How long should you wait for sex after a baby From six weeks to one year, five mothers reveal when they felt ready
00:02 GMT, 5 April 2012
Parenting guru Gina Ford caused a storm recently when she said in her new book that women should be having sex with their partners within four to six weeks of giving birth.
Her new book, The Contented Mother’s Guide, instructs women on the importance of staying intimate with the father of their child. One section, which shares advice from other women, even suggests ‘sometimes you may just have to grin and bear it’.
The subject of sex after childbirth is rarely discussed, but here, five women bravely tell NATASHA COURTENAY-SMITH how quickly they returned to love-making after having their babies.
Customer service adviser Aimee Dorrington, 27, lives with long-term partner Ben Duffey, 27, and their ten-month-old son, Nathanial, in Wales. She says:
No time wasting: Aimee wanted to be intimate with her husband again as soon as possible after son Nathanial was born
Ben and I have always had a very physical relationship and I didn’t want a baby to get in the way of that. I’ve always found Ben physically attractive, and he feels the same way about me.
I know Ben would never cheat on me, but why take the risk of losing intimacy Men crave affection and love, and they get it through sex. I wouldn’t want to risk Ben not getting this at home.
Ben has made me the happiest I’ve ever been by giving me Nathanial, and I want to keep him happy by showing him how much I love him and making sure he’s satisfied in the bedroom.
That’s why I tried to get back to normal as soon as I could after giving birth ten months ago. We tried to have intercourse after three weeks but couldn’t because I still had stitches.
It was frustrating because I longed to be intimate with Ben, but I felt reassured that at least he still found me attractive.
We had sex after six weeks. I’ve never had a perfect size ten figure, so carrying a few extra pounds didn’t make me feel unattractive.
In fact, I felt glowing throughout pregnancy and afterwards. Ben was with me during the labour, but I don’t think he was put off by watching me give birth.
Initially, I didn’t feel comfortable having sex with Ben when Nathanial was in the bedroom, so we started doing it around the house instead which brought a sense of adventure to the proceedings.
I’m seven months pregnant with our second child, and Ben and I are still enjoying a physical relationship. I think our sex life will continue to flourish after the baby’s born. Just as before, sex will be high on my list of priorities.
BEN SAYS: Aimee and I have always had a vibrant sex life, but I’d have waited longer after Nathanial was born if she had wanted me to.
I realise I’m very lucky as that didn’t happen, and our sex life is the same as before, if not better. We’ve always made it a priority, and I’m glad that hasn’t changed.
We make time for each other, and that’s important for keeping things fresh in any relationship.
Satisfied: Aimee and Ben, now expecting their second child, say their sex life is better than ever
TV producer Abby Woolf, 33, lives with husband John, 33, an air traffic controller, and their children Fred, three, and Minnie, two, in the New Forest, Hampshire. She says:
Short wait: Abby wanted to get sex 'over and done with' after giving birth to her first child
I worried about how John would react to watching me give birth and that he would never see me as sexually attractive again.
My eight-hour labour with Fred was uncomplicated, but when I got home I was bleeding heavily.
I was anxious John would be traumatised, but he remained positive. I didn’t like the fact that I’d put on weight and my stomach was saggy, but I wanted to get our sex life back on track as quickly as possible.
Eight weeks after Fred arrived, we decided to have sex simply to get it over and done with. We’d talked and felt that if we left it too long, it might become a problem.
In a sense I did as Gina Ford advises by grinning and bearing it — but it was OK. I had a few glasses of wine beforehand, and enjoyed it. Afterwards, we were happy we’d taken a leap of faith.
But I became pregnant again when Fred was just seven months old, and this time I had a complicated birth with Minnie. Afterwards, sex was the last thing on my mind.
She cried all the time and wanted to be breast-fed constantly. I had post-natal depression and used to call John when he was at work, crying because I couldn’t stop Minnie from screaming and I was trying to look after Fred, too.
After three months we had sex, but I couldn’t relax and I didn’t enjoy it. John understood it was difficult, and we had a laugh about it.
Our sex life dwindled after Minnie was born and we had sex infrequently in the months that followed. We didn’t argue and he never pestered me, but I had pangs of guilt and convinced myself that if we didn’t have sex, he’d look for it elsewhere.
John did his best to reassure me that the lack of sex wasn’t an issue — that we were simply stuck in the hectic world shared by all new parents. For a while we had no physical relationship, but we got through it by laughing a lot.
Two years on, things are better. Sex is still quite infrequent — about twice a month — but that works for us. As the children get older, we hope it will become more frequent.
I used to read Gina Ford’s baby books, but found they made me feel like a failure, so my husband threw them all out. I pay no heed to her views on sex.
After childbirth it takes months, maybe even years, for your sex life to return to what it was. Women need to know their partner loves and understands them. I know John does, which is why I married him.
Sex dwindled after second child: Abby and John with Fred when he was a baby, left, now have daughter Minnie as well
JOHN SAYS: Raising two children is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. We haven’t slept properly in almost four years, so rampant sex marathons aren’t on the agenda. A little passion now and again is plenty to see us through these tough parenting years.
Sex will be more frequent when the children are older. I know Abby worries and her confidence has been knocked by childbirth, but I would never look elsewhere.
TWO AND A HALF MONTHS
Full-time mother Aileen Sergent, 32, lives with husband Nathan, 31, a firefighter, and son Loki, 19 months, in Nottingham. She says:
Nathan and I had sex about ten weeks after Loki was born, and I think that was too soon. I’d always been a size eight, but by then I was a size 16, so I felt flabby and undesirable.
I needed 12 stitches after the birth, which was uncomfortable, and the first fortnight after Loki’s birth I was up all night breast-feeding, and felt drained and anxious.
