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A Dad’s Guide to Sex After Pregnancy and Childbirth
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Face it, fellas, we dudes have needs. So after the gift of fatherhood, after you dole out cigars to your poker buddies, it’ll hit you: You want to have sex again, ASAP. The challenge? Thanks to a host of reasons—both biological and emotional—your wife almost definitely is not on the same page. Here are some tips for weathering the inevitable post-baby sex-drought, and our suggestions for putting yourself in line to resume old habits as quickly, painlessly and comfortably as possible.
The (Not-So-) Endless Wait
When your favorite wide receiver busts his ankle, he can’t resume practice until the trainers clear him for football activity. Your partner faces a similar situation after having a kid. Many medical professionals liken the whole birth thing to “trauma,” noting that after all that pushing (and, in some cases, after surgery), ladies need to rest the area before resuming…well, you know. Dr. Brent Davidson, service chief for Women’s Health Services at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, says most women are advised to wait at least six weeks before having sex. “We have [moms] hold off out of fear of infection,” he says. “The idea is to make sure everything’s healed.”
Follow Her Lead
Just because you and your partner have the green light to get physical doesn’t mean it’ll happen on that exact timetable. Emotionally, some women are ready sooner; others take an extra few weeks—or months. A 1998 study in the Journal of Family Practice indicated that the average time before resuming intercourse was seven weeks. Still, as Davidson notes, all women rebound differently, and each woman rebounds differently with each baby.
So how do you handle it if your woman isn’t ready? In a nutshell, practice patience. Ask her how you can support her best. Listen, and demonstrate understanding. Follow her lead. Word to the wise: Don’t try a guilt trip. Emily Hope Morse, host of the Sex with Emily blog and radio show and author of Hot Sex: Over 200 Things You Can Try Tonight!, says “the absolute worst” thing dads can do is make their women feel badly for not being ready. “Women need to feel supported and sexy,” she says. “If a man is showing disregard for that, it can be rough for everyone involved.”
Understanding Your Feelings
Believe it or not, new moms aren’t the only ones whose libidos dip when baby arrives; some men experience similar feelings, too. In many cases, this can be a manifestation of exhaustion and stress. Recent studies also suggest that testosterone levels drop after a man becomes a father. In other cases, these feelings can indicate something more serious: namely, postpartum depression (yes, this can exist in men, too). Morse suggests that men who feel disinterested should try to communicate about their feelings—if not to their partners, then to close friends. If this doesn’t help, she adds, seek psychological care.
Piquing Her Interest
As counterintuitive as it might sound, sometimes the best ways to turn on a new mom aren’t outwardly sexual at all. Tell her she’s beautiful. Tackle the laundry. Shop for groceries. If you’re feeling particularly adventuresome, offer to watch the baby for a few hours so your spouse can email with friends, give herself a manicure, hit the elliptical trainer at the gym or take a nap. “You need to understand that after being peed on, pooped on and puked on by this little baby, your partner probably doesn’t feel very sexy,” says Ian Kerner, a relationship expert and author of Love in the Time of Colic: The New Parents Guide to Getting It On Again. “Because so much of female sexual desire comes down to self esteem, it’s important to help her restore a sense of sanity.”
Fallout from Breastfeeding
Before baby, it’s likely that (at least at one point), you were well acquainted with your wife’s breasts. Hold on to those memories, boys—especially if your wife is breastfeeding, you won’t be creating new ones for a while. Michelle Collins, assistant professor of nursing at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in Nashville, notes that it can be difficult for breastfeeding moms to “switch the roles” of their breasts from feeding implements to sexual objects. Collins, a certified midwife, points out that breastfeeding could impact your sex life in another way, too—she says the process wreaks hormonal havoc on a woman’s body, ultimately stimulating less vaginal lubrication (and necessitating an investment in K-Y Jelly or another water-soluble lube).
Coping with Life as a Zombie
Fatigue is not exactly the best environment for resuscitating an otherwise dormant sex life. One day, you might cry (yes, gents, cry) at the mere smell of your new kid. The next day, you might wig-out and (in a moment of weakness, of course) call your wife some terrible names you’ll regret. Being sleep-deprived makes all of us do weird and unpredictable things. “There is a reason that armies use sleep deprivation as a torture method,” Collins jokes. In other words, exhaustion can lead to curious behaviors, so be ready to cut (both her and yourself) some slack.
Discovering other Options
Just because your wife temporarily lacks interest in intercourse doesn’t mean fun is entirely off the menu; as we all learned from former President Clinton, there are plenty of definitions of sex to go around. Most of these options are the stuff you’ve (hopefully) been doing as foreplay for years. Other ideas: cuddling, back-rubs, foot massage, and more. Morse says any touching—even simply stroking your woman’s hair—should help jump-start intimacy. “The hardest part is carving out the time to do it,” she says. “Even if you take five or ten minutes a day, making time for each other will help keep your connection alive and make it that much easier to get back to having sex when everyone is ready.”
Learning New Tricks
As you get closer to the Big Day (or Big Night, as the case may be), you may find your partner requesting that you acquire some new skills. Trust us: It’s not you, it’s her. In many cases, biological changes from pregnancy, coupled with the hormonal changes that follow (and, of course, that whole breastfeeding thing) prompt women to alter their preferences for particular sexual acts. Collins, the midwife, says that some recent moms go so far as to abandon old favorites and demand something new. For us guys, this can be worrisome at first. The bright side? New is often exciting, and almost always fun.
A Happy Return
After months out of commission, it’s only natural to get hyped up for your first time back in the sack. Fight the urge, boys, and take it slow. Strategically, this approach offers two advantages. First, it almost guarantees at least some degree of endurance on your part (as opposed to finishing your part of the bargain…prematurely). Easing back into things also minimizes pressure for both of you, creating a laid-back environment that will enable you and your partner to remain lighthearted about what likely will be a slightly awkward return. “The more comfortable each person feels, the more comfortable you [both] will be,” Collins says. The way we see it, that’s a good recipe for romance under any circumstances.