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The Truth About Postpartum Intimacy: Challenges and Solutions

postpartum intimacy

Regaining that sexual desire might feel far away for new parents, particularly birthing mothers. There are considerable life changes after the arrival of your baby. You may find you have less time, are fatigued, or experience shifts in hormone levels that affect your sex drive. Additionally, one in seven new mothers suffers from postpartum depression after giving birth, and 70 to 80% may feel depressed, angry or anxious days after giving birth. 

All these changes have a direct impact on the intimacy within your relationship. Trying to find that spark when you’re feeling overwhelmed can seem discouraging, but knowing why you’re feeling this way and what the challenges are can equip you to cope better mentally and physically. It can also help you communicate with your partner and share how you're feeling and why. 

Here are some of the challenges you may face:

  1. Physical

  • Constant Tiredness: A newborn has come into your once-routine life. It’s an exciting time, yet your sleep patterns and daily rituals have been disrupted constantly. It’s a seemingly endless disturbance that can lead to fatigue as you try your best to care for your new arrival. 

  • Hormonal Changes: Your libido is disrupted by fluctuation of your hormone levels. Estrogen and progesterone levels are up and down, affecting your sexual desire. 

  • Physical Discomfort: You may experience pain or discomfort after childbirth, particularly if you had any tearing during natural birth or if you had a C-section. This can impact your quality of rest. 

  1. Emotional

  • Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: Emotional well-being can impact the desire for physical touch and connection. 

  • Self-esteem: Changes to your body’s appearance and weight can impact your self-perception and confidence. It can lead you to withdraw from wanting to be intimate.

  1. Adjustment in your role

  • Realigning Priorities: The arrival of your baby causes a sudden shift in your priorities. Your newborn quickly becomes the focus of your attention and time. It leaves very little time or energy for intimacy with your partner.  

  • Your Roles: As new parents, your roles have now changed, and with that, there is a big adjustment that can often impact your relationship. You are no longer solely focused on each other as you now have an infant to focus all your attention on.

These challenges can be overwhelming, and you may begin to question whether you will ever regain your intimacy. The truth is, you can, it just takes time, effort, and patience. 

If you want to begin your journey to reignite that feeling of arousal, you can start by taking the following steps:

  1. Communication within the relationship

  • Maintain Open Dialogue: Effective communication is fundamental to the success of any relationship. The ability to speak openly and honestly with your partner can help you build a stronger bond as you talk about your feelings, concerns and desires. We don't always know what our partners are thinking and feeling. This type of communication allows both individuals to verbalize their internal dialogue, leading to compromise and rectifying actions for the betterment of the relationship. 

  • Realistic Expectations: Understanding that intimacy might be different through this phase of your life can reduce the expectations and pressure within the relationship. Make peace with the fact that it might not happen as quickly and allow things to unfold organically.

  1. Physical Recovery

  • Ease back into intimacy: A slow and gradual resumption is essential. Begin with non-sexual physical touch and closeness, bringing your partner close to you. Gradually reintroduce sexual intimacy when you feel the time is right and your body has healed. 

  • Rediscover each other: What felt good before may feel different now, especially if there were stitches or a long recovery post-birth. Spend some time discovering what you like, introduce couples toys, or indulge in some solo play to relearn each other's bodies and how you can share pleasure. 

  • Consult with medical professionals: If you are ever concerned or in discomfort, seek advice from your GP or healthcare professional. 

  1. Time Together

  • Quality time: When you spend intimate time together, make sure that this is quality time, free from as much distraction as possible, allowing you and your partner to connect. Quality time together is far better than the quantity of time spent together. 

  • Scheduling: Make time in your busy lives for just the two of you. Planning can help you regain that intimacy when you have busy parenting schedules. Choose moments when your baby is asleep or a time when you have arranged for a babysitter.  

  • Fill each other's cups: Nobody knows your partner better than you. Surprise your partner with something they love. It can make them feel seen at a time when your baby has all the attention.

  1. Support

  • Professional Help: Seek the help of a trained professional should you have postpartum depression or anxiety concerns. Prioritize your mental health and get the support you need.

  • Be a Safe Space: Encourage each other to express your feelings and emotions openly and honestly. Listen to the other person and acknowledge their feelings, validate their experience and comfort them as they open up to you. 

  1. Teamwork

  • Divide and Conquer: Many responsibilities come with parenting. As new parents, the household still needs to run as before. The only change is the responsibility of your little one. Share the responsibilities of caring for your new baby, allowing the other parent time to relax and recharge. 

  • Galvanize the partnership: Viewing parenting as a shared responsibility and journey can further strengthen your bond. Showing each other that you share equal importance for parenthood builds trust and creates a sense of team. 

  1. Self-care

  • Fill Your Cup: Making time for each parent to indulge in self is crucial. Sometimes, we need to give ourselves some extra love and care, enabling us to put our best selves forward. Take on some additional responsibility for a few hours while your partner goes off for some me time. Use this time to do things that make you happy and revitalize your body and mind. 

  • Emotional Support: Your partner's emotions and feelings may be all over the place. It’s important to support your partner as they navigate these new challenges. Be a pillar for one another and carry each other over these hurdles. 

The truth is that you will experience challenges throughout your new parenting journey, and change will become your constant. Remember to communicate openly with your partner by creating a safe space where you can share your thoughts freely and honestly. Most importantly, be supportive of each other and work as a team while you navigate regaining your intimacy.