First-time parents may think the intimacy they enjoyed while
they were practicing to become pregnant will spontaneously return
once they and their little bundle return home to begin life as a
For the vast majority of newbie parents, nothing could be
farther from the truth.
It is during those first months post-delivery when hormones run
amok and parents find that life with a newborn is consuming.
"The reality is: Babies cry and they tend to have erratic eating
and napping cycles that deprive parents of the sleep they
desperately need," says Dr. Domeena Renshaw, author of Seven Weeks
to Better Sex and a pioneer in the field of sexual health. "New
fathers quickly adjust. They learn to sleep right through a baby's
crying but new moms are programmed differently to hear their baby's
cry no matter what."
Adjusting to the new reality of family life is a process, says
Renshaw, who counseled nearly 3,000 couples during her tenure as
the founder and director of Loyola University Health System's Sex
Clinic, which opened in 1972 as the first clinic for treating
sexual difficulties in metro Chicago.
Following her 44 years in the field, Renshaw has some
tried-and-true tips she offers to new parents aimed at getting
their minds, bodies and spirits back into the game.
At a time when finding 15 minutes to shower is a luxury, Renshaw
says it is vital to the long-term health of the growing family for
couples to carve out together time. Although moms usually shoulder
most of the caring and feeding responsibilities, an offer by dad to
bathe the baby, fold clothes or make dinner can be a real turn-on
for their overwhelmed partners.
When to resume intercourse has everything to do with the
delivery and post-natal conversations with your doctor about when
your body will be ready.
Women who have had complicated vaginal births and those that
involved an episiotomy are typically advised to wait about six
weeks until the stitches are out and the wound has completely
healed. That same advice is routinely given to women who have had
Cesarean sections that involve an up-and-down,
Moms who have had Cesarean sections with a bikini-cut are often
given the green light to resume sex sooner-if they feel up to
Renshaw says positions that allow the woman control over
penetration are preferable, giving her control as she eases her
body back into lovemaking.
Women remember: Although you feel differently-a little
stretched, a little sore, a little misshapen even-you are still
you. Be proud of the new you-and the body that nurtured this new
life, the one that gave this amazing gift to your spouse.
For many women, hormonal changes and nursing means losing some
of the natural lubrication that helped make sex so pleasurable.
Luckily, that doesn't have to mean painful intercourse. Local
pharmacies have aisles of products that fill in when nature is on
hiatus. Check them out and choose the one that best suits the needs
of you and your partner.
Renshaw cautions new moms about keeping dads in the loop while
you navigate the new baby bonding process. "Sometimes, new mothers
put so much energy into bonding with this new life that they forget
how left out dads can feel," she says. "It is vital to the family
that both partners work to retain those ties to each other as they
forge a relationship with the baby.
True intimacy begins in the mind. Your relationship blossomed
into a full-time endeavor as you and your partner shared your
thoughts, your hopes, your dreams. No matter how fatigued you are,
remember how important it is to keep talking and sharing. Look at
each other when you talk. Hold hands. Curling up on the couch and
sharing the day is a great way to regain your equilibrium.
Renshaw advises couples to take it slow. Touching, caressing and
exploring alternates to traditional intercourse can be satisfying
to both partners.
Renshaw says couples who find they have marital difficulties
after having a baby are typically those who had unresolved
difficulties before they got pregnant.
"If both partners found sex enjoyable before, they can typically
find their way back to pleasurable sex following the birth of their
child," she says. "The saddest thing I saw as a therapist were
women who saw intercourse simply as another job that is expected as
a function of their marriage. These are couples who truly need
counseling to find joy in their relationships." n
See more of Robin's stories here.
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