Sometimes liking our partner can feel hard to do. And you're not alone in that. Life can be hard sometimes, especially when you're doing it with kids in tow. Here Clio Wood shares her top tips and insights on how to fancy your partner again - because it's possible, the flame is still there, right?
We're just going to say it, going through something as monumental as matrescence will inevitably affect your libido, just like having to explain the mental load to your partner might also be the reason you think you need to spice up your relationship.
Plus, parenthood is a funny thing - you got there because you liked each other enough to have sex, but when you cross that motherhood threshold, somehow you stop being a romantic partner to your other half and become more of a roommate instead.
We know that sex isn’t everything in a relationship, but if you're looking at how to spice up your relationship then regular, fun and enjoyable sex means real connection. And that connection means feeling wanted, desired and seen.
A pretty useful room-mate, sure: it’s not every house-share buddy who’ll change your newborn’s poonami nappy and put up with constant crying. But a room-mate nonetheless.
And you know what? That’s ok. As mentioned above, matrescence - the period of growing and developing into a mother, physically and mentally - is a tough ride, and it’s natural that your libido, and even your liking towards your other half, might take a backseat. You are tasked with keeping another human alive after all.
But when you are ready to get back in the sack, here are some things that will ease your transition. You can thank me later.
1. Take your time
It took nine months to grow a baby, it might take nine months - or more - to recover and rehabilitate before you’re feeling a little like yourself again. Having a baby impacts your self-confidence and identity, both of which are key to your libido, so give yourself a break if you’re not feeling in the sexy zone for 2, 6, 12 months. It’s ok to wait until you're ready. Even if it might feel like it's not and that the world and it's wife are expecting you to jump right back into bed (we're looking at you GPs and your number one concern at the 6-8 week check up being all about choice of postpartum contraception.)
2. Get to know yourself
Sounds silly right? You’re still you, after all. Yes, you are, but you’re also someone a bit different. Your body might have changed, with scars, tiger stripes (stretch marks), heavier boobs, changing shape; and that means it might feel different too, particularly if you’re breastfeeding (and experiencing leaky boobs with it) - and that means experiencing pleasure differently as well.
Try to feel comfortable seeing yourself naked, feeling your body post-baby and yes, experiment with self-pleasure too. If you don’t know what you want, it's unlikely that your partner will.
3. Have an actual conversation with your partner
I regularly think that I’ve explained myself to my husband, and it turns out that he hasn’t heard me at all. Research has shown that men do in fact listen differently, and this may also be true of the non-primary-care-giver in a same-sex relationship. So if you’re not feeling in the mood and your partner is, make sure they’re aware of that and come up with a plan that works for both of you. I talk about this in much more detail in my book, Get Your Mojo Back, Sex, Pleasure and Intimacy After Birth.
And, GoodToKnow's family editor Stephanie Lowe agrees; "There were some days after we had a baby that we literally said six words to each other and three of them involved some variant on 'tired'. We never talked about our needs or how much we needed them to be heard and met.
"Our son is 5 years old and it's only just now that we've realised that our phones are one of the main reasons we don't talk or connect once our boy is in bed. So now we have a new rule that the phone stays in the hallway when we're in the living room. It's opened up our conversations!"
4. Rethink what intimacy looks like
It might be a date during the day (when you can both stay awake and there are no little wriggling bodies in your bed), or sex in the living room, it might be focusing on non-penetrative sex for a while, or just on kissing (remember how intimate and exciting kissing used to feel - you can get that feeling back). It might be talking or even just being nice to each other, to remind each other why you fancied each other in the first place. Your sex life doesn’t just have to be about sex.
And my number one tip for all women who’ve given birth?
5. Go and see a women’s health physio
I recommend this for all women, if you have symptoms like painful sex or incontinence or not. Our pelvic floor is part of our core, and core strength and stability is crucial to keeping us fit, health and pain-free all over the body, not just in the pelvic area. That niggly knee or back pain might originate somewhere else entirely.
A women’s health physio can tell you if your pelvic floor is too weak or too strong (with or without symptoms) and how to exercise it for strength or flexibility and tell you if you’re doing those exercises correctly. There is so much more to good sex than just doing kegels, but getting your pelvic health right means you’ll rehabilitate from birth in the best way possible and that is key to good sex in motherhood. A few Women's Health physios it might be worth checking out;
Women's Healthy Physios
- Ailsa Witherington - Instagram; womenshealthphysioand website
- Madia Rashid - Instagram; physio4meuk and website; physio4me.com
- Women's Health Physiotherapy - Nuffield Health
- Gemma - Instagram; her_physioandpilates and website Her Physio
The early years of motherhood can feel the hardest, remember you're not alone if you hate playing with your kid, struggle with toy rotation or if you don't want mum friends.... you do you. And know that no matter your choices or style, we promise you're not alone in it.
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Clio Wood is a maternal health and sex positivity advocate, journalist and author of Get Your Mojo Back, Sex, Pleasure and Intimacy After Birth (Watkins 2023). She is also the Founder of &Breathe, an award-winning women's wellbeing retreat company, which she started after her first daughter was born and noticed a lack of proper postpartum care. She lives in east London with her husband, Bryn, and daughters, Delphi and Echo, and loves unusual names, travelling, reading and eating too much ice cream.
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