WHY DIFFERENT SEX MIGHT MEAN BETTER SEX

Some woman find having a baby very sexy. Giving birth and breast- feeding makes them feel powerful and enhances the sense of themselves as sexual and sensuous beings. Loss of desire, on the other hand, is very common, particularly in first-time mothers. More than 50 per cent of women, according to Juliet Rix in the recently published Is There Sex After Childbirth? take more than a year to get their sex lives back to "normal" after the birth of their first child.

The after-effects of birth play a part. It takes time to recover from stitches, episiotomies, painful breasts and even a "normal" delivery. Penetration can cause pain weeks, even months, after labour. Also, if the woman is breast-feeding, reduced levels of the hormone oestrogen can cause dryness in the vagina, so even if she does feel like having sex, it may be uncomfortable.

Then there is exhaustion. The totally spent feeling that can follow labour and the dragging tiredness of the early months can mean the only thing new mothers crave is mad, passionate sleep. Sex is a loss of valuable sleeping time.

However, post-natal celibacy goes much deeper than the purely physical. Sex is part of something much wider. It is part of adjusting to the different roles and the complex psychological changes that women go through when they become mothers.

"The impact of having a child is much greater on a woman than on a man," said Penny Mansfield, of One Plus One, the marriage and partnership research organisation. "A woman's sense of identity is totally changed when she becomes a mother and that can be quite destabilising."

The birth itself can leave some women feeling violated and exposed. The medical intrusions - internal examinations, being stitched up, the instructions to "open your legs", "show me your tummy", can make a woman feel her body has become public property. Even after the birth, in a subtle way, her "boundaries" are being breached by bleeding, leaking milk and the very physical demands of a new baby. It can make her feel that her body is no longer her own. By the end of the day she is all kissed out and sex seems yet another demand.

Another contributory factor can be what Joan Raphael-Leff, psychoanalyst and expert in pregnancy and motherhood, calls "the mother/ sexual woman divide". "There is the unconscious residue from childhood that mothers are not sexual," she said. "They spend their time looking after others. That's what being a mother is all about." That makes a sexual mother a "bad" mother, so new mothers can feel very inhibited about sex. They are put off by their baby's presence in a way men are not. Some can't even make love with nappies and toys, let alone the baby in the same room. Sexual excitement can seem a potential threat to the child: if a mother gets wrapped up in her own pleasure, she will not hear her baby cry. She will be putting her needs first.

Also, because the sexual ideal is slim and trim, some new mothers with their flabby tummies, stretch marks and droopy breasts feel unattractive. They don't fancy themselves anymore, so can't understand how their partners might.

"Women may also not have sex as a protest," said Penny Mansfield, "one of the ways women express their anger in the post-natal phase is by withdrawing sex." Some mothers, especially those in dual-income couples - may either subconsciously or consciously feel resentful because they feel they are doing everything: having the children, earning the money, running the house and social life. Sex becomes routine and associated with all those other grown-up things like paying the mortgage and having a job.

In fact, studies have shown that the quantity of love-making changes very little as couples get older. But, what does change, is the quality. "In the early years of a relationship there is a very heightened link between physical attraction and love. As couples get older, love associated with different kinds of pleasure: safety, comfort, trust," said Penny Mansfield. "So sex changes. It's inevitable. But there is no need to think that change means that everything has ended and will never be good again." The important thing, says Mansfield, is not to panic. "Having a baby is a huge transition in life, especially for women, and does need working through." There is sex after childbirth - often a more meaningful, intense sort of sex, but sometimes only once the mother has adjusted to her role, the mother rested, after her body is her own again.

SALLY WILLIAMS

`Is There Sex after Childbirth?' by Juliet Rix, Thorsons, pounds 7.99.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

    £65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

    Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

    £27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas