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Postpartum sex: common intimacy challenges couples face after a baby

Vanessa Tarfon

2 Feb 2024 – 3 min read

man and woman sit on couch with baby on lap. woman holding baby. man and woman looking at baby.

No one talks about relationships changing after kids. If you feel like your intimate life and sexuality are struggling since having a baby, you are not alone. Many mothers and couples struggle to revive their sex life and sexuality. If you’ve been hitting a wall trying to revive your sex life read on for your success recipe.

Common intimacy and sexuality challenges couples face after a baby

  • low sexual desire
  • low sexual self-image
  • lack of romance
  • disconnecting from one another
  • how to navigate sex with prolapse

Are there less sexual challenges for women who have a caesarean section versus a vaginal birth?

Body image and sexual desire concerns are the same across both birthing methods.


Women who have a vaginal birth can have the following additional challenges:

  • Painful sex or discomfort with penetration around their episiotomy scar due to the tissue losing elasticity.
  • Desensitisation within the vaginal canal or labia which is most often temporary
  • Greater risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse


How do you fix these issues when you lack time, energy and one person in the relationship thinks everything is fine?

Navigating these postpartum challenges and reviving your sex life and sexuality

Here is exactly what you need to know to fix your challenges when you lack time, energy and communication capacity.


The time battle

As a parent, I get it. Even when you pre-plan something often happens to ruin your plans. There is a misconception that for intimacy or intimate conversations, you need a large amount of time, an hour or 2. It seems impossible to carve that much time out.


Depending on your goal, whether it be intimacy itself or a conversation about intimate issues you do not need this length of time.

Conversations can happen across several short chats and intimacy acts vary in length each time.


The recipe you need:

  • Write down your average day with time allocations. Pockets of time will appear
  • Decide what your primary goal is. Is it to reawaken your sexuality, revive your body image or is it to communicate with your partner about issues?
  • Block out a regular pocket of time to meet your goal – this might be daily, bi-daily or weekly.
  • How big a time pocket will you need?
    • Mums can make changes to their sexual self-image with 10 minutes a day
    • Intimate conversations can be in short chats of 15-20 minutes (write down where you left off if you need to pick up at the same spot next time)
    • Intimate acts will vary depending on your enjoyment and the activity itself, the main thing to remember is not to rush – we want quality sex not quantity sex


The energy battle

When you find those pockets of time, block a couple out to rest and be alone. Whether it be to have the mental capacity for an intimate conversation, or whether you need physical and mental energy to get in the mood for intimacy you need time to yourself to revive. You can do it in as little as 5 minutes.


The recipe you need:

  • Sit alone in your room or a space
  • Close your eyes and take deep calming breathes
  • Run your hands over your body with a gentle, featherlike touch
  • Allow yourself to just relax and feel the sensations


The communication battle

54% of mums find it difficult to discuss sex and sex-related problems. They’re scared to talk to their partner about what they are feeling or thinking because of self-judgment, lack of sexual health understanding and pre-conceived ideas about women’s roles in relationships.

Many people also don’t have the right vocabulary to be able to communicate with each other about what the problem is and what they want the solution to be.


The recipe you need:

  • Sit down with your partner during your allocation time pocket and set ground rules first. That way everyone knows what is happening and when to take a break if they need.


Here are some rule ideas:

  • Don’t start a discussion with negativity
  • Be aware of the four horsemen – criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling
  • Provide constructive criticism and allow the discussion to highlight solutions. Outline what the issue is, why it is an issue or you haven’t mentioned it before, and how you are going to or want to move forward.
  • Body language –maintain an open space and be aware of any changes in your body particularly negative ones.
  • Openness and honesty is paramount.
  • Make it clear that you want to improve your relationship and connection with each other.
  • Raise your concerns using “I” statements – for example, I feel, I find, I value
  • Work out solutions together as a team and hold each other accountable.


Every person and relationship is different. To truly overcome challenges the only necessity is that you feel strongly motivated to do the work and prioritise yourself and your relationship.


If you can do that then you are well on your way to busting through your postpartum challenges.

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Vanessa Tarfon

Sex Therapist, owner of Authentic Awareness

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