Don't be surprised if you don't feel as romantic as ever following the birth of your baby. An array of physical, emotional, and logistical factors may have dulled your sexual appetites somewhat. These are just some of the obstacles you're up against:
If you have any of these problems or concerns, don't leave them unspoken. Talk to your partner openly about the obstacles that stand in the way of resuming sexual intercourse. Don't let your partner think it's him (or her). If your partner doesn't know the reasons for your reticence, he or she may end up feeling unattractive, abandoned, and resentful.
So talk about sex even if you're not doing anything about it. You may find out that your partner shares your concerns or has worries of his or her own. Bringing them out into the open may not solve all of these problems, but it will allow you to decide together when you want to try to pick up where you left off.
If you notice any vaginal spotting, regardless of whether you've resumed making love, report it to your doctor.
If necessary, you can always seek counseling. Professional sex therapists and/or marriage counselors can often get to the root of communication problems or sexual relationship difficulties in just a few intense sessions.
Some of the factors inhibiting your sexual relationship-stabilizing hormone levels, the effect of nursing, your body image, and postpartum depression and healing-should improve on their own with the passage of time. When you are both ready, you also can take steps to overcome most of the other obstacles to renewed lovemaking (although exhaustion may be something you'll have to learn to live with). You can get past a lack of natural lubrication, for instance, by using an artificial lubricant until vaginal secretions resume.
If pain is the problem, then try different positions until you find one (or more) that are more comfortable for you. For example, women have more control over the depth of penetration and so feel less pressure on the perineum if they are on top or side to side rather than on the bottom. If you can't find any sexual position that's comfortable, talk to your doctor. A topical estrogen cream (available by prescription only) may alleviate some of your soreness and pain.
If you are finding it difficult to relax enough to make love, try your favorite relaxation techniques before you get into bed:
Try to expand your sexual horizons, too. Just because one or both of you doesn't feel like intercourse, you can still find many other ways to express your love for each other: talking, wining (not too much) and dining, hand-holding, lying in bed together, cuddling, and a wide variety of sexual foreplay.
Don't resume having sexual intercourse until your doctor gives you the okay. If you and your partner are feeling romantic before your doctor has said it's okay, find some other way to satisfy each other. Because only intercourse is inadvisable during the first postpartum weeks, the range of possibilities extends all the way from hand-holding to oral sex.
Take your time. Don't force yourself to fake sexual feelings or have sexual intercourse before both of you are ready for it. After all, the normal balance of maternal hormones may not return for months after delivery. What's more, you may do more long-term damage to your sexual relationship by rushing into postpartum sex and having bad sexual experiences than you would by waiting until you both feel good about it. So try not to obsess about sex; give yourself and your partner time.
Whenever you resume your lovemaking, you may need to lower your expectations somewhat. It may be weeks or even months, for example, before you (or your partner) have an orgasm again. In the meantime, both of you need to remain as patient, loving, and understanding as you can. You need time to recapture both the mutual ardor and the gratification that marked your sexual relations before your baby arrived.
Sexual spontaneity does become more difficult once you have a baby, but it's not impossible. If you and your partner find yourselves alone at last, entertain the possibility of mutual seduction. If you're both feeling in the mood, for example, schedule a "date" for baby's next naptime. Or if your baby has a fairly regular nighttime sleep schedule, pencil your partner in for the slot right after bedtime. Whether you drop everything at the spur of the moment or schedule time for each other, try to make the most of your opportunities. They may be short-lived.
Almost every new parent has a story about the baby's bad sense of timing. Your baby may wake up just before you achieve sexual climax. She may pull herself up to standing for the first time while you and your partner are having intercourse. Or she may find some other creative way to interrupt or inhibit the sexual act. Try to hold on to your sense of humor if and when it happens to you.
How important is sex to you? Only you and your partner can answer that. Establish your priorities with your partner and arrange your schedule accordingly. If something else is lower on your list of priorities than making love, then let it go and devote that time to each other. But if something else is higher, by all means do the other thing first.
Most importantly, talk-and listen-to your partner. Talk about your emotions, the new sources of stress in your life, and anything else that might be affecting your sexuality. Work at seeing things from your partner's point of view, too. Do whatever you can to keep your sexual relationship going despite the lack of sexual relations. Until you're both ready to resume sexual intercourse, work on maintaining trust, patience, understanding, open lines of communication, and loving feelings.
Even after you have resumed sexual relations, continue talking honestly to your partner about sex. If you don't feel like making love because you're exhausted (or for any other reason), let your partner know. If sexual intercourse feels uncomfortable or painful, don't just grit your teeth. Let your partner know so that you can both try something different. If something new (or old) feels particularly good, share this information, too. If you let your partner know what feels best to you, then you won't have to wait for another happy accident to feel that good again.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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