But what about sex? Sex is an important part of adult relationships and was probably how baby came to be in the first place! However sex is a subject that tends to get less airtime than how often baby feeds during the night and how many nappies are changed each day.
And how can sex have a place amongst all the baby poop, regurgitated milk and sleep deprivation? The answer is that sex can have a place, but perhaps needs more conscious effort and a change of mindset to make it happen than it ever did before.
For most mums, even the idea of sex post baby may seem like a very unwelcome prospect and yet another demand to add to the list after all the feeding, changing and laundry e.t.c. But if we entertain the idea of sex as a treat, a retreat into sanctuary and pleasure, it might be welcomed as a re-energising activity, contributing to happy mothering.
One of the issues that can often interfere with one’s sexual desire after pregnancy and birth is body image. It is likely that your body has changed, weight has been gained, skin has been stretched, and breasts and genitals might look unrecognisable. But the female body has performed a miracle, nurturing, growing and facilitating new life. For some women, this can enhance their sexual feelings, with a newfound confidence in the power of their feminine body. But, a large majority of women feel un-sexy and further from the familiar image of what we are led to believe sexy women should look like. Furthermore, mothers are generally not depicted by society as sexy, and it may take some adjustment to dilute those misconceptions.
A good starting place for rekindling sexual desire is focusing on the women’s relationship with herself, particularly her sexual self. A special type of “me time” needs to be set aside on a regular basis for self-exploration and self-pleasuring.
Start by looking in the mirror, through generous kind eyes, not critical ones. Admire the female form with all its curves. Treat the skin with soft strokes using a luxurious oil or lotion, whilst listening to relaxing music and perhaps light an aromatic candle.
All these subtle changes to the environment help the mind adjust and shift gear from “mummy mode” to sensual, erotic mode. Close your eyes and focus on the senses, breath in the heady aroma, notice the feel of soft silky skin, and the sound of the music.
Take a break from all the self-deprecation and pressure to lose the ‘baby weight’. After all, you don’t need to be a size 10 to have orgasms and sexual thoughts. Own your body; it’s your friend, not your foe – think about the miracle it performed in delivering a baby!
Use a hand mirror to look at and touch your genitals, using a lubricant* (see references). If negative, critical thoughts come to mind about how your vulva looks, picture it in your mind as a beautiful flower with layers of petals. Physical responses may have changed with your new maternal body. Get to know them and discover what your body can do for you.
Go on line and look at real images of vulvas* (see references), appreciate their beauty and how different they all are. Draw a picture of your own vulva; get re-acquainted.
Read some erotic literature* (see references) to help get in the mood and you may find that you start to feel arousal build. Masturbate to orgasm with your hands or a sex-toy* (see references) and cherish this time with yourself. Unfortunately, many women have internalised an idea from a young age that masturbation is wrong, but at the very least it encourages blood flow and oxygen to the genitals and strengthens the pelvic floor.
Practice your pelvic floor muscle exercises (also known as “Kegels”) which helps with orgasm as well having as other benefits.
It may take a few attempts to get into this sexy headspace and it is vital that dedicated time is set aside regularly. It might be when baby sleeps or perhaps your partner might be more than willing to help ensure you take this time as it probably suits them for you to be cultivating your sexual desire.
This developing of one’s erotic world, when it has been so crowded out by the demands and pleasures of motherhood, is likely to enhance the couple’s sexual relationship as you become more practiced at feeling sexy and sexual again.
Pleasuring yourself doesn’t mean that you’ll want less partnered sex, it will most likely lead to desiring sex with your partner more. Think of it as jump-starting your sex life!
Of course there will be times when you may want intimacy and connection with your partner, but not sex. Perhaps suggest times when you both agree that you will enjoy a passionate kiss or a long naked cuddle, that you both know will go no further on that occasion. This way, you can really enjoy those moments, without feeling the pressure to have intercourse.
There is an often assumption, particularly in heterosexual relationships, that it is always the man who wants to re-kindle sex after baby, but some men may struggle to adjust to the idea of having sex with their partner who is now also a mother. Women can be both maternal and sexual and talking about these anxieties can help this adjustment for the couple.
Many women say that after a day of being constantly touched and pawed at by a baby/toddler (and breastfeeding), they feel as though they are “all touched out”. So when their partner comes along and also wants to touch and be touched, its no wonder that they don’t want to have sex. This is why it’s so important to keep some time for yourself and for touch to be something that gives you pleasure, rather than tending to everyone else’s needs. This will most likely encourage playfulness and generosity between you and your partner to enjoy each other’s touch and see it as something that is nourishing, rather than draining. Above all, talk to your partner. Tell them how you feel so demanded upon and how you will feel more able to be intimate with them if they help you find the time to re-energise by yourself.
By Charlotte Simpson
Couples Counsellor and Psychosexual Therapist
BA Hons, PG Dip, MSc
BACP (Accred.) CSRT (Accred.)
- My Secret Garden, By Nancy Friday, (2001).
- Sexy Mamas, Keeping your Sex Life Alive while Raising Kids. By Cathy Winks & Anne Semans, (2004).