By Carrie Sloan
It’s the dirty little secret of baby-making: After nine long months, you’re overwhelmed by the love you feel for your newborn -- and shocked to find how much havoc that bundle of joy is wreaking in the bedroom. If you’re feeling less than lusty after having a baby, you’re not alone. “It’s completely normal for both women and men’s libido to hit a rock-bottom low during the first six to nine months following the birth of your baby,” says L.A. ob-gyn Sheryl Ross, MD.
Rest assured, you needn’t throw your sex life out with the bathwater. Here are a few secrets to help you dust off your sexuality post-baby.
Good: Adjust Your Expectations
Celebrity magazines make it seem like your waistline and your sex life should snap back to normal in a matter of weeks. But the experts know otherwise: Your new postpartum hormones are designed to make you lust-less. “The first six weeks are definitely the hardest hormonally and physically for both women and men,” says Ross. If you're a new mom, “your hormones are all over the place, your low estrogen level is in the menopausal range, your vagina is dry with little natural lubrication, and sex hurts. This is the normal baseline.”
Meanwhile, studies have shown that men’s testosterone levels dip when they become fathers, and the more they interact with their Mini-Mes, the lower those levels go.
First step: Don’t rush things. "Most women will find intercourse painful up until the three-month mark," notes Ross. "Once you cross that line, look for life to get easier in every way. I always tell my [female] patients, 'It takes you nine months to go through the pregnancy. Allow yourself nine more to have your body return to normal, too.'"
Better: Take Two-Hour 'Vacations'
"The best advice I can give to people to fix their libido is get some help [with the baby], says NYC ob-gyn Daniel Roshan, MD. "You can hire a nurse, or ask your mother, your cousins, your friends, your neighbors... I don’t know a magic bullet for fixing libido [post-baby]. It’s about exhaustion."
On top of that, less free time and more chores can put sex on the back burner. “Even a two-hour vacation can make a world of difference,” says Sabitha Pillai, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Center for Human Sexuality Studies at Widener University. “It’s short enough that the baby can manage without milk or formula, but the two hours makes a huge difference [for the parents] mentally and psychologically.”
Best: Just Touch Each Other
There’s one emotional snare that many new parents fall prey to: “A lot of us wind up transferring our emotional energy to our kids versus expressing it as a couple,” says Kat Van Kirk, Ph.D., a clinical sexologist in L.A.
Much of it has to do with oxytocin, the bonding chemical we release when we hug, make love... and breastfeed. “Directly after giving birth, the mother winds up getting her oxytocin from her kid,” Van Kirk explains. “I see couples disconnect, emotionally and physically.”
To get back on track, start talking -- and touching -- right away to raise your oxytocin levels. “Even in the first six weeks, when intercourse is frowned upon, set up time to give each other a massage or a foot rub,” she suggests.
And don’t be afraid to be opportunistic about sex, whether that means setting a sex date or taking advantage of baby's naps. “Even if it’s a quickie, it’s important,” says Van Kirk. “Sex begets more sex.”