How to Reignite Your Sexual Flame After Having a Baby

How to Reignite Your Sexual Flame After Having a Baby
Illustration: Angelica Alzona

Congrats on the new baby! Forget whether or not you’re prepared to raise a whole human being from infancy into adulthood. The real question is, Are you ready to get laid again?

For new parents, that might not seem like the most top-of-mind question. After all, there’s a lot going on in their lives. But sex is important, even if it feels impossible to imagine doing it again, both emotionally and physically, right after birth.

You can reignite the sexual spark, even if you’re feeling unattractive, leaking milk, wearing adult diapers, or monitoring a wailing newborn on the baby cam. Here’s how.

Give yourself time to adjust

If you were actively trying to get pregnant before you, well, got pregnant, sex was probably a big part of your routine. You might have scheduled sack sessions around an ovulation tracker or just played the odds by trying to get it in as often as possible. With a baby to watch out for now, the frequency with which you’ll actually get to bang might decrease, but the habit of scheduling your lovemaking might come in handy.

The first thing you need to schedule is time off. We spoke to two new mums about their post-birth experiences — one of who is a nurse who dispensed valuable medical and parenting advice. They both explained they were told to wait six weeks after the baby came out of their vaginas to let their partners put anything in their vaginas. You have to heal! Sure, you can mess around without p-in-v insertion, but you might not have the time, energy, or desire. That’s ok. If your partner is pushing you, communicate clearly and firmly that you’re not ready.

“Right after giving birth is the most insane rush of hormones that no one prepares you for. It was like having menopause, hot flashes, and an aggressive period at the same time,” said Lexis C., a critical care nurse with a one-year-old child. “My libido did not exist for the next three months. I was so focused on keeping this human I just birthed alive, not to mention being much too exhausted to think about having sex with my husband.”

On the other hand, Katherine Young, a 29-year-old business owner whose child is two years old, admitted she and her husband got back to business a little earlier than the doctors recommended.

“The baby had some fluid in his lungs that he choked on multiple times and we almost lost him three times in the first 10 days, so sex was the absolute farthest thing from my mind. Plus you’re exhausted and everything is blubber and you’re sore, and your world is rocked,” she recalled. “However, they say not to have sex for six weeks after. It was week four and I was healed and I really couldn’t wait to just have that intimacy with my husband, so we had sex at four weeks after. I felt like a rockstar. I was back to my pre-baby weight — which felt slim at that point after carrying a human — my swelling was gone, my husband was this sexy super-dad, and I was just feeling it.”

But what if you’re not “just feeling it”?

Embrace your new body and feelings

“Be kind to yourself. Remember that your body just grew a human from cells. Organs moved and rearranged themselves to make room for this critter to grow. Your body will not bounce back in one week,” advised Lexis, who was shocked by how much her breasts grew after her pregnancy and decided to capitalise on this voluptuous surprise by buying some lacy lingerie she and her husband could enjoy together. (“They do not last forever, and you will miss them,” she lamented of her briefly-enlarged boobs.)

“Our bodies, our minds, our priorities, and our entire lives change when we step into motherhood,” added Young. “Just as it took nine months of pregnancy to bring you to motherhood, it can take time to get back to feeling like yourself and you will never be that person again anyway. You may get your pre-baby body back or return to a pre-baby weight, but you’re forever changed, and I think that’s something beautiful to lean into and embrace.”

Those changes are normal, but under-discussed, according to Irene Fehr, a sex and intimacy coach who has written extensively on the topic. She told Lifehacker, “We don’t normalize what happens to women — the confusion, new responsibilities, new mental load, identity shift, hormonal changes, mummy brain, her body not being her own — to name a few. In that silence, I see women naturally disconnect from their partners. In that silence, both people make up stories about each other’s needs and desires, and that leads the couple into trouble.”

Dads, listen up, because this goes for you, too.

“Speaking from a hetero marriage perspective, if my husband can’t marvel at the miracle my body just performed, I don’t think he is worthy of intimacy from me,” Young said when asked what advice she had for couples whose non-birthing partner might be less interested in post-birth sex.

If you found yourself reading this because you’re not attracted to your partner after they gave birth, Young recommended looking inward and figuring out what’s really going on. You were pretty darn into them ten or so months ago, right? Is the new disinterest purely physical, emotional, or a mix of the two? Talk it out together.

