If you talk to any new parent, most will report at least some change to their sex life after having kids, whether in "format", frequency or enjoyment. And understandably so, given the transformation that a new baby can have on a household.
Even those who have enjoyed a very active sex life prior to having children will inevitably notice a variation as two becomes three (or four, or five etc). At the very least, spare time and energy are low while sleep deprivation is high and that’s before we consider hormonal changes, women returning to work and a hundred other factors.
Some couples take this change in their stride, but many are left feeling disconnected from their partner and even worried about their relationship and what these changes mean.
According to research by the Gottman Institute who are considered one of the world leaders in relationships, two thirds of couples report a decline in relationship satisfaction in the first three years after the birth of a child. While sex is not the only element to determine relationship satisfaction, for many couples it is a significant aspect.
There are many factors that can impact how regularly a couple will have sex once they have a new baby – the physical recovery from pregnancy and labour, the physical demands of an infant, the lack of time together to name a few. Then there are the physical, mental and emotional changes a woman experiences in motherhood which can take time to process. Sex may not be at the top of her priority list.
The good news is there are things you can do to work through these barriers.
1. Talk about it – before your baby arrives, if possible
Many antenatal classes recommend that couples discuss potential conflicts, including the impact on sexual intimacy which could arrive along with your baby. But if that ship has sailed, it is never too late to start talking and working to bridge the distance or work through the conflicts.
2. Make time for each other, in and out of the house
Who has the energy for date night when you’ve been awake with a newborn half the night? Early nights and time to yourself can be far more appealing, but time together is one of the key ways to stay close on the sometimes bumpy ride of parenthood. One night a week or fortnight to turn the TV off, sit down for dinner together and talk - or better yet, line up a babysitter and go to your nearest restaurant for a couple of hours. The point is to give yourselves the space and time to talk about what’s on your mind and keep in tune with each other.
3. Just do it
Put the baby to sleep, skip dinner and get to the bedroom. Forget the tidying, the chores you want to get done, the prep for tomorrow – all of it can wait. Whatever will help you to relax - a glass of wine, dimming the lights, keeping your bra on - just do it. Get naked and reconnect physically.
4. Talk about it some more
It can be easy to assume everyone else at the same stage as you is having loads of sex, but that is unlikely. Open up to people you trust and you may find comfort in knowing you aren’t the only one experiencing these struggles. Share the load, ask advice, find out what’s working for others. Just don’t go it alone.
5. Get some help
Sometimes, we need some outside help to overcome some of the challenges associated with parenthood. If you’re feeling worried or anxious about sex or your relationship and think you might need some extra help, counselling is a great place to start.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to book in for an individual or couple session and make the changes you want to feel better.