Sex File: He’s more like a brother than a lover

Sex advice with Suzi Godson.

Sex File: He’s more like a brother than a lover

My husband and I had a baby six months ago. He’s a fantastic father and I adore him, but it’s been so long that I cannot imagine having sex with him. He’s become a bit like a brother to me. I don’t know how to get that urge back

Are you sure it’s your husband that you’ve gone off — not just sex itself? Doctors generally advise mothers to wait six weeks after having a baby before having sex, but for many women that feels far too soon.

This is particularly true for women who have had a difficult birth. In 2005 a team at St George’s Hospital in London investigated the impact of childbirth on the sexual health of 484 first-time mums.

The study found that, although 89% of women had attempted to have sex within three months of having a baby, 83% had experienced sexual problems such as pain, lack of vaginal lubrication or loss of desire. After six months 64% of women were still experiencing some sort of difficulty.

One of the most interesting findings was that, although 96% of women reported that a doctor or nurse had talked to them about the need to resume contraception after giving birth, only 18% had been informed of potential changes in their sexual function.

Given the prevalence of sexual difficulties after having a first child, the emphasis on getting ‘back to normal’ and the lack of emphasis on self-care seems terribly negligent.

People often make it look easy, but having a first child is a life-changing experience. Besides the enormous hormonal and psychological changes that occur as you transition from pregnancy to childbirth, to caring for and breastfeeding a newborn, becoming a mother is a radical challenge to your identity and your relationship.

Caring for a newborn is a 24-hour job and, however joyful it is, finding yourself responsible for the wellbeing of a baby can be extremely stressful. Stress is a sap on desire, but if you are breastfeeding, hormonal fluctuations make sex even less enticing, because elevated levels of prolactin lead to a decrease in androgen and oestrogen in the ovaries.

This causes a double whammy, on your desire and your body’s capacity to lubricate enough to make sex comfortable.

A good silicone lubricant can solve half of that problem, but lack of desire is less easy to fix. When you are sleep-deprived and feeling your least sexy, it is easy to view having sex as a chore.

However, sex is fundamental to the health of your relationship, so it is important to think of ways to get things back on track. Because it is so difficult to focus on sex when the needs of a small baby are competing for your attention, you and your husband need to plan some time alone.

Forget heading somewhere exotic or to a beautiful countryside spot. Simply leave the baby at home with someone you trust and escape to your nearest luxury hotel. Even if you only make it to 6am before you panic and bolt home, your goal is to break the impasse and learn how to be sexual with each other again.

Neither of you may feel like having sex, but desire is responsive.

If you put yourselves in a situation where you feel safe and you are both open to the idea of touching and being touched arousal will grow. Do whatever it takes. Use wine. Use lube.

And unless you want another baby already, use contraception.

- Send your queries to suzigodson@mac.com

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