I can say pretty much without exception that for new moms, sex takes a backseat. Between the almost-hourly feedings and the turmoil of adjusting to their new roles as parents, who has time for a shower — let alone lovemaking? If you add the baby blues, or even postpartum depression (PPD), into the mix, sex can drop down a notch below scrubbing out the garbage cans on a new mom's priority list.
Of course, many women who aren't depressed also experience a nosedive in desire following birth. Lack of libido, combined with the physical and hormonal changes that having a baby brings, can bring even the most active pre-baby sex lives to a screeching halt. Leaking breasts, excess weight, and spit-up do not make for a very sexy-feeling mama. In their book And Baby Makes Three, the couples therapists John and Julie Gottman, Ph.Ds, studied couples three years after they had a baby and discovered that while men felt desire daily, women felt desire only once a week! The Gottmans' research also compared childless couples with couples that have children and clearly showed that for women, having a baby dampened desire.
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A decreased sex drive is one of the most common symptoms of depression. So if your sex drive has plummeted after giving birth, take some time to consider whether you might also be facing PPD. One in seven new mothers experience postpartum depression, and one in five experience emotional difficulties beyond the baby blues. The exact causes of PPD aren't known, but environment (stress, fatigue, a difficult baby) and biology (a history of depression, severe PMS) can both contribute to its onset.
A 2010 study reported a difference in sexual functioning between mothers who had been diagnosed and treated for PPD and those who never experienced PPD. For anyone who has been depressed before, this would seem to be fairly obvious information. Nonetheless, the study speaks to the lingering after-effects of depression on sexual health — even for women in remission. It also highlights the importance of the resumption of a sexual relationship in all couples, but particularly for moms with PPD. I would strongly urge mothers who might be experiencing PPD to get treated by a trained professional for their depression and/or anxiety before addressing their low sex drive. If you are taking medication, be sure to consult your physican about any sexual side effects and research medication that does not have any.
Once treatment has begun and the new mom starts to feel better, it can be a good idea to focus on rekindling intimacy. Depression can feel incredibly isolating, and partners often report "missing" their wives and their former sex lives. Sex can help recreate intimacy and boost your mood. For women experiencing PPD, lovemaking — the whole gamut from nonsexual touching to sex — can provide a welcome bridge back to their partners.
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