Large numbers of marriages collapse within 18 months after the birth of a baby. The breakdown in many of these relationships has to do with a lack of sex.
No one signs up for a sexless marriage, and yet “to have and hold” is put on hold directly after childbirth. But, even after the six-week wait for sex, many women do not regain their libidos. If lovemaking in your marriage stalled after childbirth, these 17 reasons could explain why.
17 Recovery Stage
Let’s start off with the most obvious reason for a reduced sex drive after delivery; it’s the recovery stage. Childbirth takes a physical toll on a woman’s body.
After birth, a new mother may have stitches from a cesarean section, a perineal tear, or an episiotomy that needs healing. The cervix needs some time to close. Constipation from prescribed medication can lead to hemorrhoids. At the same time, bleeding and discharge continue for weeks. Childbirth happened in a private, sensitive area, and now vaginal and abdominal soreness needs time to mend.
The general rule is to wait at least 4 to 6 weeks before resuming sexual intercourse. Some new mothers are ready within this time frame, but other women need months of recovery.
After having a baby, a lack of sex may become a serious issue in your relationship. If it’s been months since you’ve been intimate, and your partner is feeling rejected and lonely, remind him that your love life is not over. Your romantic connection has changed, but you’re adjusting to a new phase in your life. Honest and loving communication can reinforce an emotional bond until you are ready to regain your physical bond.
The first few months of parenthood are challenging. To be 100% responsible for a delicate, wrinkled human being is exhausting. When you’re spread too thin, it takes a toll. Stress and a whirlwind of activity can lead to burnout. This is why after your baby goes to bed, you crash. All of your energy is spent.
Some dads resent that their partners are never in the mood. Being too tired sounds like an excuse if you’re always tired, but it’s difficult to function when you’re exhausted. It’s even harder to take care of someone else’s needs when your energy is low.
Dads, rest assured that in many cases the desire exists, but the strength does not. This is a temporary situation. But, if you feel cracks forming in your relationship, there are two things you can do:
- Start an agreement to share the responsibilities as much as possible. Feedings, diaper changes, cooking, and all other household duties need to be split. Make a to-do list, and post it on the fridge where you can see what needs to be done.
- Accept help from family and friends to watch the baby for one night. Your loved ones will understand that you feel drained. We don’t have to parent alone.
The responsibility of family and home life rests on both of your shoulders. The more you and your partner work together, the more time you will have for each other.
Hormones play a big role after childbirth, especially with women who breastfeed. When a woman is nursing, her body secretes high levels of prolactin. This hormone helps to produce milk. It also decreases her desire for sex. A breastfeeding woman’s libido is further reduced because lower levels of testosterone are secreted. This is the “male” hormone responsible for sexual desire. When breastfeeding ceases, the lack of sexual desire should resolve itself.
14 Body Issues
If you are struggling with negative body issues after delivery, you’re not alone. Many women have a love-hate relationship with their postpartum figures. Women can still look pregnant, even months after delivery. With stretch marks, utilitarian nursing bras, and post-baby weight, you may not feel as sexy as you once did. Feeling awkward in your own body can cause mixed feelings where physical intimacy is concerned.
It’s hard to feel sexy when you’re still in the “jelly belly” stage, but remember that your body went through a slew of changes during those 40 weeks. Ten months of weight gain won't disappear in a flash. Give yourself the same ten months to shed those pounds.
Talk to your partner to let him know how you feel about your body. Don’t feel afraid or embarrassed to share your feelings. Being completely honest will not only help you cope, it will also strengthen the emotional bond in your relationship.
13 Baby is All-Consuming
The birth of a baby is a huge culture shock to new parents. Newborns require loads of attention, and mothers will occupy most of their time. It’s hard for some women to relax enough to become aroused because they are always listening for the baby.
If constant thoughts of your baby are too distracting to enjoy sex, your partner may become jealous of your relationship with your child. It’s natural as a new mom to worry about the well-being of your infant, but your thoughts shouldn’t be all-consuming every minute of the day.
Get a babysitter and have a date night. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Dinner at home will do. There’s only one rule: keep the conversation off the baby. Also, alone time doesn’t have to revolve around sex. If a date night consists of an hour of dinner and conversation, you are practicing being emotionally available to each other.
12 Sex is a Lower Priority
For many new mothers, lovemaking moves to the back burner, flipping the relationship from lovers to roommates. Although you love your partner, somehow, you feel different. Moms do not intend to make their partners miserable, but sometimes, intimacy is not high on the priority scale. These feelings can continue even a year after birth.
Many fathers find that their emotional needs are sacrificed after having a baby. Although they have gained a child, they have temporarily lost their wives and their best friends. And, of course, there’s a need for sexual stimulation.
