I’m coming up on six weeks postpartum, which I know is when it’s typically OK to reintroduce sex. The truth is, though, I’m still a little traumatized from giving birth and am not sure the idea of anything that involves “down there” will ever sound good again. Is my partner’s and my sex life doomed?A: If you’ve lost your libido postpartum, you are definitely not alone. It is totally normal to experience a lack of interest in sex during the first year of your baby’s life—especially due to exhaustion of both the physical and mental varieties. Sex usually diminishes during this time due to hormone imbalance, less sleep and more stress. You might lack confidence in your postbaby body, or you may fear that having sex again will be painful if you’re feeling dry “down there,” which is a normal side effect of breastfeeding.
A couple’s intimacy and well-being can be affected when one or both partners are under stress —and the first year with a baby, although wonderful, can be very stressful. When couples are frazzled, they forget to communicate and become irritable and tense. Set aside 15 minutes per day without your phones or computers to look at your partner and talk. Stress doesn’t go away, but we can learn to live with it and manage it.
It’s also important to make time to revisit intimacy and sensuality. Schedule a date, get dressed up for each other, do your hair, spritz on your favorite perfume, and make a reservation at a romantic restaurant. Try to get out of the house even for an hour or two.
If you can’t get out, enjoy a date at home by preparing a lovely candlelit dinner or picking up some of your favorite gourmet finger foods and serving them with a nice wine. Be open to new ideas, loosen up, and relax. Take a bath after dinner with dim lights, and take turns giving each other sensual massages. Try a massage candle: They smell enticing, and the wax is warm and perfectly suited to massage each other’s skin. You can also experiment with Nuru massage, an ancient Japanese form of body-on-body passion to relax even the most stressed new mom.
When sex is not a problem it doesn’t take up a lot of room in the marriage. When sex is a problem it becomes everything in the marriage. If you push your husband away because you don’t feel like sex he may become hurt and angry. Embrace him, talk to him, and tell him what is going on with you. Vaginal moisturizers are an important way to address dryness. Used two to three times a week as part of a maintenance program, a good one like Replens will actually nourish vaginal tissues and increase lubrication for up to three days. Plus, it’s estrogen-free, so it’s safe for women who are pregnant or nursing. However, it is important to use a good lubricant right before intercourse or even self-pleasure. Unlike water-based lubricants, Replens Silky Smooth is silicone-based, meaning it last for hours to enhance the ease and comfort of intimate sexual activity.
There will be ups and downs, but the incredible bond of creating a new life together will make you closer and more connected than ever—you just have to allow yourselves to feel it.
—Mary Jo Rapini, sex therapist, intimacy expert and co-author of Re-Coupling: A Couple’s 4-Step Guide to Greater Intimacy and Better Sex