By LifestyleDr Karen Phillip, Counselling Psychotherapist
Many couples experience issues with sex and romance after baby arrives. The relationship often changes and there are reasons for this change.
Women can experience multiple physical issues after the birth of a baby. The physical recovery needs at least six weeks of recovery before any sexual intimacy can recommence, perhaps more depending on the severity of the birth.
Then we have the reality of motherhood including:
- sleep deprivation
- feeding demands and issues
- pressure of feeling unattractive
- changes in her body
- hormone changes
- feelings of pressure to be the best mother she can be
- focusing on the baby’s needs
- contraception concerns
What to expect once baby arrives?
Sleep deprivation one of the biggest issues the mother suffers. Waking up multiple times a night, an unsettled baby, feeding issues, can all have a detrimental affect on the mother. The mother often struggles on without dad understanding what it is she is truly experiencing.
Feeling unattractive is often felt after having a baby. Mums look at the Instagram pictures of women looking sensational days or weeks after childbirth, resulting in the mother feeling ashamed she doesn’t look like that. She fears her husband will no longer be attracted to her, so she often withdraws before being rejected.
Concerns about contraception may prevent the woman from sex. It is time for the man to take control and do what he needs to protect his wife from an unplanned pregnancy. Remove her fear, she feels more relaxed.
Breast feeding can cause vaginal dryness, this isn’t due to her lack of interest in sex, it is a normal physiological issue where lubricant can used for a while. The last thing many women want after any birth is sex, it takes time, sometimes months for interest to be rediscovered. It isn’t she is rejecting her male partner; it is the dramatic changes going on within her life and her body, plus the sleep deprivation of course.
Look after yourself mummy
The necessity of every mum to take care of herself physically, emotionally and psychologically is vital. Women so often place others before themselves. This is where dad can step. What can help is mum ensuring she –
- getting enough rest and sleep
- enjoys some alone time
- is eating well
- connecting with other mothers and friends
- just taking some time for herself
The effect of a baby on a relationship
A baby does have an effect on your relationship. That doesn’t mean detrimentally, just different. When you become a parent your focus shifts from your partner to your baby, at least while they are young. Dad’s usually take a second seat after baby arrives. He may feel unsure what to do, confused as to his new role, and mum is often preoccupied with baby and her recovery from childbirth. Arrival of baby doesn’t just affect her, it affects him as well, but in different ways.
Dad can set up an environment conducive for intimacy and affection. Send her to bed for a few hours after you get home, care for baby, cook dinner, bathe baby, fold the washing and you may get an idea of her 24/7 day. She may wake slightly refreshed, not sure about dad. A rested mum is usually a happier mum.
Men desire their wife, find her attractive all the time and crave affection and sex. Problem is, sex is usually the last thing on the woman’s mind for a while. Any man wanting to reignite the intimacy with his wife can follow a few steps to create the atmosphere that’s needed. However, it is important to remember that he may need to wait several months until she has physically recovered.
- Be empathetic – share her overwhelm, ask what she needs, how you can help, what can you do
- Listen to your partners thoughts, feelings or concerns; just listen
- Take baby for a few hours to allow mum to get out, go for a walk, get her hair done, have a coffee with friends – uninterrupted
- Do more around the house like cook a few nights a week, get the washing done and folded, clean up and make her a coffee while she is feeding baby
- Notice her efforts and how great a mum she is, remind her often
- Spend time bathing baby or giving a bottle of a night (expressed breast milk can be given by dad)
- Arrange a dinner out with mum each month, along with babysitting from a service or a family-member; spoil her
- Accept she may not be interested in sex for a while but may be very interested in your affection and attention
- Spend time together when baby is asleep is great, even just sitting together holding hands watching television, going for a walk with baby in the stroller or sitting together eating dinner once baby is asleep
Taking care of mum, means more happiness in your relationship. The happier your relationship, the more likely it is to create intimacy with your partner. When couples understand what is occurring, they are better positioned to deal with their feelings and emotions.
The early days of parenting pass, things do return to normal, be patient, supportive and understanding. If parents are struggling, talk to your doctor or a counselling therapist. It is best to get support early instead of waiting until it becomes a large problem.
LifestyleDr Karen Phillip is a Counselling Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist who runs a busy practice on the lovely Central Coast of NSW. Karen is a regular on television, radio and in print media. She is the author of 3 books including her latest book Communication Harmony.
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