If sex is becoming a point of contention, remind him that you care about his feelings and his needs. Find some middle ground. Although romance is temporarily taking a back seat, communication should still be a priority.
11 Maternal Postpartum Depression
Dads, if your wife is saying no to sex, it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s not interested in you anymore. There may be a larger issue at hand.
Having a baby is a big deal. Schedules have to revolve around your infant. As a result, life takes a completely different focus. You will be home-bound more often. Children require money and support. Chronic fatigue, financial demands, and a never-ending to-do list add stress. The responsibilities of parenthood can become overwhelming. This can leave new mothers feeling emotionally raw.
When they don’t turn out to be “Supermom,” some women fall into emotional depressions, having feelings of failure and agonizing guilt. The “baby blues” affect roughly 80% of new mothers. This sadness can develop from various factors, such as a hormonal imbalance, painful postpartum recovery, and even troubles with breastfeeding.
If anxiety is troubling you, let someone know how you’re feeling. Engage your partner, visit with close friends, or share your struggle with your doctor. If negative thoughts are getting in the way of your happy life, consult a therapist. Thoughts of hurting yourself are signs that you need immediate help.
There is no shame in asking for advice. If you need support, it’s the bravest thing you can do to find comfort for you and your family.
10 Paternal Postpartum Depression
Many people do not realize that men can suffer postpartum depression. Research shows that up to 25 percent of dads experience paternal jealousy in the first two months after birth. Often, they do not talk about how they are feeling because, after all, it’s their wives who just had a baby. They don’t want to appear weak and needy. However, if these issues are left unsaid, there could be serious consequences.
Your partner may feel consumed with the pressures of his financial responsibility. Maybe he feels useless at home, or that his life is no longer his own. Dads expect their child to bring them closer to their partners, and when they drift apart, it’s very disappointing. If your partner is spending less time at home, this could be the start of a problem.
It’s frustrating if your partner isn’t there to help, but try to find the real issue behind his absence with patience and love. Help your husband through his sadness. Let him know that he is appreciated and missed. Ask him what is causing his depression. You can also invite him to couples counseling. If there is a family history of depression, consult with a mental health professional.
9 Baby Needs Mom
Babies tend to be mother-centric. It’s a maternal bond that starts in the uterus. During pregnancy, babies listen to their mothers’ voices and their heartbeats. They learn language patterns and even share emotions. Even after delivery, it’s natural for newborns to prefer their mothers because moms are a food source; babies pick up the scent of their breast milk.
For the most part, dad will be watching from the sidelines, spending far less one-on-one quality time with both mother and child. Even worse, the maternal bond can leave dads feeling rejected, especially from his wife.
If you’re a father who feels left out, now is the time when your participation is more important than ever. Take over the feeding schedule when you get home. If your wife breastfeeds, ask her to pump her milk into a bottle so you can share the duty. Take your baby for daily walks in the stroller. And when your baby cries, don’t hand him back to mom. Try to soothe baby’s tears by singing. Check his diaper, offer the baby a bottle, or rock him to sleep gently. In time, your baby will learn that comfort doesn’t only come from mom. Your wife will be proud when she sees you being a good father.
By supporting your child, you lovingly support your partner. To moms, there’s nothing sexier than that.
The number one silent death nail of marriage is resentment. Perhaps you are resentful towards your husband because he wants to “do it” before the six-week wait is over. And asking for a “handie” or a “BJ” probably won’t help his cause. After having a baby, some women feel angry when their husbands come on to them.
Perhaps your husband is resentful when you make it clear that the baby comes first. Men revel in knowing their wives are proud of them. A cold shoulder can make some men feel like sperm donors rather than husbands and fathers.
In a marriage, showing appreciation is critical. Both sides need to pay attention to each other’s actions and say thank you for a job well done. Show appreciation by:
- Offering praise, allowing the other person to feel good about themselves
- Holding hands on the couch
- Offering a back rub or leg massage
Having a partner who is patient and understanding can make all the difference. Both sides need to nurture the relationship so resentment doesn’t take over.
For some couples, babies bring them closer together. For others, a fragile marriage and a new baby can drive a couple apart.
A 2012 study in the Journal of Family Psychology revealed that most women felt their husbands did not contribute to childcare as much as they had expected. For instance, if you’re a stay-at-home mom, some men expect to come home, and completely relax after eight hours of work. They believe if you are home, and the baby sleeps all day, you should have more than enough time to finish all of the chores.
While it is true that newborns sleep up to 16 hours a day, they only sleep 1-2 hours straight. When her partner gets home, she will probably expect a little relief. If a woman feels that her partner is not pulling his weight, she may “punish” him in other areas.
