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Not Feeling Sexy After Baby?

Have patience and communicate with your partner. Your mojo will follow.

Photo credit: Getty Images

I was deeply and obsessively in love with her. I couldn’t get her out of my head and anything that kept me from her was met with resentment. When I wasn’t with her, something inside of me ached and I couldn’t think about anything else besides getting to her, smelling her, touching her. I’m pretty sure my husband was jealous.

I’m talking about our new baby, Jessie. She became the love of my life the instant she was born—I simply didn’t have the bandwidth for anyone else. While I felt a little guilty about it, I was also pretty sure my maternal craving to be with my baby at all times wasn’t exclusive to just me. But that level of intensity is not sustainable in the long term. So the magnitude of my feelings eventually faded and I could move about my day with a deep attachment to her while also functioning in the world. And a few weeks later, like most new moms, I was a dishevelled, exhausted mess with a lot on my mind. There was laundry to be washed, meals to be made, diapers to be changed, another child to mother, and a new baby to be nursed. So nothing felt less sexy than my headspace on the day the doctor said my husband and I could start having sex again.

Ah, the six-week postpartum appointment. While the actual date for when a woman gets the “all clear” from her doctor can vary from person to person, we all look forward to hearing that we can resume “normal activities.” So why was there a lump in my throat when my doctor gave me my walking papers, telling me I was all healed and didn’t need to come back?

“After giving birth and while you are breastfeeding, estrogen levels are low and prolactin levels are high, creating the perfect storm for a low sex drive,” explains Dr. Gianni Rodriguez Ayala, OB/GYN. “Also, your life has suddenly changed. You have a baby who needs you every minute. You want to be supermom, but you are still unsure of yourself. There’s not a lot of room left for sexual desires.”

Can I get an “AMEN!”

I wasn’t interested in throwing a curveball into our perfect little existence right now. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my husband or find him attractive. It was more that I didn’t find anyone attractive and I simply couldn’t handle one more thing—even if it was a pleasurable thing. After six weeks of adjusting to life with a new baby, I was finally feeling comfortable with the status quo.

I also felt like I was giving all that I could already. I was running on empty and I feared that having one more thing to think about would just be too much.

“After giving birth and while you are breastfeeding, estrogen levels are low and prolactin levels are high, creating the perfect storm for a low sex drive.”
Dr. Gianni Rodriguez Ayala, OB/GYN

This is a completely normal experience, Amy Kirschenblatt, a social worker at Northwell Health, reassures me. “There’s no greater adjustment in life than that to motherhood,” she says. “There’s the physical aspect, where you are not feeling your best. Add to that your new role as mother and caretaker. Some women just need time to find the balance before they can plunge back into normal life.”

Yes, yes, and yes. But there was more. I was afraid it would hurt.

“There’s a lot of fear associated with sex after giving birth,” says Dr. Rodriguez. “Your body has just done something extraordinary. And it may have been physically traumatic.” But, Dr. Rodriguez points out, the human body was designed to be able to do certain things—childbirth and sex among them. “Everyone heals differently and every woman should move forward at a pace that is comfortable for her. But for many women, the anticipation of pain can trigger actual pain because when you are expecting something to hurt, your body tenses up and that tension, combined with a drier vagina than usual due to hormones, can be uncomfortable.”

Once your doctor confirms that you are healed and are physically fit to have sex, Dr. Rodriguez suggests talking to your partner about your fears, easing into the act and using lubricating substances to help. “Take it slow and communicate your needs,” she says.

“In addition, finding support in other new moms who are experiencing the same things can be very helpful,” Kirschenblatt says. “Be kind and forgiving to yourself, manage your expectations and share your struggle with your partner,” she says.

Luckily, I have a very understanding husband whose patience knows no limits. Because he has a wife who isn’t shy about sharing her feelings and fears about … well … anything. We spent a lot of time talking and holding hands and eventually one thing led to another and we were enthusiastically able to resume our “normal activities.”

Next Steps and Useful Resources

Published June 5th, 2018