Hi. I'm a new mom, and I have no sex life. (Your cue: Hi, Erin.)
I'm not kidding. Right now, sex seems uncomfortable, time-consuming, and oddly depressing. My friend, Beth, is a new mom too...and she can't get enough of the stuff. (I hate her.) Which of us is normal? Well, according to Dr. Jennifer Wider, MD, author of The New Mom's Survival Guide: How to Reclaim Your Body, Your Health, Your Sanity and Your Sex Life After Having a Baby, we both are. Her simple explanation? "We’re all different." Yeah, we all knew that, but this is one of those cases where little reassurance goes a long way. To help ease your mind (and mine), let's take a look at a few real-mom examples from the message boards.
My baby was eight weeks yesterday and we still haven't. I am so, so scared. —EMTX
Normal. Nearly all of us are slightly terrified of that first go-round. Will it hurt? How much different will it be? Will two gallons of lube be enough? Most OBs give the green light for nookie at about six weeks postpartum, but that doesn't mean you have to go straight home and shag. Wider says some women are ready for sex before six weeks, and others still aren't ready at six months. "Proceed with caution," she recommends. "Things will eventually get back to normal, but the first few times can be emotionally difficult, and physically difficult as well." Talk to your partner about your fears, and don’t feel badly about holding out until you're ready.
My sex drive is THROUGH THE ROOF! —SportyMrs.23 Normal. "Some women truly discover how amazing their bodies are after having a baby," says Wider. "They may feel more comfortable and less inhibited." If sex is suddenly better than ever, enjoy! (And try not to brag too much to those of us who aren't quite there yet.)
No amount of lube will help. It is so uncomfortable. —mljohnson
Normal. "Physical pain can be a major roadblock to postpartum sex. Even if the pain subsides, the fear of pain can kill a person's libido," Wider explains. "If it hurts, don't rush it...let the body heal." Pain is normal regardless of baby's exit route (so, c-section moms can hurt too). Some people feel pain for weeks or months, and tears or episiotomy repairs can add to the discomfort, but rest assured that the pain almost always disappears with time. For now, you can ask your doctor about treatments (like a vaginal cream) that can help get your body back in working order.
I breastfeed, and since having my son, I feel like I could never have sex again and be okay. —holly423
Normal. "There is some evidence that the hormones released during lactation can suppress other hormones in the body, and for some women can result in a lowered libido," says Wider. And we're not just talking about less desire — many breastfeeding moms complain of vaginal dryness and pain with intercourse. Plus, breastfeeding or not, dealing with an infant is exhausting and often stressful, knocking sex down a few rungs on the priority list.
My husband NEVER wants to anymore. It makes me self-conscious that I gross him out now. —MGauthier
Normal. New dads are exhausted and stressed too, and may be worried about hurting their partner. Some fathers have even been known to suffer from postpartum depression. (Yes, really.) "Communication is key here," says Wider. "Talk, talk, talk!" Skip the snide remarks about how he "used to want it all the time," and try to be sensitive to what's going on with your guy. Be open with him about the status of your nether regions, and ease back into action gently, without putting too much pressure on either of you. "This can backfire," Wider warns, "creating a vicious cycle of anxiety and stress which is not good for a healthy sex life."
We still haven't had sex since our daughter was born...that's seven months. And no, we are not one of those couples that normally go that long. —peachypear
Normal. Your life is going through some major changes, and it's easy to get caught up in baby care, financial stresses, and simply getting stuff done. Try baby steps toward getting your groove back. For starters, find time to cuddle, and focus on connecting emotionally. "Aim for closeness with your partner," urges Wider. "Communicate and work as a team as much as possible. The closer you feel emotionally, the easier it will be to be physical."
The bottom line: Stop comparing notes.
We don't all drop the baby weight at the same rate. We don't have the same experiences with breastfeeding. Our babies won't all learn to roll over on the exact same day. And our sex lives aren't likely to match up either. Instead of focusing on whether you're "normal" (you are), try to focus on where you'd like your sex life to be. Open the lines of communication and give yourself time — you'll get there.