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Is There Sex after Birth?

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These are easy to read and understand and are beautifully presented.

Chapter 7 from Fathering Right from the Start by Jack Heinowitz, p. 65-73.

It's hard to find time for just the two of us these days. Then when we can be alone together, we hardly ever manage to make it happen. But here's what really gets to me: The few times we actually do steal away together are very disappointing. There's not much closeness, . . all that “juice” is gone. So now even being with her is getting frustrating.
Even the most solid foundations can be rattled by the physiological and psychological changes that rock couples entering parenthood. Sexual spontaneity vanishes, breastfeeding arrives on the scene, and eroticism seems as approachable as the top of Mount Everest in monsoon season.

The trick to moving through this stormy time is to realize that you and your partner are in the upheaval together, and that the more you work as a team, avoiding the temptation to dodge issues or to “go it alone,” the sooner the turbulence will pass. Now is the time to go to each other—to draw strength from your love for each other and  inspiration from your mutual love for the child you created together, Although examining the underpinnings of your sexual relationship may be especially  delicate right now, it is a perfect way to begin stepping up your fortification efforts.


At this point, sexual spontaneity is probably at low tide for both your partner and you, and for good reason. Your partner may be hesitant to resume intercourse in part because her health provider has advised a wait of four to eight weeks after childbirth. Why? Because it takes four to six weeks for the cervix to close up and begin to form a protective barrier against bacteria that may be pushed upward during intercourse. Moreover, if your partner has perineal lacerations, it will take about six weeks for the surrounding tissues to strengthen enough for her to comfortably resume intercourse.

Stepping into motherhood means not only healing from childbirth but also recovering from fatigue and adjusting to round-the-clock infant care. For these reasons, your partner's interest in lovemaking may be low. In addition, her estrogen levels are plummeting; and already “touched out” by the end of the day, the last thing she may want is to be “turned on.” After her uterine discharge has cleared, she may feel ready and eager but unsure about the advisability of proceeding. Her practitioner should be able to help resolve the confusion.

Because of the decreased estrogen levels, many women also experience a significant reduction in vaginal lubrication, especially while breastfeeding.  Sexual lubricants are often effective and can be used liberally.

However you choose to deal with your partner's changing physiology, don't mistake her efforts at adjusting to it for a lack of   interest in you. What is most important for her at this time is to feel at ease with her decision to resume intercourse—free from the pressure of your expectations and her own.

You, on the other hand, may be eager to return to love making. Prolonging the wait may seem to add insult to injury, yet attention, touch, and pleasuring are not always easy to ask for. When we have difficulty expressing these needs directly, we tend to resort to indirect communication through hinting, pouting, or withdrawing. Or we may, knowingly or not, adopt more passive-aggressive measures such as sarcasm, criticism, or nagging.

If any of these behaviors ring true for you, understand that your partner has probably detected your displeasure. To avoid hurting or angering you, she—perhaps equally reluctant to be direct—may begin to accommodate your wishes before she is ready. But her unstated resentment will eventually surface, setting off a subtle yet vicious conflict that no one can possibly win. At best, it will go round and round, quietly eating away at the relationship. At worst, it will degenerate into a pernicious power play. The solution? State your desires clearly and simply, listen to your partner's reply, then work together to arrive at a mutually satisfying game plan.

It is also possible that in the weeks following your child's birth you may be surprisingly less interested in lovemaking. A fretful baby, interrupted sleep, or frequent night-waking can discourage and deplete any parent. Or your lack of enthusiasm may stem from feeling excluded by your partner or your newborn.
It is probably evident by now that illusions you may have had about not letting your baby intrude on your lifestyle were less than realistic. Spontaneity will just have to wait a while. But keep the faith—it will return. In the meantime, plan romantic interludes around your infant's schedule, and take full advantage of nap times.


Breastfeeding poses additional challenges to sexual intimacy. A mother who nurses on demand is in a constant state of feeding readiness. The infant cries; her milk lets down. The sensation and appearance of leaking milk may or may not interfere with lovemaking.

When your baby cries during lovemaking, your partner has a difficult choice to make—whether to attend to her own sexual gratification, to yours, or to your baby's discomfort. You, too, must choose between asserting your desires and deferring to your child or partner. Although this hardly seems a win-win-win situation, it is built into the early parenting experience. Some frustration and conflict are therefore unavoidable. To prevent the buildup of antagonism, think patience and creativity. A good sense of humor about such matters also can be a godsend.

In addition, your partner may be experiencing increased tenderness in her breasts, sore nipples, or decreased vaginal lubrication—all of which can certainly detract from the pleasure of foreplay and intercourse. Anticipating these changes, understanding them for what they are, and dealing with them openly will ease you back into full-spectrum sexuality.

Fathers of breastfed babies often experience some unanticipated shifts of their own. Watching your child nurse, for example, you may entertain a variety of thoughts, feelings, fantasies, and associations. Seeing your partner as a mother rather than a lover can, consciously or unconsciously, influence your desire for her. Observing your child peacefully at your partner's breast may stimulate longings of your own or inspire a new appreciation for her. Intrigued or aroused by your partner's enlarged breasts, you may want to touch, suck, or taste her milk. Although this practice is rarely mentioned by couples’ counselors, it can be enjoyable for both of you. If it is, go ahead and incorporate it into your love-play.

