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Sex Not on Most New Moms’ Minds

Passions Rekindle for Most in 6 Months, Review Finds
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 1, 2010 -- When her ob-gyn said she could start having sex again six weeks after giving birth, writer Heidi Raykeil’s first thought was, “Can’t I have another six weeks?”

“I wanted to want sex, but I just didn’t,” she tells WebMD. “I had absolutely no interest.”

More than a year later, when the prepregnancy passion still hadn’t returned, Raykeil began blogging about it. She quickly realized she was not alone.

“I heard from all these women who were feeling the same thing, but nobody was really talking about it,” she says.

New Baby, No Sex

It’s no surprise that sex is on the back burner or not even anywhere near the stove for most new moms. Constant exhaustion combined with the biological changes that come with new motherhood combine to do a number on the libido.

A newly published review of the research finds postpartum passions typically ignite again three to six months after delivery.

The review, which included nearly 50 studies, found that vaginal dryness, bleeding and pain during intercourse, difficulty reaching orgasm, and hormonal changes related to breastfeeding all dampened sexual desire.

Three months after giving birth, 83% of the women in the studies reported having little interest in sex, but most medical symptoms associated with loss of libido had resolved within six months and nine out of 10 women had returned to sexual activity.

The research appears in the latest online issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

San Diego sexual medicine specialist Irwin Goldstein, MD, who edits the journal, says women who continue to experience lack of desire six months after delivery should talk to a doctor about it if they are concerned.

Docs Aren’t Talking About Sex

Gynecologist Rachel Pauls, MD, says if sex is talked about at all during postpartum medical checkups, the discussion is limited to the type of contraception a woman plans to use.

Pauls is director of research in the division of urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati.

“Doctors need to be more approachable so their patients feel comfortable talking about this topic,” she says.

Pauls followed more than 60 women through pregnancy and the first six months after delivery in her study of the topic.

She found that sexual activity peaked before pregnancy and did not return to prepregnancy norms six months after women gave birth.

Even though most of the women in the study had lost their baby weight by this time, body image was significantly worse six months after delivery than it was before pregnancy.

“It may be that even though they may look the same, many women don’t feel the same for a long time after having a baby,” she says.

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