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Text: Georgina Guedes. Photographs: Gallo Images/Getty Images: Elite Photo Agency/Shutterstock. Article from the February 2014 issue of Living and Loving Magazine.

The general rule is that you have sex six weeks after giving birth. That’s the theory, anyway The reality is often quite different. Here’s how to navigate your way back to a fulfilling sex life.

A healthy sex life is important for you, your partner and your relationship.You have a baby. That happened. It probably happened because you had sex. But now that you’re holding your little bundle of joy in your arms, you find yourself wondering if you’ll ever have sex again. Will you ever even want to?

Some people celebrate feeling all loved up after creating new life by bouncing back into bed together. Others fumble their way back between the sheets. But many couples struggle to make sex work after a baby.

One reason for this is that women have a lower sex drive after giving birth. You’re on a post-natal hormonal cocktail and breastfeeding reduces the amount of oestrogen in your body. The result is that you’re unlikely to want sex like you used to. Even if you have the time – which you won’t.

“Also, don’t underestimate the impact of the utter exhaustion you’ll feel when dealing with broken sleep patterns and the demands of a small, hungry baby,” says Ruth Ancer, a Johannesburg clinical psychologist in private practice. “Many women are also concerned about their post-baby bodies, which don’t snap back like Angelina Jolie’s or are afraid of being hurt.”

Then, add to this that a small baby’s feeding from you and being held all day and come evening, you might just be feeling all ‘touched out’.

Ancer adds that men who are present at the birth of their children sometimes have trouble reconciling what they saw with sexuality, so the reluctance can come from both sides.

A healthy sex life is important for you, your partner and your relationship.

Sex is important

Sex is importantAncer says that the best thing for children is for their parents to have a healthy marriage. As sexuality is a part of that, new parents need to find ways of rediscovering each other. “Find ways of getting to know each other again, discuss your roles and expectations, and remember it doesn’t have to be the same as before, but that you should try to find a new way of relating to each other sexually,” she notes.

She says that communication is vital, and that both partners should say what they’re feeling and be sensitive to the needs of their partner, without playing mind games. And if it’s not working out, get help.

“If there is great stress or unhappiness and negative feelings are starting to become prominent, it is a good idea for the couple to seek professional help,” she recommends. “Sometimes it can be resolved in one or two sessions; just having someone there to facilitate and mediate a difficult discussion can help.”

Tips to get it on this Valentine’s day

Having sex can be a challenge when you have a small baby but with a bit of foresight and scheduling, you should be able to make a plan. Here’s how:

Let go of the idea of a conventional date night

Forget dinner, a movie and sex – and just plan to have sex (or dinner, or a movie).

Hire a hotel room by the hour

Okay, you can’t really do this, but if you’re not ready to leave your baby for the night, book into a boutique hotel and leave after you’ve done the deed. They won’t mind.

Skip Valentine’s day

We don’t mean give up on it altogether, but you might find that a dinner or hotel booking on the actual night is hard and expensive to come by. Rather plan a romantic night out sometime that’s significant to you and fits more easily into your schedule.

Valentine’s ‘Day’

Valentine's 'Day'It’s often a lot more difficult to leave your baby at night time than during the day. So plan a romantic lunch and ask your mom or nanny to watch the baby for a couple of hours. Or drop the baby off with a sitter and head home for some time alone together.

Make a deal with your partner

When you lose sleep, you never get it back. If this is making you reluctant to get frisky between the sheets, make a deal with your partner to swap an hour for an hour. Have sex tonight and he’ll let you have a lie-in tomorrow morning. In return, you’ll let him have a nap after lunch.

Your life does change when you have a baby but it’s up to you and your partner to make sure you find time for each other too.

The medical side of resuming sex

According to gynaecologist, Dr Johan van der Wat, you can resume sexual activity about six weeks after a caesarean or natural birth, following the post-natal visit. However, he does caution that this depends on the degree of trauma to the perineum during birth. “Infection, haematoma and perineal trauma like episiotomy or tearing could cause a woman to delay starting to have sex again,” says Dr Van der Wat.

Dr van der Wat advises that breastfeeding mothers should use the microval contraceptive pill, an intrauterine device or a barrier methodHe says that women should see their gynaecologists before their six-week check-ups if there’s extreme pain, fever or oozing of the scar, and that they should return to their gynaecologists annually for a Pap smear and check-up.

Despite what some people think, breastfeeding’s not an effective contraception method. Dr van der Wat advises that breastfeeding mothers should use the microval contraceptive pill, an intrauterine device or a barrier method. “If not breatfeeding, any other contraception is applicable,” he says.

Sex usually happens in the bedroom. Once you’ve had a baby, the reason that you’re most likely to be in the bedroom is to sleep, which leaves very little opportunity for spontaneous lovemaking.

Moms get it on

Sex usually happens in the bedroom. Once you've had a baby, the reason that you're most likely to be in the bedroom Is to sleep, which leaves very little opportunity for spontaneous lovemaking.“My husband and I used to have sex in the morning,” says Veronica. “When the baby came, she would wake us up every morning, and then obviously, we were looking after her. So we had to start planning to have sex at bed time.”

Claudia struggled with sex first thing in the morning and at bedtime, so she and her husband hatched a plan. “On the weekend, when our baby had her midday nap, that was our sex time. It felt a little unromantic to schedule it – get the baby down, run to the bedroom, whip off our clothes – but it was that or nothing, and we started looking forward to our Saturday romp.”

Geraldine struggled with a complete lack of sex drive. “I was breastfeeding up a storm and I just didn’t have the right hormones coursing through my system for sex,” she says. “I did feel terrifically affectionate towards my husband though, and sex started to be an expression of that, rather than because of an urgent need to jump his bones.”

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