Temper expectations

Lexis and Young both said they had active and exciting sex lives before their babies came along, but things understandably changed once they got pregnant. Every couple’s experience is different. For instance, Lexis had no libido during her pregnancy while Young was put off by the feeling that her unborn child was somehow “present,” but persisted because her husband was still pretty randy.

“The intimacy changed in that it shifted from an ‘us’ thing to a ‘me taking care of my husband’ type of thing,” she said. “Sex felt like something to check off my daily to-do list when pregnant, for sure.”

She also noted that after the baby came, she wasn’t just dealing with physical limitations or concerns about her body image, but mental hangups, too. Emotional changes are totally normal and you don’t have to feel bad about them, but understand that you might not look at your partner the same way once you become parents. Young had moments of seeing her husband as an attractive “super-dad” juxtaposed with times when she was turned off by her perception that he was contributing less than she was.

“Life got busier; you have this whole other human around 24/7. There are resentments that seeped in,” she said. “I’m definitely the ‘default’ parent in my home and I would resent my husband because he would get his full night’s sleep and wake up wanting sex and I’d be, like, in the trenches, up all night, with sex being the farthest thing from my mind. I felt he wasn’t doing his fair share of responsibilities, and it was unattractive to me.”

Communication is important here. Young and her husband worked that out together. If you’re going to co-parent a child, communication and teamwork are elemental, so add sex to the list of things you need to be open and honest about.

Once they sorted their shared parenting duties out, they got back to business — but not as frequently as they did before they became a mum and dad.

Lexis agreed, saying, “Be honest with your partner. They can’t feel or understand what you are feeling if you do not help them to understand. Seek out help if you need it.”

You need to anticipate that not only will your emotions be haywire, your body be changing, and your mind may be on the baby and other responsibilities, but you might not get back to your pre-baby baby-making routine, like, ever.

“Many compare themselves to their ‘old’ self before the baby, and now see a sexually broken woman. Too often, she carries this burden silently, trying to figure this out on her own,” said Fehr, who pointed out that this problem doesn’t only affect heterosexual couples, but any couple where one partner has given birth and the other hasn’t.

Her advice is in line with Young and Lexis: You need to communicate. Creeping resentment — about household duties, a lack of sex, or anything else — is a silent relationship killer.

“If you have not spoken about the issue for a while, recognise that there are probably pent up feelings about this,” she said. “There is probably resentment from not having felt heard, understood, and important to each other for that extended period of time. So it’s important to go into the conversation from a place of understanding and compassion: ‘We’re both confused and struggling through this, and it’s hard for both of us.’ The key thing is to be vulnerable with each other, and approach the conversation with openness and curiosity.”

Prioritise sex — and yourselves

Parenting is a pretty selfless act. In fact, it might be the most selfless act. But you know how it is: You can’t pour from an empty cup. You still need to prioritise yourself and your relationship, live a full life, and make sure you’re doing well.

“I’m not above scheduling sex a bit — if that’s what you have to do to get back on the horse, go for it,” Young said. “Carve out 20 minutes a few times a week and just get down to business. The endorphins will probably help both of your moods and help you remain happy and feeling connected, which is the best gift you can give your child: happy connected parents.”

Lexis mentioned ultrasound therapy that helped her with her swelling and recommended talking to a doula if you’re feeling uncomfortable about anything related to the birth or your experiences afterward. She also advised that you shouldn’t be put off by changes to the way you used to have sex. If you didn’t use lubricant before, for instance, but find your post-baby body is dryer than it once was, she said her best advice is “get over it” and “buy the lube!”

Try not to make excuses. Remember your partner is just that: your partner. They care about you enough to have a child with you and bodily or lifestyle changes won’t destroy that. Do whatever it takes to get back into bed — if and when you’re ready.

Fehr recommended setting aside time to reconnect to pleasure generally, not just sexual pleasure. She suggested drawing a bubble bath, taking a long walk with nowhere to be, or doing other forms of self-care.

“This allows a woman to come back into herself and to find her grounding,” Fehr said. “It’s a way to help her get control over her life and not just be a vehicle for others.”

Sit with that for a minute: You’re not just a vehicle for others.

Your new baby is going to depend on you for a long, long time, so you need to create space for yourself, sexually and otherwise. During pregnancy, Young said sex became an act of service for her husband, but after pregnancy life becomes an act of service for the baby. Make sure you communicate and get back into mutually pleasurable intimacy so both partners can be happy and fulfilled. You’ve got a big job ahead of you, and you’ll need all the pleasure and joy you can get whenever you can get it.

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