Reignite The Spark: Sexuality After Childbirth

One of the most common issues I see in women who have just had a baby or who have school-aged children is a decrease in frequency and satisfaction with their sex life — either from lack of interest or lack of time. It’s a familiar complaint from couples, and one that can create conflict in the relationship. Since February is the month for love and romance, now’s an excellent time to learn how to reignite the spark with your partner.

A woman’s desire for sex may decrease after having a child. Men often don’t understand why and become frustrated. I hear it from women all the time: “I resent the fact that he always wants sex. I’ve been taking care of children all day and I’m tired. The last thing I want to do at the end of the day is to have someone else who wants something from me.”

That kind of conflict and resentment can build up on both sides. The man starts to feel like the woman doesn’t love him or find him desirable any more. The woman starts to feel like all her partner cares about is sex, not her and how she feels — and that if she doesn’t have sex, he’s going to be angry.

Sex is important in a relationship. Without it, you are only parents and roommates and partners in the business of raising a family. Remember, you started your relationship as husband and wife. You need to maintain the intimacy of that relationship, in spite of the fact that you have busy lives with young children and lots of demands.

I often talk with women about the need to schedule sex with their partners. They look at me like I’ve lost my mind. But a tired, busy woman is not typically going to spontaneously initiate intimacy — “I feel like having sex now.” For men that’s a pretty common thought. Most men think about sex on a daily basis. Tired, busy women don’t.

So while it may sound terribly unromantic, scheduling sex does a couple of key things. For starters, it means you both agree that sex is an important part of your relationship. It also lets the man know, “OK, she may be too tired today, but Saturday at 2:00 is our time when we get to be alone.” It’s important that that time is scheduled and takes priority.

So, on Saturday at 2:00, you put the kids down for a nap or if they are too old to nap, everybody still has a rest time. Mommy and Daddy get to go into their bedroom and have a rest too. Everyone takes a rest. Knowing you have that scheduled time together can go a long way towards reducing the husband’s frustration and the wife’s feelings of obligation.

Afternoon is a particularly good time for women to schedule sex. In the mornings, while men’s testosterone levels may be at their highest, women are often thinking about what do I need to do today and how am I going to get the kids to the dentist and still finish that project at work. At the end of the day, after being with the kids, working, doing laundry, or whatever consumes their time, women are tired. Ask a tired woman if she would rather go to sleep or have sex, and she’s going to pick sleep.

If you survey women, afternoon is when a woman’s sexual desire may peak. If a woman knows that sex is scheduled that afternoon, she can carve out that time. I suggest you start thinking about sex that morning, because for women it takes a longer time to build up desire and arousal. It gives you a chance to say “OK, today’s the day. At 2:00 we’re going to go into the bedroom, lock the door, light the candles, take a bath, put on lingerie, and spend some time together.”

You certainly don’t need to limit intimacy to the schedule. If there’s a time between this Saturday and next Saturday when you have an opportunity, great.

The important thing is to make your marriage and your sexuality a priority. The longer a woman goes without having sexual intimacy, the more difficult it is to want to have it. For many women, just getting started can lead to enjoyment. So it’s about scheduling the “getting started.” Afterwards, women often ask themselves, why don’t we do this more often?

Women need to understand that men feel loved by physical intimacy. Men need to know that women feel loved by being cared for, listened to and understood. It’s important that both sides feel their desires are being met.

If you would like to learn more, I will be discussing this topic during an upcoming free seminar at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. There will also be other brief, targeted presentations by my colleagues from Baylor OB/GYN and The Women’s Specialists of Houston about the emotional and physical changes that impact women’s sexuality, common complaints including lack of libido and urinary incontinence and what you can do to improve your sexuality.

Sexuality Seminar at Pavilion for WomenYour Sexuality: After Childbirth and Beyond
Thursday, Feb 21, 2013 – 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women
6651 Main Street, Houston, TX 77030

Reserve your seat now!
Limited seating is available.

I hope to see you there!

About Dr. Lucy Puryear, Medical Director - The Women's Place: Center for Reproductive Psychiatry

I am an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavior Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine.

I am a mother of four and a practicing psychiatrist. My clinical special interests include the treatment of psychiatric conditions during pregnancy and postpartum, perimenopause, infertility and reproductive loss. I served as an expert witness in the Andrea Yates trial and retrial.

Posted in Motherhood, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Parenting, Pavilion for Women

One Response to Reignite The Spark: Sexuality After Childbirth

  1. Linda says:

    Dr Puryear, is there any way we can get a copy of the slides from the seminar presentation? Thanks!

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