If you’re withholding sex to exact revenge, it’s time to have a serious talk. It’s not fair to place your partner’s private parts in a prison, but it’s also not fair to dodge parental responsibilities. For couples in the trenches, an immediate compromise is necessary or else a rocky marriage could disintegrate into a pile of rubble.
6 No Time
After you give birth, in comes a child, and out goes unlimited romantic time with your partner. When the baby goes down for a nap, dad might think, “This is a good time to have sex.” Mom might think, “What can I do before I’m tied up with the baby again?”
If mom has plans to get things done around the house while her baby sleeps, sex will seem like an interruption in her plans. And if the baby naps for one hour at a time, and she hasn’t eaten dinner or taken a shower all day, lovemaking would be rushed.
If your motherly duties are interfering with sex, take the edge off, and give yourself and your partner a break. Don’t worry about dinner. Open a can of soup, eat cereal, or order a pizza. When you have children, there’s only a small window of opportunity for an intimate moment, so take it. A catastrophe will not ensue if a pile of dirty dishes is left in the sink.
5 The Need for Personal Time
After the baby goes down to sleep, that’s a mom’s chance to sit down and exhale. With so many demands, it’s nice to take a minute to do whatever you want. Perhaps you want to catch up on a TV show or read a book. Personal time can make a mom feel sane again.
The demands of motherhood are extremely stressful because all moms want to be a “Supermom.” Amid the chaos, mothers often sacrifice their own needs for everyone else. If dad is asking for sex in that moment, moms may interpret that as taking away her personal enjoyment.
While this may be the opportune time to have sex, moms need time to regroup. Let her rest now and she will give consideration back to you later.
4 Interrupted Sex
After having children, you will notice that although you are often in the same room, you’re hardly ever alone. Intimate time together will be especially tough if your baby is not sleeping through the night. An irregular sex life can go on for months.
Dads, if you feel like you are competing with your baby for affection from your wife, you’ll need to carve out some time to spend as a couple. You can keep the romance alive by:
- Planning dinner and a movie away from home
- Taking an hour-long walk together while your baby enjoys the scenery
- Writing her a love letter
- Talking for at least five uninterrupted minutes every day
3 Breasts are Off-Limits
Breasts during nursing are one or two cups larger in size. To your husband, they are more attractive than ever. To a lactating mother, their function changes from sexy-breast to nutritional-breast.
It is very common for breastfeeding mothers to implement a “breast ban” with their partners. They are not the erogenous zones they once were. Lactating breasts are prone to leaking. Plus, engorged breasts are ultra-sensitive to touch, and raw nipples do not feel sexy. You may be totally turned off when your partner touches them. Even a hug can feel uncomfortable when your breasts are swollen and sensitive. Getting used to this feeling takes time.
Dads need to be patient during the breastfeeding stage. Intimate touching will return. In the meantime, talk to each about how you are feeling. Remind your wife that she is attractive. Hold her hand, give her a kiss, and do what you can to help.
2 Sleep is More Important
Newborns and lack of sleep are par for the course. But, when sleepless nights become stressful days, irritability is bound to set in. Studies show that when you experience sleep deprivation, you’re more likely to be negative and hostile. Bottom line: a sleepy woman will not be in the mood for sex.
If you’re in desperate need of a good night’s sleep, enlist the help of a babysitter. Sending your little one to grandma’s house for one night is a reasonable request. There’s no need to feel guilty because you need help.
Sleep is vital, and a few more hours of sleep can make a huge difference. Go to bed earlier. In the meantime, hang in there. Parenthood is tough enough, but assuming this task with very little sleep is extremely challenging. You and your partner must work together to preserve your health, your happiness, and your marriage.
1 Sex Hurts
Even after the six-week wait, sex can be uncomfortable for women. Although stitches and sutures may have healed, there’s another issue: the lack of vaginal lubrication. Imagine a water slide with no water. It can be that painful.
Dads, don’t take it personally if she is dry down there because it probably has nothing to do with you. This is a common side effect of breastfeeding. Decreased levels of estrogen cause vaginal dryness, making sex uncomfortable.
If you plan to initiate sex, be prepared with store-bought lube. You can find it at any drug store. You will also need plenty of foreplay. Start slowly by holding hands, cuddling, and kissing. Make sure lovemaking is gentle.
Ladies, you can’t be as adventurous as you once were, especially in the first few months after delivery. If you have a fear that your wounds will reopen, or that sex will be painful, let your partner know what is pleasurable and what’s not.
And remember, there are ways to be intimate aside from penetration. If you’re not ready, remind your partner that he is desirable. It may also help to give him a plan when regular sexual play will resume. Focus on each other, and keep talking. This is how your relationship will flourish into a new realm.