-really-really want is to sleep.
You just want to get some shut-eye before your child wakes up again and starts demanding things from you.
Sleep is insanely important to the general well-being and health of human beings. And we already know that general well-being and health is important if you want to have a well-functioning and satisfying sex life.
So – if you’d rather sleep and if you just don’t have the energy for it, even though it’s a lovely thought: Welcome to the club of tired parents, this is perfectly normal.
Mental redecorating/new roles
When you become parents (again, perhaps), something happens to you as a person. Sure, if it’s your 5th baby, you’ll feel less changed than by your 1st child.
However, that being said: becoming a parent (again) is always new, and it’ll always change relationships and family constellations. And you.
Therefore, a mental redecorating is bound to happen, and it’ll most likely tire you out, causing a low sex drive.
Having reactions to birth is certainly not an uncommon thing. Actually, it’s more common than what a lot of new parents tend to believe, and it’s also what I experience whenever I host talks for new parents in parent-groups (organized by the town in which I live).
When the psyche is ‘working over-time,’ the sex life is very rarely the number one priority.
Problems in the relationship
”If you want to be sure you’ll get divorced, just have a child” is what a couple’s therapist at a course I once attended said. And while this might be true, it’s a bit cheeky.
However, taking a look at the divorce statistics, it does show us that the relationship falls apart when the little ones come into the world.
Having and raising children is really hard, and it’s a lot of extra work. And while it is wonderful, not all couples – by far – make it work.
And this is where the challenges in the relationship – and any other challenges – will begin to manifest.
It might be that your partner isn’t very good at cooperating under pressure and when they’re sleep deprived? Or perhaps the criticism is a bit too vocal?
Or perhaps you’re finding yourself go to bed with a knot in your stomach a little bit too often? Maybe things just snowball and they become difficult to talk about? Perhaps…?
Problems in a relationship are a sure culprit when it comes to a low sex drive.
It’s normal to experience challenges – annoying as it is – but remember there are a lot of things you can do to create a better connection with one another despite it being a bit tough. If, of course, that’s what you want.
1. Accept that for a period of time, this is just how things are
Remember that it’s completely normal and very logical. If you can find the reasons – i.e., if you know that it’s a sleep-issue, then perhaps you and your partner can work on you resting more for you to function more during the day.
Basically, an attitude of acceptance and curiosity is a great idea here.
Very rarely can we change what we refuse to accept. And so, if you want your low sex drive to change, start by accepting the current state of affairs and then, from here, work with your partner on creating change.
2. Plan intimacy and give yourselves a helping hand
If you’re missing the physical intimacy, then plan a partner-meeting – well aware that this may be interrupted by your child, but then you’ll just plan a new meeting.
If you feel up for it, you can massage each other (oh dear, what a cliché but oh-my, it feels so nice and it prods at the sexuality a bit too) or you could simply start out by being close and naked on the bed and make out for as long as you like.
This might be plenty for you guys, or perhaps you’d like to take things a step further.
If you’re feeling courageous, you can do a sexual massage or give each other sexual satisfaction – if that’s what you fancy. Perhaps watch an erotic film or listen to an erotic story together or maybe even play an erotic game.
3. Get help fixing what needs fixing
If you are already certain that “something” needs some extra attention and perhaps you even need some help with your low sex drive, then react on it.
Don’t forget that very rarely do these things work themselves out, and this is why you’re doing a disservice to yourselves by not taking immediate action.
Despite the first few steps feeling difficult and shaky, you’re guaranteed to, in maybe 3-6 months time, thank yourselves for taking action. If you’re still on maternity leave, the nurse is often filled with resources and ideas to how you can receive the help you need for your low sex drive.
Maj’s tip: If your sex life is playing up during maternity leave, please know that this is perfectly normal, and most couples are naturally ‘back at it’ within the first year of the child’s life.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Maj Wismann is a Danish clinical sexologist and couple's therapist with her own private clinic since 2006. She is one of Denmark's most renowned sex and relationship experts, and her online class"Get your sex drive back & keep it for life" has helped thousands of people all around the world to reclaim their sex life and take the control over the sex drive back.