Sex during pregnancy & into parenthood

Sex plays an important role in many relationships and unfortunately it’s extremely common for couples in long term relationships to feel like there are problems with their sex lives. Or that things have taken a turn for the worse when one party becomes pregnant or when baby arrives.

Here are a few stats for you:

• “you have a 14% greater chance of having sex the day after you’ve had a good sleep”

• “having kids under the age of five is associated with lower sexual satisfaction”

Not exactly what any of us want to hear, but hardly news either if you’re currently pregnant or have kids!

Myths and concerns about sex during pregnancy can really stifle a couple’s sex life and/or leave one partner feeling dissatisfied and unwanted at a time when so much is changing.

Conversely, some couples find it a time when their desire really ramps up and it can act as a catalyst to do things differently (particularly when the bump becomes a logistical challenge!)

And once baby’s arrived, many couples are nervous about having sex for the first time. Things may well feel different and being able to talk openly and honestly with your partner is so important. Consider:

• waiting until you both feel relaxed and not too exhausted (easier said than done I know) and think about where you might feel most comfortable. Your little one won’t have any idea what’s going, but as they’re likely sharing a room with you you might end up with a Friends like conversation about not having s-e-x in front of the b-a-b-y.

• using plenty of lube. Hormones produced when breastfeeding commonly cause vaginal dryness and a dip in sex drive.

• waiting a bit longer if you had significant birth trauma or things just don’t feel right. And if sex is painful and things aren’t improving make sure you go and see a women’s health physiotherapist. There are lots of things that might be causing this (too tight a pelvic floor, for example) that are typically very fixable. Don’t suffer in silence.

• remember that sex doesn’t have to involve penetration and intimacy doesn’t have to involve sex.

And if you or your partner are worried about never feeling like having sex anymore have a read of “Mind the Gap: the truth behind desire and how to future proof your sex life.” Dr Karen Gurney (clinical psychologist and psychosexologist at the Havelock clinic) does a great job of unpicking the science behind desire in women and the typically unhelpful (and often inaccurate) narratives we have in society about sex.

Without turning this into a book review, she highlights that most of these narratives focus on male sexual pleasure and incorrectly leave us thinking that there’s a problem if we don’t spontaneously want to rip each others clothes off and have sex three times a week.

The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles data suggests that a large proportion of women in long-term relationships only report feeling spontaneous sexual desire between ‘once or twice a month’ and ‘never’. Desire is something that needs to be stimulated!

She also highlights the 30% ‘orgasm gap’ between men and women despite research also showing that men and women can orgasm at the same rate from masturbation, and that when women have sex with women, their orgasm rate stays the same.

So as with most things in life, focus on the quality, not the quantity and do what works for you.

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