No Sex? I’ll Die! By Dr Alyssa Berlin
Newsflash: Male virgin dies at age 116.
Sorry guys, but contrary to what you might think, skipping sex for a little while isn’t going to kill you.
The concern of no sex is a common issue for couples who are expecting a baby. As the belly grows so does the reality of impending parenthood which in itself may bring enough stress to decrease libido. While some women have an increased desire for sex and greater sexual sensitivity and pleasure during pregnancy, many are uncomfortable and don’t feel sexy or in the mood at all. Some men are attracted to their partner’s fuller figure and changing shape while others become less attracted or concerned about hurting the baby during intercourse.
After the baby arrives, men typically have a rejuvenated interest in resuming physical intimacy only to be told that they have abstain for a minimum of six weeks. Even after the six weeks many new moms experience diminished interest in physical intimacy that can last for the duration of breastfeeding. What’s a couple to do, especially with your partner saying, “Honey, this is not natural…you know I could die!”
For starters, let’s bench the argument of sex or death. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. If sex is out of the picture for the moment, seize the opportunity to bond in other ways. Take this time to strengthen your emotional intimacy and connection with one another thereby building the foundation for physical intimacy in the relationship, when the time is right.
The transition to parenthood and having a baby to care for comes with a natural mix of raging emotions, stress and ambivalence. It is crucial to set aside time to connect with your partner. When you check in, make sure you cover the emotional (“How are you feeling?), the cognitive (“A penny for your thoughts?”) and the physical domains (How are you healing/adjusting to the new physical demands being placed on you?”). Think of it as the tri-fecta of post-baby communication. Ten minutes per partner per day to talk, connect and feel supported. This will serve as a beautiful forum to check in with each other regarding lots of important topics, including readiness to resume sex.
Physical touch is a crucial element in your relationship and just because there is no sex doesn’t mean that all physical contact must be suspended. In fact, loving touch is very powerful and can mitigate or minimize postpartum blues. Hold hands, hug, snuggle and add a few ‘non-threatening’ shoulder or foot rubs to the mix. Non-threatening? Above the waist only, so that it doesn’t feel like an advance towards sex that she may not be ready for.
Lastly men, you may be intrigued to know that there is a strong connection between doing the dishes/laundry and physical intimacy. There is nothing magical about dishes, rather it is very powerful when without asking, you look around, see what needs to be done and do it, thereby sending your partner the message that we are a team and we are in this together. Pitching in around the house can be more powerful than oysters and more cost effective too.
Don’t lose heart, at the right time, with healthy communication; sex will resume its normal course. But until then, take advantage of this opportunity to talk with one another, build your emotional intimacy, do some dishes so that all these elements can culminate in a powerful reunion and ultimately strengthen your relationship.
Dr. Berlin is the creator of The AfterBirth Plan Workshop, a program that prepares couples for the transition to parenthood. She is on the Board of Advisors for International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN). Dr. Berlin is a contributing blogger to the Huffington Post. Dr. Alyssa lives in Los Angeles and has four children.