Having a baby can change every aspect of new parents’ lives. The first few weeks after birth in particular can leave you both filled with joy and exhausted. As you spend time together establishing a new routine, it’s common to feel like you don’t have time for much beside your baby and certain aspects of your life, like your relationship, might get put on the back-burner.
We all know that relationships take work even in the easiest circumstances. And when you have a newborn, your relationship may be put under extra strain. Starting a family is a major change and can alter the landscape of a couple’s intimacy and interactions. It is common for couples to experience a relationship slump after having a baby.
Here are some changes that may affect your relationship as you adjust to parenthood:
Different levels of attachment to baby
It’s common for one parent to feel a higher level of separation anxiety than the other. This can result in them feeling hesitant to leave the baby with friends or family for delegated time with their partner, which can cause feelings of frustration or distance.
Lack of physical intimacy
Postpartum can severely decrease the amount of sexual activity in a relationship. In general, healthcare providers recommend waiting 4-6 weeks after birth to have vaginal intercourse. Even after you’ve been cleared for sexual activity, you or your partner may not be ready to be physical again for a number of reasons: fear of pain, apprehension about body changes, lack of time or energy, or lack of sex drive. Physical intimacy is an important part of most romantic relationships, and its absence can cause stress and distance.
It may take a little time for your family and your relationship to settle into a new routine, but remember, this is new territory for both you and your partner and no one can understand what you’re going through like each other. A little consideration and intentional effort can go a long way to reconnecting.
Here are some ways you can prioritize your relationship during the postpartum months:
Set aside time for each other
Establishing a consistent schedule is important for your baby, and it will also allow you to make time for your relationship. Where you can, take advantage of your baby’s sleep time to schedule some adult time, or ask friends or family to babysit so you can plan date night (even if they only watch the baby in the other room so you can have an at-home date).
Build up to sex
Although intercourse may not be possible immediately after giving birth, other forms of intimacy are. Cuddling, kissing, and holding hands are small ways to show your partner that you’re still attracted to them and appreciate them until you’re both ready to have sex again.
Think of ways to show up for your significant other
It’s the little things that make a big difference. Figuring out small ways to be present, like asking your partner about their day or doing a chore they normally do, will show your gratitude and strengthen your bond. Your partner will appreciate the extra effort.
Encourage open communication
Having honest talks with your partner about how you each feel and how you’re handling all the changes of becoming parents can set a strong foundation for reconnection. Use these talks to establish how each of your needs have changed at this point in the relationship.
Starting a family can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to create an impassable distance in your relationship. The stress, exhaustion, and commitment of caring for a newborn can cause anyone to have tunnel-vision. Some days will be great, and others it might be an accomplishment just to make it through another day. Your partner is experiencing all of the highs and lows of new parenthood with you, and if you both remain conscious of each other’s needs, the whole experience can be much easier and your relationship will be stronger for it.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- Doss, Brian D, and Galena K Rhoades. “The Transition to Parenthood: Impact on Couples’ Romantic Relationships.” Current Opinion in Psychology Volume 13. Elsevier B.V. April 16, 2016. Web.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Sex after Pregnancy: Set Your Own Timeline.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. August 21, 2020. www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/sex-after-pregnancy/art-20045669.