Sex & Postpartum Depression: 'Will I Ever Be In The Mood Again?'

Sex & Postpartum Depression: 'Will I Ever Be In The Mood Again?'
Family, Self

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.

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 intimacyDepression 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.

So how do you jumpstart romance when on a desirability scale of one to 10, you feel like a negative five? Here are seven tips to fan the flames and get your sex life back on track: 

More sex advice from YourTango:

1. Have patience with each other. If you've been avoiding sex, or just haven't felt like it, for a few weeks or even months, give yourself time following the birth of your child to get back to a semblance of normalcy. In the meantime...

2. Keep up the non-sexual touching. We all need to be touched and held. Touch can convey warmth and intimacy even if we don't feel up to having sex.

3. Let him know you find him attractive (and make sure he tells you, too). Telling your partner that you find them sexy and attractive (despite the spit-up stains) can boost self-confidence and provide reassurance that you haven't forgotten each other.

4. Slow down. It may take more time and effort now to be able to tune out baby thoughts and tune into your own sexual desires. Take the time to turn each other on.

5. Romance each other. Nothing sets the mood like a thoughtful gesture, a sexy text message, or even the old standby; wine and roses. We all need to be wooed, especially during this period of transition.

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6. Listen. Physical changes after birth may bring about differences in sexual needs and wants. Speak up about your needs and listen to your partner's.

 7. Be "selfish." Date nights may seem a distant memory, but taking couple time is essential to being good parents. Carve out time here and there to get away, talk, and reconnect.

Each couple is different, and there is no magic formula that will work for all. However, maintaining honest communication and making time for intimacy can go a long way toward reestablishing a fulfilling love life as new parents.