After giving birth, when it hurts just to go to the toilet, the thought of having to resume love-making can be worrying.
Sex postpartum isn’t something that most women, or men, talk about openly – but it can be a major concern.
As well as fears over pain, new parents find themselves exhausted with looking after the baby, adjusting to their new roles, and uncertain about how to start a conversation about sex with their partner.
Relate counsellor and sex therapist Denise Knowles has been speaking to Metro.co.uk about it. She says rekindling your sex life depends on what kind of birth and pregnancy a woman experiences. If someone has a difficult birth, and may have stitches, there will be concerns about it hurting or about doing damage. There are also psychological concerns about how they are going to appear to their partner, because their body will have changed, and they will be worried about tiredness.
“For men and women, but especially women because they have given birth, having a baby can take an enormous amount out of you,” says Denise. “Some women will sadly experience postnatal depression, which might have an effect on their libido, but it doesn’t mean they don’t love their partner.
“While you are both busy looking after the baby, communication between couples is the key,” she adds. But for men, it can be a difficult conversation to approach in case their partner feels they are being pressured into having sex.
“It’s important to talk about it and part of the difficulty is some men feel a bit pushed out by the baby, and may also not want to impose themselves on their partner because they can see they are tired,” says Denise. ”They might not want to start talking about it for fear they will be taken the wrong way.”
One of the things it may highlight is how little they talk about sex, or talk generally about their relationship, she says. “It is really important that couples are able to communicate with one another about that. What they can do is just generally enquire and notice when their partner needs physical or emotional support. They could also ask if they need any extra help or say: ‘it would be nice if we could just have a cuddle’. Make it clear it doesn’t have to lead to anything else.”
It may get to the stage, though, where a couple feel they need help to get their sexual relationship back on track, and that’s when a visit to a GP or Relate can help.
“If it becomes a problem for both of you, for sure that’s when you need to be talking to someone about it, because if you don’t talk about it, then it stirs up resentment and that’s not good for anyone,” says Denise.
It takes a couple of years for a woman’s body to get back into some kind of normality, she says. If their sex life or desire for sex hasn’t been rekindled for six, eight or 10 months afterwards, it might not be about sex, it might be about the couple not adapting to becoming parents. When approaching the conversation, it’s important not to make your partner feel they are being blamed for the lack of sex.
Relate has helped thousands of people re-discover a satisfying sex life.