Keeping the Spark Alive: How to Maintain a Healthy Sex Life as Parents
The joy of welcoming a new member into your life is irreplaceable, but the shift that occurs in your life, particularly in your sex life, can be overwhelming.
When all your waking hours are consumed with thoughts of diapers, feeding times, and naps while you and your partner routinely go without sleep, preserving your sex life can seem like a daunting task.
This problem only gets worse as your children get older, but fortunately, parents have been finding ways for thousands of years to keep their sex lives active despite having children at home, no matter their age.
The Impact of Pregnancy and Childbirth on Your Sex Life
A new baby in the house means a whole new set of responsibilities and priorities. Your focus shifts from your partner to your child (and so does theirs), and amidst all this, your sex life will almost certainly take a back seat.
On top of that, pregnancy causes massive shifts in your body thanks to the influx of hormones required to get through pregnancy and give birth. This alone will wreak havoc on your sex life, but it doesn’t stop once you give birth.
Many women find that sex becomes even more complicated after pregnancy for several reasons.
You’re Just Exhausted
The exhaustion from child-rearing, coupled with a lack of time and privacy, can lead to a decrease in sexual activity and intimacy, which is supported by research.
You’re Physically Unable to Have Sex
Second, numerous complications during pregnancy can make sex painful, difficult, or even impossible for a while. If you had a C-section, an episiotomy, or a stretched perineum, sex may not be physically possible for a while.
And even barring all of these, you might be experiencing extreme vaginal dryness, making sex uncomfortable at best and impossible at worst.
Your Hormone Levels Have Decreased Massively
Women experience a massive drop in their hormone levels after they give birth, including estrogen and testosterone, while getting a large influx of oxytocin (the bonding hormone) from their newborn.
This will do two things: your libido will drop, and you’ll no longer feel the same need for closeness with your partner because you’re getting so much of that from your newborn.
You May Be Feeling Postpartum Anxiety, Depression, or PTSD
Pregnancy can be an extremely overwhelming and traumatic experience, and many women develop a postpartum mood disorder as a result. If you’re suddenly feeling severely depressed or anxious, sex likely will be the last thing on your mind.
You May Not Feel Happy with Your Body After Pregnancy
Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding all cause changes to your body, many of which you may not be happy with, and when you’re not happy with the way you look, it can directly affect your interest in sex.
While all of these things can cause your sex life to dive, many of them are temporary, and with time, you may be able to get back to a place where you have a normal desire for sex and the ability to have sex.
However, pregnancy and childbirth are just the beginning—there are many more years ahead of you with a child in the house. If you want to preserve your sex life with your significant other, you’ll have to start figuring out how to have a good sex life despite this difficulty.
Challenges in Preserving Your Sex Life When You Have Kids at Home
Lack of time, privacy, and energy are common issues that most parents face. You're constantly juggling between your roles as a parent, a spouse, and a professional, leaving you with little or no time for intimacy.
Sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion can also take a toll on your sex drive, and this may not change for over a decade—even after your children are sleeping through the night, you’ll still likely have to wake up very early to take them to school.
Moreover, the hormonal changes and physical changes that occur during and after pregnancy may end up being permanent. Some women have to go on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to get back to feeling like themselves again, and many will not feel comfortable with sex until they spend a lot of time in the gym—or even get surgery—to feel more like themselves.
For men, the pressure of being a new dad and the fear of unwanted pregnancy can lead to sexual dysfunction.
Men also tend to not fully grasp just how immense, all-encompassing, and life-changing pregnancy is. They can struggle—if not fail—to understand the impact pregnancy has on a woman, and therefore often expect things to go back to normal in a matter of weeks.
They simply can’t understand things will not “go back to normal”, both for you physically and mentally, that there is a new normal, and that it will take time for that new normal to settle out.
These challenges can create a rift in your relationship and make it difficult to maintain a healthy sex life as parents, but good communication, patience, and help from your healthcare provider can make a huge difference.
Practical Tips on Keeping Your Sex Life Alive When You Have Kids at Home
Keeping your sex life alive when you have kids at home may seem like an uphill task, but with some practical tips and a bit of creativity, you can navigate through this phase successfully.
Communicate As Much as Possible
Communicating with your partner is critical in any relationship, but it becomes especially important once you have children in the home. Talk about your feelings, fears, desires, and expectations. Open communication can help in resolving issues and boosting intimacy.
Make Time for Each Other
It could be a quick cuddle in the morning, a passionate kiss before leaving for work, or a romantic dinner after the kids have gone to bed. Small gestures of love and affection can go a long way in keeping the spark alive in your relationship.
It’s also a great idea to use what limited child-free time you have—after they go to bed, for example—to spend time with each other. Even if you’re just watching a single episode of your favorite show before bed, that time together can go a long way toward encouraging intimacy later.
Have Someone Watch the Kids
Whether it's hiring a babysitter for a few hours or asking a family member to take care of the kids while you spend some quality time with your partner, getting help can give you a much-needed break and privacy.
There’s no shame in asking for help, and there’s no bonus for doing it all yourself. If all you have to do to create time for sex with your partner is hire a babysitter, it’s worth the cost, even if it’s just a few times a month.
Take Advantage of Mornings and School Hours
Once the kids are in school, you have a window of opportunity—use it if possible. While this doesn’t apply to everyone, many people have some time between taking their kids to school and going to work where sex can fit in.
While something quick like this might not work for everyone, sometimes it’s enough to keep the sex life alive while you wait for the babysitter to take over on a Friday or Saturday night. You don’t have to have sex relegated to the weekends.
If you have teenagers who sleep in, that can be the perfect time for sex as well.
Use Your Evenings
Most kids go to sleep pretty early until they become teenagers—this is more true the younger they are. When your kids have gotten to the point where they’re sleeping alone in their rooms, the evenings might be the only alone time you get—take advantage of them.
Prioritize Sex in Your Unique Schedule
While not all of these suggestions apply to everyone, there’s likely at least one that you can take advantage of. Find a schedule that works for you, and try to prioritize it.
One of the biggest reasons a couple’s sex life can fall to the wayside is a lack of prioritization. It takes a conscious effort to keep a relationship thriving. Make sure you actively think about how to make sex happen, even if it’s as mundane as adding it to your schedule.
If you prioritize it, it’s more likely to happen.
Making It Work Is Worth It
Maintaining a healthy sex life as a parent may seem challenging, but with understanding, patience, and effort, it's achievable.
Remember, it's not about the quantity but the quality of intimacy that matters. Communicate, make time for each other, and keep the spark alive in your relationship. After all, a happy and satisfying sex life can contribute to a happier and healthier family life.
And if you’re still finding that your libido is low and you have no desire for sex or intimacy, hormone replacement therapy may help.
Talk to Your Healthcare Provider About NHRT
NHRT can be highly effective for a loss of libido after childbirth, but it's still very important to discuss the pros and cons of therapy with your healthcare provider to determine if it’s right for you.
To learn more about hormone replacement therapy for low libido and discuss your options, schedule an appointment today.