Sex after baby: for tired and hormonal parents, it’s complicated. (Photo: Blue Jean Images/Corbis)
Kelly Clarkson has been positively glowing with happiness lately. Credit her infatuation with her 10-month-old daughter River — but also the sparks that she and husband Brandon Blackstock apparently enjoy in the bedroom. As Kelly makes clear in a recent interview, these two make sex a priority.
“I always swore ours would not be a relationship where we have to schedule sex,“ Clarkson told Redbook. "That is never going to happen. We put each other first. I call it the oxygen-mask mentality — take care of yourself first!”
High-five to Kelly and Brandon. Because as most parents realize, having a baby, especially a first kid, can do a serious number on your sex life. Part of the reason has to do with biology. “New moms experience totally normal hormone shifts that decrease their libido,” Los Angeles-based psychologist Wendy Walsh, Ph.D., tells Yahoo Parenting.
A mother’s desire isn’t the only one on the downswing. “During the last trimester of pregnancy, dads-to-be have lower testosterone levels, which sink their sex drive, and the dip can last for the next year or two,” says Walsh. Call it Mother Nature’s way of making sure that parents are more focused on taking care of their infant than having another baby too soon, she says.
It’s not just birth-related hormonal shifts that put the brakes on sex. Post-delivery body weirdness can make a mom feel less attractive, worried that a jiggly belly or leaky boobs will ruin the experience, Alyssa Dweck, MD, ob-gyn in Westchester, N.Y., and co-author of V Is for Vagina, tells Yahoo Parenting.
And when the baby arrives, suddenly there’s this adorable yet needy new creature to focus love and attention on, says Dweck, possibly making one parent feel crowded out or even a little neglected, which is not exactly good for your bedroom bond.
Even when new parents are raring to hit the sheets, the stress and fatigue of caring for a needy baby can lead to exhaustion and flared tempers on the part of both parents. That prevents them feeling close and wanting to be intimate, says Dweck.
In the face of all of these obstacles, however, lots of couples maintain the passion and heat they had before baby, but it takes a little effort. These tactics will help get you back in the saddle again and and keep your connection tight.
Start planning sex. As Kelly Clarkson implied, the idea of scheduling sex sounds, well, extremely unsexy. No disrespect to Clarkson, “but if most parents with kids waited for the right time to arrive so sex could be spontaneous, it might never happen,” says Walsh. Planning to do it later in the day when the baby is napping or even days ahead is not unromantic; it sends the message that you’re attracted to each other and think sex is important.
Hit the sheets … to sleep. As any mom or dad who has ever awakened every two hours for weeks on end to feed and clean up after a baby knows, taking care of a kid is crazy exhausting. When you’re that dragged, sex is often out of the question, says Dweck. It’s not easy, but if you can catch up on rest, your sex life will catch up too.
Let little squabbles go. With a needy infant or toddler in the house, tired and tense parents get snappy, irritated, and on each other’s nerves, says Dweck. Try to let these little irritations slide, so they don’t blow up into big issues that keep you from wanting to be intimate.
Know that every parent deals with this. “One of the biggest causes of unhappiness in relationships is when your expectations don’t meet reality,” says Walsh. In our sex-drenched world, we’re led to believe that everyone, even new parents, are having great sex all the time, she says. If you’re not, it can make you feel like there’s something wrong with your relationship, and you might retreat emotionally from each other … making it hard to reconnect physically again.