Becoming a parent is a life-altering experience filled with joy, challenges, and profound changes. While it’s natural to focus on the baby’s wellbeing as a new parent, if you have a partner, it’s crucial to not neglect the importance of maintaining intimacy and sexual satisfaction with them during this transformative period.
To shed light on this important topic, I spoke with Dr. Pebble Kranz, the medical director of the Rochester Center for Sexual Wellness. She’s certified in sexual medicine, and a passionate advocate for pleasure and satisfaction during pregnancy and parenthood. In this post, I’ll share an overview of our conversation, including an exploration of the benefits of intimacy postpartum, how changes in your body and life can affect desire and arousal, and practical tips for maintaining a healthy sexual relationship as new parents.
Benefits of Pleasure and Satisfaction
Before getting into the challenges that intimacy after birth can bring, consider first the benefits of pleasure and satisfaction. There are a lot! For instance, physical relaxation, better sleep, decreased depression and anxiety, increased pain threshold, improved vaginal health, helpful hormonal changes, and enhanced trust through the release of oxytocin.
Intimacy and sexuality play a crucial role in a couple’s relationship, especially during the transformative journey of parenthood. Maintaining a healthy sexual connection can decrease tension, restore feelings of closeness, and provide comfort and solace. Dr. Kranz emphasizes that the wellbeing of the parents’ relationship directly impacts the wellbeing of the baby. So, nurturing your relationship and experiencing pleasure as parents are important for your child’s health.
Changes in Desire and Arousal
Dr. Kranz acknowledges that changes in desire, arousal, and orgasm are common for new parents, and are often noticed around three months after birth. While these changes can be concerning, it’s reassuring to know that – in most cases – they resolve themselves within six to 12 months. Key factors contributing to these changes include:
- Reduced Sexual Frequency: It’s normal for sexual frequency to decrease temporarily as you adjust to parenthood.
- Orgasm Changes: Some individuals may experience difficulties reaching orgasm, changes in orgasm sensation, or even pain during orgasm.
- Decreased Desire: A decrease in sexual desire is also common postpartum.
- Sensation Changes: Vaginal numbness and sensitivity changes may occur, often due to stretching of the pudendal nerve during vaginal delivery.
- Vaginal Dryness: Breastfeeding and hormonal shifts can lead to vaginal dryness, affecting comfort during sexual activities.
If you experience pain or discomfort during sexual activities, it’s essential to address it promptly. Dr. Kranz emphasizes that there’s no benefit to enduring pain and suggests making adjustments to ensure pleasurable and pain-free experiences. If the pain persists, seeking help from a healthcare provider is crucial. Don’t hesitate to consult a specialist in sexual medicine or a sex therapist who can offer expert guidance and support.
Body Image and Self-Confidence
Body image can undergo significant changes during pregnancy and postpartum, and Dr. Kranz shares that up to 70% of individuals who have given birth may experience a decrease in satisfaction with their body image. But it’s so important to accept and love your body as it is, focusing on the pleasure and enjoyment it can provide rather than conforming to societal beauty standards. Open communication with your partner can also help you navigate these changes successfully.
Mismatched desire is a common issue in many relationships, especially during the first year of parenthood. Dr. Kranz suggests that couples should prioritize and plan for their sexual relationship, debunking the myth that sex has to be spontaneous to be satisfying. Communication, understanding, and compromise are key to addressing desire disparities within a partnership. It’s crucial to recognize that mismatched desire is a common challenge that can be worked through with time and effort.
Practical Tips for Intimacy after Giving Birth
To maintain a healthy and satisfying sexual relationship as new parents, consider the following tips:
- Prioritize and Plan: Recognize that sex doesn’t always have to be spontaneous. Plan intimate moments to ensure you make time for each other.
- Focus on the Experience: Avoid getting caught up in performance concerns. Concentrate on the sensations and your body’s responses during intimacy.
- Lubrication: Use appropriate lubricants for sexual activities. Water-based, silicone, or oil-based lubricants serve different purposes, so choose the one that suits your needs.
- Seek Professional Help: If you experience persistent pain or discomfort, consult a healthcare provider specializing in sexual health. Pelvic floor physical therapy and other treatments may be beneficial.
Self-Love and Pleasure
Dr. Kranz also encourages individuals to embrace self-love and self-pleasure. She highlights that self-love is the safest and most nurturing form of sex one can have. Taking time to explore one’s own desires and pleasures can lead to a fulfilling and lifelong love affair with oneself, enhancing self-confidence and overall well-being. It can also help you learn what’s pleasurable to you before exploring with a partner, so you can confidently set boundaries and ask for what you’ll find enjoyable.
Intimacy after giving birth and having a baby can present challenges, but remember – most of these are temporary. Prioritizing intimacy and maintaining open communication with your partner can lead to fulfillment and satisfaction. Pleasure is an essential aspect of human life – so, don’t hesitate to seek help from professionals who specialize in sexual health and wellness if you feel like your struggling, experiencing pain, or just need some guidance to help you through this transition. And remember to give yourself the grace necessary to figure it all out.