We are thrilled to have Judith Claire, personal, career and relationship counselor and co-author of So THAT'S Why They Do That! Men, Women & Their Hormones, as a contributor to our blog. As co-creator of TopGunLove.com, she provides important info to help moms (and dads) understand how life's changes–pregnancy!–can challenge sex and relationships. Today, she is writing about navigating the tricky area of post-pregnancy sex. Don't miss her award-winning book; it's available in paperback or digital editions on Amazon and in the Istore. Check out her website, too; it's packed with helpful relationship articles!
Conflicts re: sex, or more precisely, the lack of it, frequently come up in couple’s counseling. Many alienated couples say their dismal sex life started after childbirth. Sometimes sex was good with their first baby, but deteriorated after the birth of their other kids. So if this is an issue that is creating upsets and hostility with your mate, don’t take it lightly. Ultimately the health or even existence of your relationship might be at stake.
As you probably know, sexual disinterest in new mothers is common. While some women have normal or stronger libidos after childbirth, most lose interest for a while. The biological reasons are estrogen going down after birth and the release of prolactin in breastfeeding, which can inhibit ovulation and hence desire. How long is “a while”? Some physicians report it can take up to a year before many moms want sex again. The new fathers, however, still have active libidos, need sex and get frustrated and upset if they don’t have it.
Usually, the men’s complaints are remarkably identical. Ditto for the women’s. The dads are angry, resentful or hopeless about not having sex. They accuse their mates of consciously preventing sex, marginalizing them and dismissing their needs. Low estrogen levels and prolactin aside, the mothers blame their partners for turning them off by insisting on sex that hurts, ignoring their exhaustion, not sufficiently helping them with their workload, refusing to be romantic and continuing to act out some of the same bad behavior they had before the baby was born.
Usually both sides have a point. The guys may not get the hormonal changes and don’t usually see the cause and effect connection between what they’re doing and not getting. The women don’t see how they might be focusing on being a mom, not a wife, and dismissing their mates very real sexual and emotional needs because they aren’t experiencing the same thing. They also might not be making it a priority to handle the physical problems that are causing pain in intercourse or take care of themselves so they feel good and have the energy to connect sexually.
In working through sexual conflicts with distraught couples, I’ve come up with a checklist of points that need to be addressed. It’s included, along with specific sexual issues and their solutions, in our book, So THAT’S Why They Do That! Men, Women And Their Hormones. I’m sharing it here because it is a valuable tool to get a conversation going with your husband. Actually, you’ll probably need a lot of communication to gain the mutual understanding and insights you need to find solutions. If there are too many hot buttons or you can’t move forward, then it’s time for you to go to your couple’s counselor. I can’t stress enough how important sexual intimacy is to the health and happiness of your relationship.
POSTPARTUM AND MOTHERHOOD SEX CHECKLIST
AS A COUPLE:
1. Do you have good, honest communication?
2. Are you both willing to find mutually workable solutions?
3. Are you creating time to just enjoy being together?
4. Are you touching each other? Holding hands, hugging, kissing?
5. Are you creating time for sex?
6. Is there a power struggle or are you a team?
7. Are you getting your period?
8. If you are, do you feel more sexual?
9. Are you breastfeeding?
10. Are your breasts sore?
11. Are you in pain? Why?
12. Are you going to a doctor to heal the problem?
13. Are you using estrogen cream to handle vaginal dryness?
14. Are you neglecting yourself?
15. Do you feel unattractive?
16. Do you believe that the “baby comes first”?
17. Do you ignore or minimize your mate because of that idea?
18. Do you acknowledge her hormonal changes?
19. Are you trying to have intercourse when she’s dry?
20. Are you using lube?
21. Are you giving her enough foreplay?
22. Are you willing to have mutual oral sex or masturbation?
23. Is she exhausted?
24. Are you giving her all the help she’s asking for?
25. Are you giving her “me time”?
26. Are you supporting her in doing the feminine things that make her feel good?
27. Are you validating all the great work that she is doing?
It’s important to note that good communication and mutual understanding creates emotional intimacy and bonding. And many women discover that despite having no desire, they do get turned on once they’re having sex. Even if they don’t orgasm, the hugging, kissing and closeness with their mates create a deeper, more joyful connection. So, have hope, moms. This is a fixable problem.