Are babies sex killers?

Funmi Akingbade

Caring for new born babies takes a lot of time and can sap you of energy. Reclaiming your sex life after you have a child is a challenge that most couples face. Although it is difficult, it’s doable. The most important thing is to have some reasonable expectations of yourself and your body and you will get back into the sexual swing of things.

Many couples have asked me over and again how they can get the green light for sex after having their baby. I need to say that before you start sex post-delivery, kindly make sure you do not have any postpartum vaginal discharges [ lochia]. Most new mothers can resume sex from the fourth day of delivery to the fourth and sixth week following delivery, regardless of whether you had a normal vaginal delivery or a C/section. Having sex before the discharge stops can put you at risk of infection. Some women need a lot of stitches during childbirth and this can also put sex on hold for a longer period.

Couples must understand that it is not that sex is totally forbidden after delivery, but the lack of sleep smothers many new mothers’ sex drive. And one of the biggest obstacles to resuming sexual activities is the overwhelming fatigue that accompanies the care for the newborn. For several months, most new babies require feeding every two to three hours round the clock.  As a matter of fact, according to research, it has been estimated that 30 per cent of babies do not sleep through the night at nine months and many do cry throughout the night. This demand and lack of sleep can cause new moms to not only lose sexual desire and sensation, it renders them powerless for craving and pleasure.

The irony of new baby’s demand is that it also has its toll on the new father, which means lack of sleep also smothers the sex drive of new fathers. The fact remains that most new dads are more interested in sex, even if they are tired as well. The point here is that men crave sex to help them feel emotionally close to their wives, and also to relax, and most men can have sex on the go, while most wives need more than enough and lots of foreplay to become aroused.

 I usually tell married couples that one of the greatest, finest, unsurpassed and best sex facilitators is good, appropriate and timely communication between the couple. So there is a need for the married couples to talk with and to each other if either of the spouses is so tired, so that both of you will fathom out other ways both of you can get rest, so you both can get into the mood for sex. You can start by asking your spouse or any available relative to watch the baby so you can take a nap or try to have sex in the morning after both of you have rested, or try and work around the best timing for both of you.

I also need to say this,  after giving birth, the hormonal level of the woman changes a lot. As a matter of fact, the oestrogen level decreases. This can cause a lack of vaginal lubrication, which may make sex less pleasurable and even very painful.  Although lubrication issues usually go away when the woman stops breast-feeding and after the menstrual cycle begins, but if this is the case with any couple, it is wise for a tropical lubricant to be used to reduce irritation and aid pleasure.

Besides the low level of oestrogen, there can also be the increase supply of protactine hormones. This is the hormones that help and assist in breast feeding

Many new mothers have reported cases of loneliness, aloofness and feeling of being sad, anxious, irritated and loss after childbirth; different strokes for different folks. And when such feelings are not identified and dealt with, they do interfere with sexual desire and may even persist for longer than the couples can handle. As much as breast feeding is good for the baby and also good for the new mother to bond with their newborn, it may also get in the way of couple’s sex life. The act of constant nursing or pumping milk can make breast feel tender, sore or hurtful. And with this experience, many women may not want to be touched there at all. I usually tell married spouses that if they are worried and concerned about the leakage or tenderness, they should try to keep their bra on during sex. Besides, the amount of energy spent in breast feeding and nursing a baby can make a new mum feel like a baby feeding machine. It may make her feel emotionally unattractive and can hinder sexual feelings.

The truth remains that the body of a nursing mother changes inside and out. But how a new mother feels about her new post-baby body can have a very big impact on her feeling of sexuality. Most women gain too much weight in a typical pregnancy and many women get lots of horrible stretch marks, while a C-section can leave a scar formation and the episiotomy could make the vagina look so unattractively funny. All these may make a woman think she cannot be whole again and feel a bit sad about her body; it may make her feel self-conscious to accept the changes.  But I need to tell a new mother that in reality, your husband is actually not viewing you the way you are viewing yourself. While you are disvaluing yourself, he is actually adding much more value to you for the joy of making him a proud father and so on. And I would also say that you can still engage in some moderate exercises and also watch what you eat. Do not shy away from trying on new sexy lingerie that can cover some new problems areas.

Vaginal delivery may or has also over-stretched the vaginal walls which can decrease friction and reduce sexual enjoyment. And it will take some kegel exercises and pelvic wall exercises for the muscle tone to return to that area in proper proportion.

It has been however discovered that lack of interest in sex after having a new baby from either both the new mother and father could be more than just physical. There may be some issues going on in the relationship that may need to be examined. You both may need to ask yourselves, ‘what is making us uncomfortable with sex? A common feeling may actually be resentment at being stuck with the baby all alone at home by yourself, changing diapers, nursing and looking unattractive while your husband goes outside the house and spends time with friends. Or it may be the fact that the presence of the husband in the labour room and seeing the baby coming out of the vagina; this may become an issue he can’t bring himself to agree with; making him to view the vagina as not a sexy object he used to cherish. Or the feeling that the baby has taken over his wife and all the attention, care and love is showered on the baby.

I always tell couples to try and explore all other alternatives. They should please remember that sex is not just about intercourse, sex is also about pleasuring each other and there are many ways to do just that. Have you both considered oral sex? How about manual stimulation or erotic massage for intimacy? Even if or when you are not feeling sexual, you must try to connect with yourselves by kissing, hugging, holding hands or cuddling.

