When thinking about how to treat problems with childbirth & sexual intimacy, there are a couple of issues that must be addressed right up front:
The partners must make sure they clear the birth mother medically, and must make sure that the mother’s physician says that it is ok for the mother’s body to be sexually active.
Different births can have different needs for repair, as in a vaginal birth with tearing or a C-section. So first make sure that medically things are ok to proceed with any area that needs to repair. And, particularly, when it is the first child, even the second, and even for all of the child, the new, needy member in the household changes things, and this cannot be forgotten.
Perhaps as important as the above two issues are the importance of how the mother and the partner are feeling and what they are thinking about sex. There are a number of issues that naturally arise with a couple and a new (or another) child. But at the heart of this is the couple. At the heart of their sexual relationship is:
Let’s look at each of these.
Is the mother having some strong feelings, even depression, that needs to be address? Is the partner struggling with the new child coming into the family? There are a multitude of issues that influence the additional small and needy person into the family dynamic. So the crucial issues is: how is the couple doing with each other? (More in a moment.)
What if one of you is needing to be sexual and the other is not ready, for example, the physician has not cleared the mother physically? What if one of you is “just” needing closeness but doesn’t want to be sexual? The partners each have needs, and those needs come into play in the relationship. And we are back to the crucial issue: how is the couple doing in relationship to each other? (More in a moment.)
So now we get to the moment: there is a new member to this family, one of the partners may have some physical repairing to consider, one or both may have some emotional issues that are coming up. How are the partners doing with each other? Are they talking about what is happening in the partnership? How are they dealing with their sexual needs? Or lack of sexual needs? Is the couple aware of how to be sexual with one another when there are some limits, like they can’t have sexual intercourse for a period of time? There can be many ways to be close and intimate and sexual with one another when there are limits of physicality, or time, or space. Hopefully, you can be creative and caring and sexual in ways that work for both of you. If not, you may need to see a therapist with experience in sexual issues.
The situation after childbirth brings about radical change, new stresses, as well as new joys and futures for everyone. How the couple deals with each other, how they listen to one another, how they work through this situation is an important part of the couple’s (and the family’s) development. Opening up to how they can be close, physically intimate, sharing, touching, careful with one another, is important for all couples after the birth of a child, but it is equally true all of the time. So this situation, having a child, brings about some big new issues, but how the couple are with one another is always at the root of how they will get through any part of their lives.
Dr. Robert G. Kraft is a career psychologist in Omaha, NE. He earned his doctorate, as well as his bachelors and masters before that, from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Has practiced in Nebraska ever since.
As well as maintaining his practice, Dr. Kraft is an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Creighton University School of Medicine, where he teaches residents about psychotherapy.