Put Sex on the Front Burner
ave you begun to think lately that your middle name is "exhausted?" If you have a baby in the house, chances are the furthest thing from your mind is having sex with your spouse. While it is natural to feel this way, making sex a priority is a must for your relationship to be healthy, according to Laura Berman, PhD, director of the Berman Center, best-selling author, and sexual health and relationship expert.
Of course, this is not to say that you shouldn't give yourself a break for at least six weeks after the birth of your baby. And if you're breastfeeding, sex can be a bit trickier -- but sex is still possible and can do wonders for your relationship.
"After pregnancy your body experiences a kind of hormone hangover -- especially if you are breastfeeding," says Berman. "Decreased levels of testosterone and estrogen lead to symptoms like vaginal dryness, thinning vaginal tissues and low libido. Heightened levels of oxytocin, released when a woman breastfeeds, further interferes with your desire for sex and ability to respond."
Time for You
Before you set your sites on sex, make time for yourself, says Dr. Berman. It may sound ironic but focusing on you is one of the fundamental ways to "fan the flames of desire."
When women feel rested, invigorated by their favorite activities, or connected to their friends, they're more apt to want sex, she says. "It's akin to a battery recharging."
Also, when you make time for yourself, it's easier to remind yourself that you're an erotic being. "It may seem like a silly concern when you have the demands of a new life to meet, but deciding that you are sexual is a big part of being sexual," Dr. Berman says.
Time for Two
But it's not just you who may be feeling uneasy about having sex. Men can be anxious as well and suddenly view their wives as mothers more than lovers. Yet with time and a little work, this usually gets better, according to Dr. Berman.
If it seems like your husband is feeling anxious, reassure him that you still want him, she says. Sometimes, he simply needs to know that you will not be offended by his approach.
If your sex life seems stalled, take this as an indication that you need to spend some time together as a couple. Prevent parenting from completely overriding your relationship. Find a trusted relative or friend to care for your baby/children. The idea here is to give you time away to remember what it's like to be a couple and reconnect.
In fact, women need emotional intimacy to want physical intimacy. Unfortunately, men are the opposite. For them emotional intimacy comes from sex. So it's not unusual that couples find themselves engaged in a tug-of-war, in which she wants quality time and he wants sex, Dr. Berman explains.
The solution? Dr. Berman recommends trying to have sex at least once a week once you get the green light from your OB/GYN. If it goes beyond two weeks, she says, intimacy can suffer and little annoyances start piling up. "Having sex sort of wipes the slate clean -- clears out the relationship cobwebs by getting you reconnected again."
Plus, finding a way to stay connected during this new baby adjustment period is good practice for the years ahead as you raise children. "Your marriage (from now on) is a juggling act between parenting responsibilities and your romantic connection to each other," Dr. Berman says.
Christine McLaughlin is a mother of two young boys and a freelance writer, editor and author of the newly released The Dog Lover's Companion to Philadelphia.
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