Too soon: Aileen wishes she waited longer to have sex again with husband Nathan after the birth of Loki
I think I was putting too much pressure on myself to be the perfect wife and mother, and having sex and getting my body back in shape was part of that.
I was worn out from being a new mother, but started being brutally strict about my diet and spent hours exercising in my front room after I’d put Loki to bed.
A Netmums survey found that 75 per cent of mothers admit to having less sex than before having children
I was worried Nathan might not be as attracted to me and was determined to get back to the old me.
Nathan didn’t pester me for sex, but I could tell he missed the intimacy. Looking back, I should have been a bit more relaxed. It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d taken everything a bit slower and given myself more time to recover. Though we weren’t intimate for the first two months, we were still affectionate and often snuggled up on the sofa.
It’s taken us a while to get back into the swing of things, and though our sex life isn’t quite as exciting as it used to be, we’re getting there. We used to have sex five times a week, but now it’s once or twice if we’re lucky.
I wouldn’t recommend any woman sleeping with her partner until she’s had the recommended six-week check. I think ten weeks was probably too early for us to resume a physical relationship. You need time to heal mentally, as well as physically.
NATHAN SAYS: I didn’t feel the need to jump back into having sex, partly because those first few weeks were very tiring. I was at the birth and it looked pretty painful.
I knew Aileen needed time to recover. I was more than happy to wait until she was ready. Our sex life is as normal as it can be now and I’m happy with it.
Anara Ashwood, 37, is a dance therapist who lives with her two children, Gaia, nine, and Eden, five, in East Sussex. Anara and her former partner are separated. She says:
I gave birth to my children at home without pain relief. It was a wonderful experience, but having sex afterwards was the last thing on my mind. After I had Gaia, it was five months before my partner and I made love, and I admit I was terrified it would be painful.
Enjoying motherhood: Sex is no longer such a priority for Anara now she has daughters Eden and Gaia
I’d been so caught up in the euphoria of motherhood that I didn’t even think about sex. Breast-feeding wasn’t comfortable and, anyway, I wanted to give my body time to heal.
My former partner never pressured me, and was supportive and patient. I think having a newborn in the house affected his sex drive, too — he didn’t seem that concerned about whether we had sex or not.
We found other ways of being intimate, such as kissing and cuddling. I think couples should worry less about the sex and think more about the deeper connection that can result from having a baby.
When we finally had sex, it was better than it was before I gave birth.
I was more sensitive and felt more connected. After the birth of my second child, I waited three years before having sex. In part that was because my partner and I separated when I was three months pregnant, but having two babies changed things completely for me, too.
My entire focus was the children. I felt overjoyed about motherhood and content to simply be a mum of two.
I didn’t have a strong sex drive, and finding a new partner or dating again at that stage just didn’t interest me. When I did finally have sex again, I slept with a man who I’d known for a while. We were close, but it didn’t turn into a relationship.
I’m ready to meet someone else and have a long-term relationship, but sex after having two children is never going to be as big a part of my life as it was before.
Taraneh Satari, 23, lives with her partner, Simon Haigh, 30, a decorator, and their 22-month-old daughter, Elisia, in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. She says:
Sex the last thing on her mind: Taraneh suffered from postnatal depression after the birth of Elisia
The moment I discovered I was pregnant, my sex drive waned because I was terrified about harming my unborn baby.
As a result, Simon and I weren’t intimate at all during my pregnancy. After Elisia was born, the last thing on my mind was sex. I felt completely drained, and breast-feeding took up a lot of time and energy.
My body had changed dramatically, and I felt overwhelmed by motherhood. Elisia often cried in the night and I didn’t know how to appease her.
On one occasion, I was so tired she slid off my lap onto the carpet. She wasn’t hurt, but I was devastated, and ended up with postnatal depression.
I didn’t feel attractive or sexually inclined. After six weeks we tried to make love, but I couldn’t go through with it.
I didn’t even like Simon touching my breasts because it felt wrong — they were for feeding.
Every time I rejected Simon, he sat on the end of the bed and stared into the distance. He said he understood and that it wasn’t my fault, but I knew I was hurting him and that made my depression worse.
Simon tried to wine and dine me to bring some romance back, but nothing worked and after a couple of months he stopped trying.
In August 2011, Simon moved out. We hadn’t been intimate throughout the pregnancy or after it, and I think he felt utterly rejected. Four months later, though, he moved back in.
We’d missed each other so much that we didn’t want to break up, and we’re determined to make things work.
We’re in a healthy physical relationship again after almost two years without sex. We’re not love-struck puppies, but we’ve found the right balance.
Gina Ford shouldn’t make women feel like failures for not being able to resume a physical relationship with their partners immediately after giving birth.
A lot of new mothers suffer from postnatal depression and feel insecure about their abilities as a mother.
'We tried to make love but it just felt wrong. After a couple of months Simon simply stopped asking'
SIMON SAYS: Taraneh was worried about hurting the baby when she was pregnant, so I didn’t mind that we didn’t have sex.
I knew it wasn’t because she didn’t want me.
After Elisia was born, we were overwhelmed by the late nights and constant crying, so I didn’t have the energy for sex straightaway.
Back on track: Taraneh and Simon with Elisia, now 22 months
It was only when we had not made love for several months that it became a problem.
I started to feel rejected, and that knocked my confidence. The fact that Taraneh didn’t want to sleep with me made me feel insecure. She always pushed me away and wouldn’t let me kiss her or touch her.
After I moved out, I missed her and my daughter every day. We’re working hard to make our relationship work now. Being the father of a young baby is never easy, and it takes a real man to stick around when things get tough.
I understand that Taraneh struggled after becoming a mother, but I love her enormously and we’re stronger than ever now.
Additional reporting: Georgette Culley