How To Know If Sex Therapy Could Be Helpful After Birth
There are a number of things that change after giving birth: your body, your mind, and your spirit, to name a few. You may also find your sex life changes postpartum. It's definitely one of the more "taboo" topics, but shouldn't make you feel any shame. The changes to your sex life may be good or bad, temporary or permanent — really anywhere on the sex spectrum. Whatever the changes are, they should be dealt with in a healthy way. Many couples find that a professional is sometimes needed to help. So how to know if sex therapy could be helpful after birth? It turns out, there are some red flags that can help you decide if seeking sexual help from an expert is necessary.
Healthcare providers generally give postpartum women the green light to have sex at around four to six weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic. That's the average time it takes for a woman to physically heal down there. In many cases, however, the healing process is much longer. "It is completely normal to still not feel ready for sex after those six weeks," therapist Kimberly Hershenson tells Romper. "However, if months go by and you still have no interest in sex, it may be time to seek a professional."
Whether your lack of interest is due to physical reasons or psychological a sex therapist can help with both. Here are seven signs you can look for to help you determine if you need a little help from a professional in the sex department.
1. You're In Pain Or Uncomfortable
"If you're not physically feeling up for sex due to pain after delivery, both a doctor and sex therapist can be helpful," Hershenson says. "The sex therapist can provide tips to guiding you and your partner back into intimacy in a way that is gentle and safe."
It's reported that at six weeks, 50 to 60 percent of postpartum women experience painful intercourse, clinically known as dyspareunia. This could be due to healing or the hormone changes that come with breastfeeding. Another issue that could make sex painful in the postpartum phase is if the woman had an episiotomy or any other traumatic birth complications that resulted in a difficult delivery.
2. You And Your Partner Have Mismatched Libidos
The haywire hormones can really take a toll on your libido. According to Belly Belly, having higher prolactin and lower estrogen following birth can cause a dip in sex drive and also results in less cervical mucous in your vagina (AKA you can't get wet.)
"After having a baby, woman may feel tired, overwhelmed and not like themselves," Hershenson says. "There are hormone changes, adjustment to having a new baby and sleep deprivation. All of this can have a major impact on your sex life."
In some scenarios this makes the other partner who didn't give birth feel rejected or like they're not attractive to you or not pleasing you. None of these are true. All of these new mom libido issues can be worked through with a sex therapist to create healthy dialogue and understanding.
3. You Want Sex To Be The Same As Before The Baby
As a new mom, you're probably working with a lot less time on your hands than you're used to. As a result, it's totally normal for sex frequency to drop off for a while. And by "a while," I mean a few months to a year.
According to Psychology Today, frequency discrepancies between couples is a common sex problem. Many people feel they need to "get back" to having sex like they did before the baby. After having a baby nothing really needs to "go back" to pre-baby times because a baby is supposed to change your life, including your sex life. Adjustments can always be made in the bedroom, and there are many ways to be intimate with one another that don't involve sex for a while. A sex therapist can help you explore your options.
4. Your Or Your Parnter Is Having Performance Issues
There are many different sexual performance issues that impact both men and women including not orgasming, ejaculating too fast, or erectile dysfunction, according to Web MD. These issues may have existed before you gave birth or cropped up after. Their root causes are generally physical or psychological in nature, and a sex therapist can help you figure it out and find solutions.
5. You Think Your Breasts "Belong To Baby"
If you used to like your breasts touched during sex having a baby can change this for some women.
"Often nursing moms feel their breasts now 'belong to baby' as they are providing a food source for the child," Hershenson says. "Even the idea of their partner touching their breasts is not appealing. If you find that you don't even want your husband touching you it may be time to see a sex therapist."
6. You Want To Explore Sexually Alone Or Together, But Your Partner Doesn't
As your postpartum body heals, you may find that certain positions or things that used to feel good don't anymore. This may be temporary or permanent, but either way exploration will be needed to help you figure out what feels good. If your partner isn't on board with trying out new things, this could present a problem.
"While one partner might enjoy getting a few slaps on the behind or experimenting with anal play, the other may not want to try," therapist Sari Eckler Cooper told HuffPost. "It's a sex therapist's responsibility to assess for openness to change and underlying tensions that the couple may not be discussing initially."
7. You Want To Reconnect With Your Partner
Having a new baby is exhausting and sometimes overwhelming. Even for those still rearing to go, it may be hard to balance.
"Even if you are in the mood for sex but just feel overwhelmed with balancing life as a mom, making time for your partner and self-care, a sex therapist may be helpful in guiding you and your partner," Hershenson says. "The therapist can help you with finding time to connect sexually to your partner."
No matter how you approach sex and intimacy after child birth the most important things to remember is to be gentle with yourself and be honest with your partner. Understanding can go a long way for couples struggling with sex issues after baby, and sometimes a therapist is needed to get you there.