And if you will please don’t ignore this, you both have to schedule sex. The reason being that the first year with a newborn is very physically and emotionally demanding and many married couples may have to realise their sex lives may not be the same as they were before the baby arrived. However, most sexual issues women experience following childbirth improve within the same very first year. Even so, sexual activity does not return but adjustment makes it lovely. All new parents need to do is reschedule and tag along with the change. If you are both fine with not having sex as much, you are okay. But it is not about how much sex you are having or not but how much you both are genuinely happy with your new life changes and how fast you both adjust to the new change and still have the best of family life together.

Questions and answers

Can I be in my menopausal stage at age 27?

Hello! I am a 27-year-old woman who has had a successful pregnancy – no miscarriages. I have been on hormonal birth control pills for about 10 years with only a few breaks. But in the past six months, I have had a range of symptoms that have got progressively worse. My question is, can a 27-year or a 20 plus mother enter into a menopause? I am experiencing many strange things in my body and my doctor said it could be early menopause. I am afraid of this finding, please help.

Kimberley Omotesho Silver

 Actually, with the level of your usage of hormonal birth control pills close to 10 years, any alteration may affect your normal hormonal balance which can be a low oestrogen level leading to early menopause. In some other people, it could start with deep vaginal pain with intercourse and a burning, raw feeling in the vagina after intercourse. As a matter of fact, it is possible to experience a worsening of pain with intercourse along with night sweats, hot flashes, more painful and longer lasting periods, dizziness, chest pains, heart palpitations, headaches (almost daily), dry skin and eyes, and irritability along with frequent bouts of crying, even after being treated further with some of the artificial hormones. This is because your Ethinyl estradiol levels may have become so much less than normal and your FSH would have been low because Ethinyl estradiol is a strong estrogen and suppresses your FSH (which is the reason many doctors or family planning officers use it for birth control.). And you need to be off the pill for at least a month to six weeks to get a really good read as to what your own normal hormones are up to. It would be very unusual for you to be menopausal (but not impossible). This also may be because you may have an issue with either your pituitary gland or the hypothalamus. However, it is very important for you to see an endocrinologist but the most important decision for you now is to stop the use of any birth control pills; go off any medication and look for helping herbs. There are some herbs that help female reproductive organs such as Red clover, black cohosh, blue cohosh, uva ursi and turmeric. But if you have to go for medication, it is advisable not to ever mix meds with herbs or supplements.

 I am just very ashamed

Why do I have a curved erection? I experience this shameful painful curve penis especially when I have full erection. There is this ugly scare formation that painfully and usually turns my penis sideways when erect. I was told I was born this way. I have over the years tried to straighten it up but the more I try the more injuries I sustain and the more scare formation I see. Is this also another form of erectile dysfunction because I can’t go near a lady? Oh, help me.

Driscoll Richard

 From your explanation, maybe this could be Peyronie’s disease. Peyronie’s disease is caused by a plaque under the skin of the penis that results in a bent, or curved penis when erect. A Peyronie’s plaque may result from injury to the penis and/or genetic factors; however, the exact cause of Peyronie’s disease is still much more unknown. Peyronie’s disease is unlikely to go away on its own and may get worse over time with age. Three to nine per cent of adult males, worldwide, are estimated to have Peyronie’s disease and it occurs more often in men between 40 and 70 years old. Some men may think that it’s erectile dysfunction; however, it is more of a “plaque” that can be felt and a curve in the penis greater than 30 degrees. Researchers have identified some injection that may be very effective. This injection is injected into the scar tissue or Peyronie’s plaque and works to help weaken and break down the plaque. This along with gentle stretching and straightening activities can help to straighten the curve in the erect penis caused by Peyronie’s disease. Howbeit, I will suggest you ask a medical doctor or a sex therapist for such.

 Loss of appetite immediately after sex stress

There is this thing that has uncomfortably come to stay in my life, and that is extreme loss of appetite immediately after sex. Sometimes it takes up to two to three days for my appetite to come back. This happens mostly after sex, be it in the morning or night. I am afraid if this is going to have effect on my general health. When I started being sexually active, the reverse was the case. Then, I would be very hungry and could eat more than usual. Please help.

Sylvanus Ugoji

Hi, have you observed your stress level lately, because when you get stressed, your body reacts as if it’s in danger. Your brain releases chemicals, including adrenaline, that make your heart beat faster and slow your digestion. That can curb your appetite. This is called the fight-or-flight response, and it lasts only a short time. If you’re stressed over a long period, this experience might become a long-time issue. Then are you on any long-time medications? Many medicines can have appetite loss as a side effect. Some of the most common ones include antibiotics, antifungals, and muscle relaxants. Drugs that treat migraines, high blood pressure, diabete can also affect your hunger. Have you also checked your thyroid function level? Your thyroid hormones control how your body turns food into energy. When that gland doesn’t make enough of those, your body functions slow down.

Aging is another thing that can make you lose appetite for long. Up to 30 per cent of older people have less of an appetite than they used to. It can happen for a number of reasons. As you age, your digestion slows, so you tend to feel fuller for longer. Your sense of smell, taste, or vision may also get weaker. This can make food less appealing.

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