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Rediscovering intimacy after welcoming a baby
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Rediscovering intimacy after welcoming a baby

Open communication, non-sexual intimacy, and ample support and empathy are crucial as couples navigate parenthood without losing out on their bond
Navigating parenthood and handling disruptions caused by prioritizing the baby’s needs could affect intimacy after welcoming a baby
Navigating parenthood and handling disruptions caused by prioritizing the baby’s needs could affect intimacy in new parents. (Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K/Happiest Health)

The journey to parenthood involves a transformative shift, with new parents grappling with the delicate balance of intimacy amid the challenges of sleepless nights and parental responsibilities. Emotional adjustments add complexity, making it essential to address the topic of sex after having a baby to maintain a healthy connection. Common challenges include potential painful sex, disruptions caused by prioritizing the baby’s needs, and difficulty finding private moments amid familial presence.

“For at least six weeks post-delivery, we strongly advise abstaining from sex due to potential wear and tear, healing of sutures and the demands of breastfeeding on the body,” says Dr Shaik Habiba, obstetrician, gynecologist and infertility specialist, Habiba Clinic, Bangalore.

Dr Varini N, senior consultant, obstetrician and gynecologist, Milann Hospitals, Bangalore, says, “It is preferable to wait for three months after having a baby, be it a vaginal birth or a cesarean section, before resuming sexual activity.”

Postpartum challenges affecting intimacy in women and men

Experts say that after the delivery of a child, new parents face a plethora of challenges such as the following:

• Physical changes: During pregnancy and even after delivery, women might notice changes to their body, shifts in body image and hormonal fluctuations. These factors may contribute to discomfort and diminished confidence, affecting the new mother’s readiness to engage in sex after having a baby, says Dr Habiba. For women who choose to breastfeed, soreness, hormonal changes related to lactation and concerns about breastfeeding may contribute to intimacy issues

• Fatigue and sleep deprivation: As parents adjust to the baby’s frequent night-time feeding sessions and start waking up to the sounds of their child’s movements, they compromise on sleep. This leads to fatigue in new parents, leading to loss of energy and libido, says Dr Varini. 

• Emotional adjustments: Motherhood comes with a range of emotions: joy, anxiety and stress. An article published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2022 states that balancing these emotions while caring for a child can make it difficult for women to feel emotionally ready for sex after having a baby. And while the changes in women after motherhood are talked about more frequently, men, too, have to handle unfamiliar emotions and a new routine. Besides, the desire to support their partner can lead men to put their own thoughts and feelings on the back burner. This can impact their ability to connect to their partners.

• Maneuvering postpartum depression: “Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety and exhaustion in new mothers due to physical and emotional transitions often lead to a form of clinical depression called postpartum depression,” says Dr Nithin Kondapuram, psychiatrist and sexologist, Aster Prime Hospital, Hyderabad. And while postpartum depression is usually associated with mothers, it can also occur in new fathers. According to research published in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, this condition can affect 8–10% of fathers. It is characterized by low mood, insomnia or hypersomnia, fatigue, guilt and significant weight loss. 

• Fears and concerns: “New mothers may have concerns about resuming sexual intimacy because of the fear of contraception failure after just delivering a child,” shares Dr Habiba. 

• Communication challenges: “Adjusting to parenthood while ensuring intimacy requires effective communication”, says Dr Kondapuram. “Men might find it challenging to express their needs and concerns while trying to avoid adding to their partner’s stress.”

• Privacy concerns: After a child is born, family members come over to help the new parents adjust. When they stay around through the day, partners may have privacy concerns while rebuilding their bonds.

How to navigate intimacy after having a baby

Experts share tips to help couples resume sexual intimacy after welcoming a baby:

1. Communicate freely

Fostering open communication is key to rebuilding sex life after having a baby. Both partners should express their feelings, concerns and desires freely and discuss the changes they are experiencing. Mental health professionals stress that this should be accompanied by active listening. It is also essential to accept that a couple’s sex life may alter post-childbirth. This helps ease the pressure. As parents adapt to their new roles, empathy and support go a long way in rekindling intimacy.

2. Seek professional help

In the case of mental health concerns such as postpartum depression, it is best to seek an expert’s opinion. Further, as new mothers start working out, it is best to go slow and ensure they don’t overdo it as their bodies are still healing. Prioritizing self-care also goes a long way in uplifting one’s mood and boosting energy.

3. Practice non-sexual intimacy

As the couple navigates the journey of parenthood, celebrating small achievements helps retain and grow emotional intimacy. It is also crucial to spend quality time for each other. When possible, schedule date nights or steal a few minutes to reconnect and strengthen your emotional bond. Non-sexual acts such as cuddling or hugging can also help you stay close and pave the way for eventual sexual intimacy.

4. Choose contraception carefully

Barrier methods like condoms are suitable immediately post-delivery for the partners, shares Dr Varini. She also cautions that the progesterone-only pills can be started only after six weeks but may cause irregular bleeding.

Combined oral contraceptives are not recommended until the baby starts supplementary foods around the age of five months, while intrauterine devices (contraceptive devices fitted inside the uterus) can be used after five months or once the menstrual cycles resume. 

Resuming sexual intimacy after childbirth: When to see a doctor

Dr Varini highlights that new mothers should seek medical advice in case of vaginal discharge, irritation, dryness or itching. Repeated instances of urinary tract infection (UTI), painful intercourse on resuming sexual intimacy post-childbirth and postcoital bleeding are also signs that one needs immediate medical attention. Further, men could have low sexual drive or erectile dysfunction due to stress and lack of sleep as well as hormonal changes. In such cases, they should seek medical care. 

Takeaways

  • Physical and emotional adjustments, sleep deprivation and postpartum depression impact couples differently. As a result, their sex life can suffer.
  • Doctors recommend abstaining from sex for a minimum of six weeks after delivering a child.
  • Open communication, non-sexual intimacy, and ample support and empathy are crucial as couples navigate parenthood while rekindling sexual intimacy.

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