Expert advice

Dr Gabrielle Morrissey: Sexologist

Dr Gabrielle Morrissey has been a sexologist — sexuality educator, sex therapist and sex researcher — since 1990. She is also the author a number of successful books.

My husband's sex drive dropped after the birth

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

After giving birth to our third baby three months ago, I have noticed my husband's sex drive has decreased. He's normally more sexually active. Can men lose their sex drive or go through postnatal depression, just like the woman can feel after the birth? I have brought up the topic many times and he just doesn't give me a reasonable answer. I feel like he's avoiding the subject.

I have also noticed that he's very protective of the baby. During the first few weeks after I gave birth, when the baby would cry for a feed he would wake up and say "What did you do the baby?" He never acted this way with our other two kids who are 10 years old and seven years old now. Is this common for men to act weird after the birth?

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While doctors may say that you can resume your sex life after your six-week check up post-birth, in fact many couples find it takes much, much longer than that to get their desire back and their sex life up and humming again.

A decreased sex drive after a baby is normal — for both men and women. While he won't technically have postpartum depression — that's a term and experience reserved for new mothers and their hormones — it doesn't mean he can't go through a depression still. So if you suspect this, and he won't talk to you about it, talk to your doctor and encourage him to see a doctor.

However, depression is not the only cause of decreased interest in sex after a baby is born. Both parents can suffer from fatigue, stress, added pressure to care for and provide for the baby, and these are factors that cause havoc with desire and arousal. Add to this that you have two children already who are quite a bit older, so this time around perhaps his experience is different and the lack of sleep and the juggling required in caring for three children now has affected him in a way that is eroding your core relationship together.

It certainly sounds as though he isn't feeling connected and intimate with you as a partner. Finding the balance after a new baby of being not just co-parents together but also partners and lovers is vital. Without it, a couple can find that their relationship seems more like bed-mates and housemates who share the responsibility of bringing up children in common. It's not very conducive to creating sizzle sex between the sheets.

Also, new parents find a new love and a new focus: the baby. That kind of love that a parent can feel for a child can eclipse the love they feel for one another. The loves do not need to compete, but if you don't spend time and energy nurturing both loves in your life, one will wither. It sounds as though your husband, who is so protective of this new baby, has shifted his focus from being partner to being a parent and lost view of the important balance between the two.

Rather than have a conversation with him which is negative — "where has our sex life gone?" — try having a more positive conversation about finding the balance between being partners and parents. The more positive you are the less defensive he'll be and the more likely you'll be heard and the two of you will connect on this issue.

Explain to him that it's important to you that you raise your three children to the best of your abilities, and this involves not just imparting good values to them, but also role modelling a healthy, loving relationship so that they can grow and blossom in the warmth of that and see enough of it to be able to recreate it themselves when they are grown.

Being a couple doesn't stop when you have children. Gentle, positive reminders of this will have a better chance of revitalising your sex life together than negative anxious talks about whether the spark has faded to nothing. And if this still doesn't help, it's not unusual to see a counsellor about this issue. This is more common than you would think and you're not alone, certainly.

Lastly, remember that it's only been three months since you had this baby and with all the focus a baby takes, it's not that long. Give yourselves a bit more time to adjust to the juggle, and then evaluate together how you think you're faring with the balance between parenting and partnering. It's a balance you'll work at for years, so don't expect to get it perfect right away.

For more information please see Dr Gabrielle's website or visit her consultancy website Bananas and Melons.

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