How To Think About Intimacy When It’s The Last Thing On Your Mind

As we think about issues that really matter to pregnant women and new moms, we can’t ignore what got most of us here in the first place: sex, and the physical and emotional intimacy that surrounds it. We teamed up with Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Jasmine Dunckel, who specializes in working with expecting and new parents, to lead a discussion on this via the Spright app. She maintains that partnerships can survive those early months of parenting, and is passionate about helping yours do just that.

I am tired all the time. I want to be romantic, but just can’t summon the energy it takes. Help!

“Get used to this {fatigue},” Jasmine says. Just accept it as the norm, at least for now! Don’t let it be an excuse, though. “Time must be prioritized! We can not do it all, all the time.” Parent or not, find help with the things that you’re doing everyday, whether that means delegating at work or home, and/or enlisting a family member or friend to help you out at home (with infant care or household tasks) as much as possible. But most important, Jasmine says, is “at least once a week schedule time to be together. Whether it’s utilizing a weekend nap time, having grandparent(s) come stay with the baby or planning for the time baby initially falls asleep at night — decide together and put it on the calendar!”

Make a routine of scheduled dates. This time does not have to be used for sex!

She highlights this important point about you and your partner’s scheduled time together: “This time does not have to be used for sex if your body and mind aren’t ready, but do use it for intimacy! No TV, no phones. Just you and your partner: cuddling, talking, massaging, taking a bath, etc. Whatever works. Make a routine of scheduled dates.”

“Remember that intimacy is not just about sex. Intimacy is about sharing needs, wants, feelings, vulnerabilities, fantasies, and quality time. This is the bond that partners need to make it through tough times and really enjoy the good times.” Parenting will present its fair share of those tough and good times, and partners who keep intimacy a priority will be stronger together in parenting.

“Often after transitioning into parenthood, needs change as does the availability you have for each other. This is why building and maintaining emotional intimacy is key. Both should be aware and in tune with one another’s evolving needs.”

For my partner and I to be intimate again, I want to feel sexy, and right now I feel far from it. Any tips?

“I guess my first question would be — did you feel sexy before? If so, what helped you feel sexy then? Some of that could be utilized now!” Jasmine recommends starting simply with what you wear: “Comfy clothes are great, but they don’t cut if for feeling hot! Try to have some clothes in the closet that fit you well. Ladies: buy at least one bra that make your breasts happy to be in, undies that have some lace — keeping your personality and what works for you in mind.”

Jasmine reminds us to “check your inner critic!” Give yourself a moment of grace: “Are you demeaning your body? Are you being compassionate to the body that just grew a human? Often partners love the body that gave birth to their child. They see the parts we call imperfections as things of grace and beauty.”

Last but not least: get some sleep! (Yeah, easier said than done, but see if you can find a family member, sitter, or sympathetic friend to watch the baby while you nap every once in a while.) “Tired doesn’t make for {feeling} sexy,” Jasmine notes.

Not to be overlooked, though, is a “general check in with your mood.” Jasmine adds: “If you are feeling down much of the time, I’m guessing there are other issues which merit attention.” (Postpartum Mental Health Resources)

And the question on many new parents’ and partners’ minds…

How long after childbirth will intercourse be painful? Does practice make perfect or is it about time?

“Painful intercourse after childbirth is a normal occurrence and we need to allow time for our bodies to heal. Every woman is different so just because you get the OK at 6 weeks doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be ready for sex,” Jasmine notes. “But I do also want to encourage women to check in with themselves before trying sex with the following questions:

  • Do you want sex?
  • Do you feel pressure to have sex?
  • Do you feel guilty about not engaging in sex acts?
Make sure when you do engage it’s because you are ready! The mind can have an impact on the body just as the body has an impact on the mind!”

A few tips for getting your body ready once your mind is there: Do what works for you — there are no rules or right or wrong approaches. “That may be foreplay, sexual talk and/or the use of lubricants.”

Again, “If it’s hurting, I suggest waiting and examining your motivations. Painful sex is likely to negatively impact your sex life. It’s less about practice than timing. But if you notice certain positions are more comfortable than others — that’s key! Foreplay is important because it’s a way to test the waters. A finger or small {sex} toy may be the first test of what you (the childbearing woman) can handle.”

Above all, a theme we see recurring with intimacy and partnerships: communicate!

Jasmine recommends you consider and discuss these things with your partner: “What felt good? What didn’t? (You should stop when it doesn’t.) How do/did you feel about the way sex, or foreplay, went? How do you feel about having to stop before you intended? It’s your body and you need to take care of it.”

And finally, the one thing we can’t afford to forget, she ends with this:

“Don’t assume your partner can read your mind. Be clear, open and honest!”

You can find more from Jasmine, or get in touch if you’d like to work with her, through her site:

Take workshops with her through the Spright app by registering here.