Avoid relationship role changes after childbirth impacting your intimacy
When you decide to have a baby, you don’t often think about how roles within your household will change. No matter the equality of your relationship, once you have a baby you are your partner will fall into more stereotypical roles. The question is what happens to your relationship and intimacy?
The social construct we have created for mothers these days to “have it all” is not attainable for most mothers. It forces poor mamas to put so much pressure on themselves to “have it all” that they usually end up mentally and physically exhausted.
Thanks to exhaustion and internal pressures, when it comes to intimacy women are partner-focused instead of pleasure-focused. ‘Guilt’, ‘obligation’, and ‘duty’ are all words women use to describe their feelings towards sex after children.
Around 80% of women report issues such as pain during intercourse, vaginal dryness and loss of libido in the first 3 months postpartum.
Unexpected relationship changes are significant challenges for women and their partners after childbirth. Research with Melbourne mothers 3 years after the birth of their first child explored how women experienced and perceived changes to their sex life, sexuality and intimate relationships after birth.
What changes do mothers experience after childbirth?
Dramatic and challenging lifestyle changes
Most mothers spoke of lifestyle changes in terms of the losses they experienced since birth. The loss of freedom, spontaneity, self-care time, and couple time. Mothers also resent the increase in domestic responsibilities. Even those that pre-children had a fair distribution of household duties found after children they tended to assume stereotypical roles.
Decreased sexual activity frequency
The most common reason for decreased frequency of sexual activity is extreme tiredness and exhaustion, especially in the early months.
Relationship intimacy takes one of three options
Either intimacy and emotional connection decrease because of sexual problems, sex is used as a tool to remain connected during change, or couples find new ways to express intimacy.
Sexual-self image changes
Mothers’ sexuality (the way you think or feel about yourself as a sexual being) was negatively affected. Being a mother was described as “not sexy”. What’s not sexy about having to take a moment to think about when you last showered, or even longer to remember when you last washed your hair? Despite mothers’ negative sexual self-image, their partners did not see them any differently.
How can you have a positive and intimate relationship after childbirth?
Communication, particularly in the early postpartum months, is key to getting through and setting up responsibilities, expectations and priorities. Divide chores equally to reduce fatigue and resentment, and accept that chores may not be completed to your standard, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t completed.
Schedule self-care time each week
You can’t be intimate with someone if you don’t feel sexy in yourself, and one step towards feeling sexy is loving yourself. Maybe it’s feeling like who you were pre-children or maybe it’s feeling like a new and improved you. It doesn’t matter as long as you feel happy and confident in yourself.
Schedule couple time
Schedule regular date days/nights. Dates do not need to be expensive or outside the home. Spend time doing whatever it is you enjoy together. The expectation that this is time for you as a couple is often exciting! It also allows you to prioritise sleep vs. intimacy.
Set your family path
Stop trying to be everything for everyone and live up to socially constructed images. Media and social media posts are only a snapshot of a moment in time. Behind them are hours of careful setup and crafting. Life is not about perfection. Life is about all the moments with your loved ones and you are missing them if you are trying to “have it all”.
As a couple, you control your relationship and household future. Take control and experience the freedom of doing things your way.
After more tips to improve your intimate relationship and connection? Join the Mama’s Sensual Safari and learn everything you need to know to leave all the pressure behind.
Written for Bubba Bump by
Vanessa Tarfon, Mmed(HSSH) - Sex Therapist and Founder -www.authenticawareness.com.au
IG - @authenticawareness