Sex after baby: how your sexual relationship might change
Sex and intimacy is often tough for new parents – less time, tiredness, hormonal changes and worries about contraception can make it tricky.
If you and your partner have both gone a bit cool on sex, it’s no problem. But if you and your partner have different levels of sexual desire, this can add some stress to your relationship.
In most relationships, things do get back on track, but it’s important to be patient. If you’re concerned that your sex life is off track, talk with your GP.
Women: your sexual feelings after giving birth
After giving birth, you might feel like you’ll never have sex again. But you will heal and your interest in sex will return. For many women, this happens within 1-3 months of your baby’s birth, but it’s normal for it to take longer.
Some mums find that they feel sensual and sexual when breastfeeding their baby. This is partly because of the hormone oxytocin, which is involved in milk let-down and also sexual arousal. It’s completely normal.
It’s also normal for breastfeeding mums to find that they have less interest in sex when they’re breastfeeding.
When to have sex again after baby
When to have sex again is mostly about when you feel ready (unless your doctor has advised otherwise).
If you’ve had a difficult birth or stitches, your body will need time to heal. Many new mums feel pain or discomfort during sex, but this usually improves with time. Using a lubricant or oestrogen creams might make sex more comfortable. Sometimes discomfort can be because of muscle spasms or anxiety.
On the other hand, some new mums and their partners find that sex is less satisfying because the muscles are too loose after being stretched during the birth. The muscles will gain tone again – pelvic floor exercises can help.
Breastfeeding can cause vaginal dryness, but using a lubricant can help with this. And if you’re breastfeeding, you might find that milk leaks from your breasts during sex. Try feeding your baby, or expressing, before having sex.
Your body after pregnancy and birth might not be the same shape as before. Parts of your body might have changed too, like your breasts, tummy or legs. These changes can affect how you feel about yourself, including how sexy you feel. If you’re finding it hard to accept the changes, talk with your GP, your child and family health nurse or a fitness instructor.
Contraception after a baby
As new parents, you might not be ready to have another baby yet, so it’s a good idea to think about contraception before you start having sex again. Your doctor or midwife will usually talk with you about contraception at the six-week check-up for mum and baby. If you and your partner want to have sex before then, talk to your GP or midwife about contraception.
Some mums are fertile, or have started to ovulate, even before they have a period. This increases their chances of becoming pregnant if they have sex without using contraception.
You might have been told that breastfeeding makes it less likely you’ll become pregnant. This can sometimes be the case if a new mum:
- is exclusively breastfeeding day and night
- isn’t giving her baby any other food or drink (just breastmilk)
- has a baby who’s under six months old
- hasn’t had a period since giving birth.
But keep in mind that there’s no guarantee. You might still get pregnant if you’re having sex without using contraception.
It’s a good idea to talk with your GP, child and family health nurse or family planning clinic about your contraception options. Some types of contraception aren’t suitable for breastfeeding mums.
Your feelings and your partner’s feelings about sex
You might feel confused or worried if you’re not interested in sex in the months following the birth of your baby. Your partner might feel rejected or unwanted.
These mixed and confusing feelings aren’t much fun, but they are normal. Lots of people go through them in the early days, months and years of raising a family – you’re certainly not alone.
I feel like I’m just a sperm donor and I’ve outlived my usefulness.
– Mick, new parent
He just doesn’t understand that I’m not interested right now.
– Linda, new parent
Rebuilding intimacy: ideas
There are other ways to stay connected with your partner. Talking and listening with your partner about your feelings will help to keep the lines of communication open and help you both understand what’s happening in your relationship.
If one of you is home caring for the baby while the other works outside the home, check that you’re both sharing the household work – or that you’re comfortable with how domestic chores are being divided.
Spending time together can be more of a challenge when you’re new parents, but it’s still important. You might be able to go for a walk or have dinner together. If you can’t find someone to look after your baby, take him for a walk in the pram while you talk, or have a meal together once he’s asleep.
There are many ways of giving and receiving sexual pleasure. Think about sex as the end point, rather than the beginning. Start with simple things like holding hands and cuddling. Physical affection can build and lead to sex when you’re both ready.
When our son was about three months old, he would sleep for about an hour after lunch. If we were home together we’d have a cuddle and a rest while he was having his nap. It was one way to make a little bit of time for each other.
– Marty, new parent
Looking after yourself
Healthy eating and exercise plus rest and sleep are all ways to look after yourself. It’s hard to be interested in sex if you’re tired, sick or stressed. If your baby is waking at night, try to make some time to rest during the day.
It can also help to check the balance in your lives. With a young baby it’s easy to get caught up in your child’s day-to-day care and forget about your needs. So making time – even if it’s just 15 minutes – to do something for yourself each day helps.
It could be catching up with a friend, going for a walk or reading a book. It could be time when your baby is asleep, before she wakes in the morning or during your lunch break at work. Talk with other parents about how they find time for themselves.
If you and your partner are feeling low and have also lost interest in sex, this can be a sign of postnatal depression (PND). It’s important to let your GP or child and family health nurse know so you can get help. You can read more about PND in women and PND in men.
Where to get help
If you and your partner need help, talk with your GP or child and family health nurse. They might refer you to a therapist or couples counsellor.
Other parents can also be a great source of help and support. You could try talking to other new mums and dads in your parents group, if you’re in one.