Dear Dr. Myrtle,
Since delivery, I have had very little interest in sex.
It is not at all uncommon for new parents to experience a drop in libido. If you experienced a difficult delivery, especially a Cesarean birth, you may still be physically recuperating. Any delivery can cause bleeding, and recovery can be slow as you your body rebounds. Additionally, the hormonal shifts taking place in your body, lack of sleep, and changing roles and expectations in your life can quickly put sex on the back burner. Also, the closeness you share with your baby may leave you feeling “touched out.” (“...Well, no wonder!...”)
Be compassionate and patient with yourself. Healing puts extra demands on your body, so getting adequate sleep, and spiffing up your diet to include high-quality protein sources and fruits and vegetables with plenty of antioxidants can be very rejeuvinating. Keep up on your fluids. Consider taking, or continue to take a multi-vitamin supplement. Easy does it.
Depression can also inhibit libido. The “baby blues,” a common condition including sadness, crying, and mood swings, should abate a few weeks postpartum. If you find that you are experiencing these or other distressing symptoms for a longer period of time, you may be experiencing postpartum depression. Contact your healthcare provider, who will be able to assess your condition and help you get the proper treatment.
But I’m worried my partner is getting sexually frustrated.
It is extremely important to communicate with your partner around issues of sexuality. Do not take for granted that your expectations and needs match. Your partner may feel a bit left out of the new bond that you and your child have formed, and a lack of sexual intimacy can add to that feeling. If you do not wish to be sexual, make sure that your partner understands why and feels reassured and loved. Try to be understanding if your partner seeks sexual outlet in masturbation or the use of erotic literature, movies, or magazines. You may even wish to use some of these things together. You never know--your support could turn into arousal.
It’s also important that your needs get met. Communicate your desires and concerns to your partner and ask for the support and reassurance that you need. Understanding each others’ expectations can also help to take some of the pressure off. For instance, you may be avoiding intimacy because you are not interested in having penetrative sex, while your partner may be quite willing to experience other kinds of closeness, like kissing and touching.
Now more than ever, your sex life will take effort to maintain. It may be necessary to plan sexual intimacy. Baby’s naptime is a good time to get close. And don’t pass up those offers of help from friends and family--they might love to spend an afternoon with baby, and it may just give you the perfect chance to reconnect. Remember, just because you’ve planned to have sex doesn’t mean sex itself can’t be spontaneous! You may wish to involve games or toys to bring a sense of playfulness to sex. Sometimes non-genital forms of intimacy can be ideal. Exchanging massages, cuddling, and making out can be low-pressure ways to feel close.