Another common concern for fathers of breastfed babies is a fear of being shut out. Jim expresses it this way:

There's no reason for me to even get up at night when my wife is nursing the baby. I feel bad. If I'm not a part of this twosome, then there's something missing. It shouldn't be my wife's responsibility to raise a child; it should be an equal kind of arrangement. But there's nothing I can do. You know, it's strange, but even though my wife and I are home more now, it's as though we've hardly been together at all.
Actually, there are many things you can do, but not while operating from hurt and fear, as Jim is. He feels dismissed and does not know how to segue back into a position of importance. (To learn how to move from fear into power—a skill we all must apply in the interest of sustaining loving, healthy relationships—see chapter 9.) For now, if you are feeling excluded from the mother- child alliance, take positive action. Here are some suggestions.


Tips for Breastfeeding Dads

To overcome feelings of exclusion or neglect, try one or more of these activities.
  • Nestle with your partner and child, resting your hand gently on your baby's back or on your partner's shoulder.
  • At nonnursing times, bring your baby to your breast. Cuddling, walking, or relaxing while supporting your infant against your bare chest provides warm, invigorating, skin-to-skin contact—nutrients babies (and dads) need plenty of.
  • Take night walks or drives with your baby.
  • Be a comfort giver by rocking your baby, burping him, or changing his diaper.
  • Shower with your baby tucked in close to your chest. (Don't worry about smothering; by nature's design, babies' nostrils flare out to the sides to accommodate breathing in close quarters.)
  • Practice infant massage (see pages 132—35).

A proactive approach—involving yourself rather than waiting—is guaranteed to help you feel better. While taking care yourself and nurturing your baby, you will also be more inclined to support the nursing relationship.

Your ongoing encouragement of breastfeeding fosters partner's and your child's well-being in ways you may not realize. Women who, as a result of childhood abuse or sexual molestation, enter motherhood with an aversion to breastfeeding often discover that nursing their babies helps heal the old pain.  Nursing can help desensitize your partner to negative associations she may hi with her breasts.

For babies, nothing replaces mother's milk as a source of balanced nutrition, a wellspring of natural immunity, and a major brain stimulator. It is the most complete substance nature offer. In supporting this form of nourishment, you both power your partner and enhance your child's well-being. Of equal importance, you give yourself a gift, for you can rest assured that your child is off to the best start possible.


Despite the obstacles facing you and your partner during exhausting period of adjustment, you have what it takes to, mount them. For starters, remember that intercourse is not be-all and end-all of your happiness together. Communicating your sexual needs and allowing for each other's changing moods and preferences are just as important. Your partner needs to know that s still attractive and desirable, and you need to know that you ill “her man.” Therefore, make contact and intimacy major priorities.

Second, coach yourself on remaining an active parent. If after overcoming initial feelings of helplessness you still feel unimportant to your partner, let her know.  She may decide to do some soul searching of her own by working, for instance, with the following



Letting In the Odd Man Out

Mom, if you are feeling frustrated or resentful toward your partner, explore these questions and see where they lead.
  • Am I having trouble letting my partner get close to me or our child? If so, why?
  • Is my partner's closeness uncomfortable or threatening to me? If so, how?
  • Am I feeling hurt by him? If so, how?
  • Am I treating my partner the way I saw my mother treat my father?

Third, let your affection flow. If it feels obstructed, identify the culprit. More than likely, it is related to the stream of adjustments you have made in order to get on with life. In this, back up and express your honest feelings about this new Id of parenthood, then alter your adjustments. For practice, do the following exercise on your own and with your partner.



Adjusting to Parenthood

To reinvigorate your sexual relationship, take time to check into your feelings about early parenthood. Ask yourself these questions.
  • Have my feelings toward my partner changed? If so, how? Why?
  • Has my partner changed? If so, how? Why?
  • Does my partner treat me differently now? If so, how?
  • Are our child-rearing values in sync? Are we in agreement, about discipline? About how to meet our newborn's needs? About dividing up the child-care tasks?
  • Are we able to focus on the real issues or do we get side- tracked?
  • Since becoming a parent, have my priorities changed? If so, how?
  • How, when, and where do we connect with each other? Are we together often enough? If not, how can we remedy the situation?

Meeting each other's needs for reassurance, closeness, affection is the surest way to get back into the swing of loving. When you are both ready, go gently and tenderly. Intercourse may now be most comfortable in a side-by-side or a female-superior position that gives your partner more control over the depth of penetration. Slip off to a private place to make love after your baby has nursed. Pleasure each other through mutual massage, bathing, sharing fantasies, and other forms of noncoital sexual activity. Talk with each other about your changing sexual feelings preferences.

The physical discomforts will definitely pass. The emotional s, given proper attention, will too. Then once you've opened the challenges and joys of parenting together, your lovemaking is apt to be better than ever.

This Web page is referenced from another page containing related information about Postpartum Issues


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