What do you think the average amount of sex for couple’s who just happen to be parents? Once a week? Or maybe it’s more like once every three months? Do you feel like everyone else is having more sex than you? Maybe you’re worried you’re not making enough time for sex or you’re hoping to bring sexy back this Valentines Day?
Is sex a sore topic in your house?
Sex can be a sore topic for new parents. That’s before we even consider tears, stitches and weakened pelvic floors. Some couples experience a change to their sexual relationship once they become parents, because – let’s be honest, there’s plenty to fit in before considering getting jiggy with it at the end of the day. When you’ve spent your day changing endless poo-filled nappies or burned approximately 6,000 calories getting your toddler in and out of their car seat, sex isn’t always a priority.
Hannah said: “[We have sex] a few times a week, although there are days we go to and then look at each other and go ‘naaaah’ as we’re too tired!”
With the February 14th – the traditional day of romance on the horizon, we spoke to Mums and Dads in our Facebook group. We asked who was fitting in quickies while the kids sleep and how many of us feel sex has fallen by the wayside. We also spoke to a trained psychosexual therapist and relationship counsellor to get and expert view on what’s normal, why we worry about sex after a baby and how to approach the whole intimacy thing if you don’t feel things are quite working right now.
Are you making enough time for sex?
If you think you’re not making enough time for sex, then you’re really not the odd couple out. In fact, our poll suggests that it’s the case for the majority of us.
When asked: Are you making enough time for sex?
A whopping great 73.4% said that no – they weren’t making enough time for sex. In contrast, 26.5% said they were perfectly happy with the amount of action they are getting.
And while some members told us that their norm for nookie was several times a day, others readily admitted that their sex drive had upped and left them completely.
Exhaustion, being passing ships in the night due to childcare demands and hormonal changes were all given as reasons by those who admitted that intimacy has taken more of a back seat, and that’s a perfectly normal picture.
Louise told us: “I wish it was more often but sadly he leaves for work at 7am and is not back till 9 at night and I’m dead by then. [I] will add there is a reason I fell pregnant the week he was off work!”
Of course, asking whether you think you’re making enough time for sex is a bit of a subjective question. If you’ve got little to no desire to have sex, it’s possible you think you’re assigning enough time to intimacy, thank you very much.
Setting expectations around sex and time together is one of the critical things couples fail to consider properly in the run up to becoming parents according to Head of Service Quality and Clinical Practice at Relate, Ammanda Major.
Ammanda is a trained therapist and relationship counsellor and works with couples experiencing relationship issues. She spoke to us about the challenges around maintaining a happy and healthy sexual relationship when couples become parents. She said: “With body changes, needs changing and the demands of being a parent, sex can very often be bottom of the list.”
Ammanda added: “If possible, it’s useful to have discussions before baby comes to talk about how things are going to change. Though the topic might have been touched on, for many it isn’t fully explored in advance. The reality when it hits is often very painful for one partner and sometimes both.”
What is sex, though?
We can also to focus too much on sex itself, the sex therapist warns. When a couple goes through a dry spell, pressure can build on each other, on yourself. Frustrations come into play and often, the six week post partum check up can be seen as a green flag for sex if medically given the all clear but you may need to take some time to rediscover each other and realign. So what can you do if you want to make time for sex but are up against things like low lobido and lack of energy or time?
Amanda says: “A good place to start is thinking about: ‘what is sex?’ to some people that means intercourse or penetrative sex, but it doesn’t need to be.”
She recommends “keeping up gentle intimacy – it doesn’t need to be intercourse. Instead of putting pressure on, keep touching in passing – a touch on the arm, a kiss on the cheek to help you feel connected.”
This means that even when one or both of you don’t feel like sex, you still maintain closeness.
“Even when intimacy isn’t on the cards in the form of full sexual intercourse, twenty minutes cuddling on the sofa without looking at your phones, switching off from social networking or enjoying some time sitting and eating a meal together, can be intimate. You could enjoy a gentle massage without the expectation to have sex. You can rediscover physical pleasure together.”
You’re in This Together
It’s not unusual at all for new parents to have a period without sex. The postpartum six-weekly checkup with the GP can be seen as a green flag for intercourse, but in reality you may need to take time to rediscover each other.
Shaz said: “[…]pregnancy and breastfeeding turns my sex drive to 0.”
So, if you’re healed and feel ready to get back in the sack, great! But if you don’t feel quite ready. Or months down the line you’re not having sex quite as much as you used to – that’s totally normal. But how do you approach that as a couple?
“There may be frustrations but it helps to think of it as a process rather than a problem,” Ammanda advises, adding that it’s often women who worry they’re the one who’s been changing. However, it’s really a journey for both partners that needs talked about.
So, here’s the Valentines Day scenario. You’ve got a babysitter, you’ve booked a table at the local Italians and you may well be looking forward to getting down to some action. Equally, you might petrified that it’s expected and you’re worried about the fact it’s not happened for a long while. How do you play it?
Take the pressure off.
Go out for dinner if that’s what you want, dress up in lingerie if that’s what you want. But however you’re feeling about it and whatever your expectations are, make sure you talk to your other half in advance about how you want the evening to go.
“Don’t just think it will automatically mean sex,” Ammanda tips.
“It’s great if it does and you both want it, but be realistic.”
The thing is, just like parenting, we can all be at different stages in this post-pregnancy sex thing. Lots of members told us they’re happily jumping on each other several times a day. Others, only weeks into parenthood admitted they haven’t managed much more than a hello and a cuddle. And while dressing up for a meal out might be nice, you might prefer to spend the time curled up on the couch doing some Netflix and actual chill.
Make Time to Listen to Bring the Sexy Back
As with all aspects of relationships, communication is absolutely critical, and making time for sex really is about making time to listen to what each wants and is feeling and not making assumptions. We all have different scenarios of cock blocking kiddos, sleep deprivation and weakened pelvic floors that may mean we want to pee every hour to deal with and our responses to them differ.
This February 14th, if you’re hoping sex is on the cards and you know your other half is most definitely on the same page and you’d like to set the mood….word in the Bump, Baby & You office is that Vikings is the programme to snuggle up to during ‘Netflix and chill’ if you’d like to encourage some lights, camera….action!