April 14, 2014 10.21 am This story is over 99 months old

Intimacy during pregnancy and baby’s first year

Re-connecting: Relationship counsellor Elizabeth Hicks explains how couples can stay intimate when a baby is added to the family.

Having a baby is both exhausting and life-changing, so understandably sex can often be relegated to the bottom of the list.

Pregnancy can be accompanied by a sense of wellbeing and a higher than normal sexual libido. However, for lots of women it can be a roller coaster throughout the nine months with sickness, tiredness, aches and pains and feeling less than blooming, all of which can lower her libido.

Partners can vary in their responses, and may find the mum-to-be incredibly sexy and want to be totally involved in the pregnancy. Others may struggle to connect with the pregnancy and have fears about not wanting to hurt the baby or may just feel overwhelmed by the changes occurring. All responses are equally valid and open communication around this is helpful in order to encourage understanding and avoid feelings of rejection.

For some, the pregnancy could also have included procedures such as the use of fertility drugs or IVF, which can be stressful. Sex may have become functional rather than intimate, which can have an impact on the way you experience it.

If your baby’s birth went as you hoped it would, it can help you to feel empowered by the experience of your body taking its own path. Unfortunately, sometimes giving birth can be unpredictable and traumatic; it is a time when women can feel at their most vulnerable and out of control. This can take a while for both partners to come to terms with afterwards and can impact on their sex life subsequently. Counselling or psychosexual therapy can help to overcome these issues and reintroduce intimacy into the relationship.

It is good to be mindful of the physical changes that can occur for the new mum. Pelvic floor exercises are very useful to aid recovery, and it can take a while to recover from any tearing or an episiotomy. As her partner, be aware that she may be fearful about possible soreness or pain, so it is helpful to be patient and sensitive towards her. Wait until she feels ready to make love again and use extra lubrication, taking a very slow and gentle approach. Women can feel differently about their body and it may take them some time to adjust to this, it is good to be sensitive to this and offer her reassurance.

Sex can change from something that was fun to something that lands at the bottom of a long list of things to do for others. If this is the case, re-find sex as something for you. Just like having a bath, a glass of wine or massage, may be a space to unwind to relax, making love also can be too. It’s a chance to reconnect with your partner, relax and unwind through touch and enjoy pleasure – for you.

An orgasm can top up your ‘feel good’ chemicals in your body; boost your immune system; and help your muscles in your body to de-stress. This can all be even better if your partner can take some time to show you how important you are by perhaps organising a babysitter; cooking you a meal; running you a bath; taking the baby for a while; or just taking some time to hear about how your day has been.

The year after baby has arrived is a huge period of change. Nothing can fully prepare you for the intenseness and responsibility of becoming new parents. It can be a life affirming transition but at the same time take you to the depths of exhaustion, lack of sleep and varying mood swings. Be patient, as the transition from being a couple to a family takes some negotiating in order for everyone to find their place within it.

Elizabeth works for Relate Lincolnshire as a Clinical Supervisor, Couple & Family Counsellor, Psychosexual Therapist & Sex Addiction Specialist. She has been trained by the Relate Institute, Institute of Family Therapy and Association for the Treatment of Sex Addiction & Compulsivity. She is a member of the professional bodies of COSRT, BACP & ATSAC. She has worked with a wide variety of clients and has a wealth of experience.