Parenthood can shift your sense of priorities. One of the most common things to shift down the priority list after childbirth is sex and as such sexual wellness.
Why does this matter? Happy parents make for happy children, and maintaining an intimate connection with your partner and your own body is a key component of sexual wellness. This is especially important after your sense of self has been forever changed by bringing another being into the world.
The trick for parents is to accept that sex may not be the way you once knew ‘sex’ to be. The emphasis becomes much more on the connection.
For a long time, most people have understood the importance of sexual satisfaction for emotional wellbeing. But the science behind sex being good for us physically has only more recently been revealed.
Here’s how and why; if you and your partner can relax and bond together sexually you release certain hormones that include vasopressin, oxytocin and serotonin. All of these hormones have multiple benefits for your stress levels, heart health, mental balance, and even cognition.
Even 10-minutes of intimate cuddling, once the kids are asleep and before you drift off yourselves is enough to release these hormones. If you’re feeling the pressure of daily life and struggle to find time and energy to be sexual, concentrate on sharing just a short window of intimacy to help release these hormones and relieve stress.
A Berkeley University study led by researcher Matthew Hertenstein recently found that even an intimate touch, in the absence of a deep conversation, can convey important and strong emotions. There is no doubt that deeper significant relationship problems would need more than this. However, to maintain a deep connection with your partner, make regular eye contact, smile at each other, squeeze one another appreciatively, whenever you can. Sex usually flows if and when you are feeling rested and connected, so following these tips every day for a week can help put you both back in the mood for something more. Even if it doesn’t, you will have still amped up your connection which, in turn, can help keep conflict and disenchantment at bay, even when tempers are frayed and patience is tested by everyday family life.
Often one of the reasons new parents, particularly women, feel underwhelmed by the thought of sex is the sense that their body has been ‘colonised’ during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This plus potential weight gain and shapeshift, may be why many women need time to enjoy sex again after having a child. Partners need to respect this feeling and provide time and space for recovery. This might mean avoiding certain sexual positions or spending more time giving your partner pleasure in other ways such as a shoulder or foot massage, or oral orgasm. If you’re a new mother struggling to reconnect with your body, recent research has shown that masturbation can help you get there quicker. Research by Amanda Lessard of Radford University found that there’s a strong correlation between masturbation, self-confidence and body satisfaction.
After a time, as children settle into sleep and school routines, the time window for sex starts to expand again. If you’ve been attending to your connection, through intimate touch during the difficult times, in the beginning, connection and intimacy will have been maintained. Another important way of maintaining sexual wellbeing is to attend to yourself.
Research by Barry Komisaruk of Rutgers University found that orgasm is associated with better cognitive function. So if you’re struggling to function on less sleep and feeling overwhelmed by the demands of juggling children and work, regular orgasms can do their bit to help.
Remember that your sexual pleasure matters and it’s a vital part of your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing helping you feel grounded and cherished. It’s always easy to devote every minute to your family but remember to look after yourself; your sexual wellness is intrinsic to that.