It is not uncommon that many new parents have issues with sex after childbirth. Of course it is not usually talked about (and when done, not in details). Reason being that people feel quite hopeless about it and at the same time, feel like not talking about it is a way of protecting dignity – and I get it.
I’m not a sex therapist or marriage counsellor. However, I’m a married man, who also knows many married people of around my age, older, or younger…. And we talk…. I have been in lots of conversations with people where this topic came up. Someone encouraged me to share the ideas I shared with him publicly, because he believes many will find it useful. So here we are.
So, you get married, enjoy lots of mind-blowing sex, and then she takes in and after childbirth, things seem to be different. Either she isn’t “ever in the mood” or she’s always tired or she doesn’t seem to be going with it as before or she no longer lets you do some things you know she enjoyed in the past, or as the man, you find her “too loose” down there or out of whack…..or that weird situation where it seems like there is a silence about any form of regular sex. Some couples even go up to 6 months or longer without having sex. On the other end, some talk about it more than they do it…and in some cases, she may appear put off by the conversation (of course talking about how much sex you are not having isn’t the sexiest of conversations) or she simply gets busy with other things (that’s a sure way to avoid some of those conversations – maybe)! These are a few of the different possible scenarios couples face after childbirth. Some couples even take up to 18 months to get back to what seems like “the old us”.
If any of these resonates, then keep reading! And know that you are not alone! Many people I speak with, get shocked to find out that their situation is not just unique to them but quite a common thing.
Here’s a fact that we can start to accept – Childbirth sometimes changes sex forever!
What is really happening? A lot happens in the childbirth process for a woman. A study shows that sex is important to both sexes after childbirth. However, a lot more goes on with women.
For some, it is just a case of exhaustion – both parties find they are a bit more tired than before, especially the mother. In which case, get real about what is getting in the way. According to therapist Natalie Rose, “it is important to look at things that are getting in the way and face that reality. This is helps find ways to navigate around those”
Childbirth for many women leaves some significant impact, physically and mentally. For example, did you know that as a result of significant amount of pressure on the pelvic floor for months during pregnancy, all the muscles on the pelvic floor can become shifted, to the point where different parts of the vaginal canal end up locking down, and sex can become very uncomfortable for the woman. Some women might even need some physical therapy to correct this, but unfortunately, not everyone is aware of this or consider it. Some women experience this as some constant nagging pain (sometimes felt towards their lower back) …. for some, things get back to normal after about a year or so, or even a little longer. So, when she says “it hurts”, she isn’t exactly pretending!
It is normal for spousal coitus to feel like learning the ropes afresh. Sometimes this is worse where there has been a traumatic birthing experience E.g. some women may notice that things or positions that pleasured them in the past didn’t work anymore and new things seem to work this time. This is where a lot of communication can be immensely important, and actively turning off the brain from other things on the mind about “how things should be”. On the up side, such situations open up some level of openness that can connect the two people – e.g., you are now discussing body parts in a manner that is not just as erogenous but as parts of the body.
Some women have a vaginal tear during childbirth – this is a more common one too. Unfortunately, many men don’t know what to do with this situation, especially if it is a case where the stitching of the tear also makes the vagina look rather different to what he is used to. Some of these men have become turned off from sexual intimacy with their spouses as a result of this. Sometimes, this tear could be mild, other times, it might be far from mild e.g. extending all the way towards the anus. As a man, have you for a second imagined how much of a nightmare this is for a woman – can you understand why she might feel “deformed”? I mean, imagine how you’d feel, as a man, if you had a cut or tear of some sort on your penis….and now imagine what thoughts would go through your head the first time you want to have sex after the wound (which has now left some scar) is healed…. imagine some of the thoughts of self-consciousness that might go through your mind. Your self-confidence might even be affected. So, when she is sounding a bit too validation-needy after childbirth, don’t trivialise it, because you may not be fully aware of what’s going on inside.
Empathy is a big deal – try and see what your spouse is going through and validate it, without trivialising the place of your own need – talk about it! If it is not talked about, nothing may happen. Open up the lines of communication for sexual preferences. Especially as lots of it may change. Step into your partner’s shoes, and see if you can understand why they feel the way they feel – and let your spouse know! It helps the relationship a lot and helps you two get more into understanding each other’s needs. This is empathy.
Another thing I learnt is that it helps for couples to also add “what we like our relationship to be like, post-childbirth” in their conversations before it happens. This means both parties can start early to accept a certain reality that not many are prepared for – the reality that things are likely to change.
Finally, and probably most importantly, accept that your spouse’s body has changed and changed for good – and fall in love with this woman that is right here in front of you. There’s no point putting her under unnecessary pressure or making her feel less human, just because she went through a natural process of birthing another life. I wish married men can help and manage the expectations of single men better by letting them into the reality of some of these things. This might be one way of curbing all the unnecessary infidelity too. Where a man is empathetic with his wife, curious about the adventure of exploring new fun, not embarrassed to have conversations about it etc, what would be the attraction to head out for sex? Probably not a lot!
Ben Preye Baldwin (Uncle Ben)