Having a baby drastically changes your life, and some new parents may find themselves neglecting each other. You can find plenty of advice to help you manage sleep once you bring your baby home, eating well, managing stress and so much more. New parents must also consider their sexual health and why sex after baby is important.
Debra Wickman, MD, is an OBGYN in Phoenix, AZ at the Banner – University Medicine Women’s Institute. She describes sexual health as the balance of all the components of being—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
“I believe optimal sexual health exists when that balance is tuned,” Dr. Wickman said. “First within one’s self, and then in their relationship to a partner and life overall.”
The importance of sexual health to new parents
When you bring a new baby home, you and your partner will likely notice increased stress levels, and the closeness and intimacy that brought about your new baby may take a back seat. Worry about the baby becomes the focus.
“Hormone changes in the new mother are also influential,” Dr. Wickman said. “This may cause the father to feel left out, as she may have less libido if breastfeeding, or be stressed and exhausted from lack of sleep, et cetera.”
Additionally, women may feel self-conscious after giving birth if there are scars from a C-section or stretch marks, and she may have vaginal dryness or discomfort if she is lactating.
Benefits of intimacy
Still, Dr. Wickman believes sexual health is vital to new parents, and noted there are several physical benefits. These include:
- Improved circulation and blood flow to the pelvis and genitals
- Improved pelvic floor muscle strength and function
- Enhanced hormone levels
- Improved mood
- Enhanced immunity, meaning fewer colds or flu
- Reduced stress and better sleep
Dr. Wickman also said new parents can expect mental health benefits similar to those they experienced before having a baby. These include:
- Increased connection and relationship satisfaction
- Improved attachment and bonding
- Improved self-image or self-esteem
- Increased sense of well-being in general.
Health concerns for sex after baby
Dr. Wickman noted that the mother needs to physically heal after delivering a baby before having sex. For example, if the mother suffered trauma—from a laceration or episiotomy—that will need to heal. And, if the baby was delivered by C-section, she needs to make sure the incision is healed.
Typically, Dr. Wickman says parents should wait 4 to 6 weeks after delivery before attempting intercourse. And, if the mother experiences pain during intercourse, she needs to be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.
“Pushing through pain causes the body to subconsciously clench and tighten the pelvic floor muscles in an effort to brace oneself against pain,” Dr. Wickman said. “This can set up a reflex type mechanism that leads to ongoing pain that can take much more effort to unravel in the long run.”
And, hormonal effects, which can last for a while if the mother breastfeeds, can affect her body. She may notice vaginal dryness or pain. Dr. Wickman suggests talking to your doctor if you experience either of these.
Another issue which should not be overstated is postpartum blues or depression. Dr. Wickman states new parents should be aware if signs start to manifest. These signs include:
- Emotional or crying spells
- Inability to sleep
- Lack of appetite
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Low self-worth or self-esteem
- Thoughts of harm to self or baby
If any of these signs start to show, ask for help immediately.
Tips to help return to intimacy
Dr. Wickman notes new parents need to be intentional about taking time for each other—both with and apart from the new baby.
The final piece of advice Dr. Wickman offered focuses less on sexual health or finding time for sex after having a baby and more on the importance of communication—a key tenet of any relationship.
“Having a new baby changes the couple dynamic to a family dynamic—or to a larger family if there are already siblings,” Dr. Wickman said. “Even positive change can be stressful, and the best way to deal with this new stress is through communication and placing priority on the relationship to help it thrive.”
How can that spell out in a sense of being able to find time for one another? Maybe it’s giving grandma and grandpa a call so you can have what’s likely a deserved romantic night out (or in) with your partner.