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Your Sex Life After Baby

Challenges -- and solutions -- to getting your intimacy back on track.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Jennifer Shu, MD

Having a baby is an amazing, life-changing experience. But no matter how in love you are with your little one, caring for a newborn can take a serious toll on your sex life.

To put it bluntly: “Babies are sex killers,” says psychiatrist Gail Saltz, MD, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Though getting back in the sexual swing of things can be tough, it’s a necessary process that challenges most couples, says Saltz, who specializes in sex therapy and is author of The Ripple Effect: How Better Sex Can Lead to a Better Life. “It’s difficult, but doable,” she says, as long as you have reasonable expectations of yourself and your body.

Getting the Green Light to Have Sex After Baby

Most women receive the OK from their doctors to have sex between four to six weeks after delivery.

Before you start up again, you should no longer have any postpartum vaginal discharge, known as lochia. Regardless of a vaginal or c-section delivery, all women who give birth go through this period for a few weeks afterward. Having sex before the discharge stops puts you at risk of infection.

If you had a lot of stitches during childbirth, getting the OK to resume sex may take even longer. Stitches that have not fully healed risk opening up. If that happens, see your doctor immediately.

Lack of Sleep Smothers Your Sex Drive

For moms of newborns, sheer fatigue is perhaps the biggest roadblock to feeling sexy again.

Especially at the beginning, a new baby is usually awake to feed every two or three hours around the clock. This pattern can go on for months. About 30% of babies still aren't sleeping through the night by nine months of age, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

While the nighttime wakings continue, it may feel like you’ve become a mommy machine, devoid of sensation and desire.

Dad might be just as tired. But men are still more likely to be interested in sex. To them, it’s often a way to relax and help feel emotionally close to you, Saltz tells WebMD. And they don’t need much of a warm-up before diving into sex. In contrast, most women need some talk and foreplay to become aroused.

If fatigue is what’s keeping you from getting your sex life back, the first thing to do is talk with your partner about it, advises Saltz.

“Tell him, ‘I really am tired, but I want to have sex with you,” Saltz says.

Then do some creative problem solving. Saltz suggests asking your partner to watch the baby so you can rest up and get into the mood. Also, aim for early morning sex, when you’ve both had a chance to catch some ZZZ’s. Lean on your family or friends or a sitter so you can have some time without the baby. Or give it a shot when Junior is napping.

Of course, your baby might wake up at the worst possible moment -- while you’re trying to reignite those bedroom flames.

“That’s why it’s important to have a sense of humor about the whole situation. Remember that it’s not going to last forever,” says Cleveland Clinic ob-gyn Elisa Ross, MD.

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