Let’s get things back on track (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)
When I was diagnosed with postnatal depression, everything started to make sense. The low mood, the heightened anxiety, the lack of motivation… and the lack of sex drive.
A lack of libido is a common symptom of depression, and with a new baby, major life changes, and mum guilt (which so many experience), it’s understandable that sex is the last thing on the agenda.
But a healthy sex life can be a positive part of a relationship, and if you’re looking to get your sex life back, we’re here to help.
Ekho’s Sexual health and Wellbeing Coach, Rebekah Terrell, says that before starting on reinvigorating your sex drive, it’s important to treat your depression first.
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Reach out for help from qualified practitioners or your doctor. Once you are ready you can then focus on rediscovering your sex life with your partner.’
When you are ready, it’s important to respect each other’s boundaries, maintain open communication, and to acknowledge that your sex life might be completely different to how it was before you had children.
Rebekah says: ‘If you are unable to discuss this openly think about counselling as a way to open a conversation between you and your partner.
‘Trauma or depression can have a huge impact on sex. Fluctuating hormones and a complete life change also impact your sex life.
‘Firstly be realistic about postpartum sex – it will be different and feel different both physically and emotionally. You will probably be tired, alert for sounds from the baby, recovering from wounds, you may be breastfeeding – changing that area of your body from pleasure to function. No longer just an erogenous zone but something to keep your child alive!
‘Add onto that PND and you are entering a minefield.
‘If you think you have symptoms of PND then speak to your doctor or a trained professional. It is extremely common, treatable and nothing to be ashamed of. Before you start to think of “improving” your sex life you need to treat your depression.’
So, once you’ve prioritised your mental health and are ready to focus on your sex life, what’s next?
Introduce small changes
Dr Jacqui Gabb, Chief Relationships Officer at Paired couples app, and Professor of Sociology and Intimacy at the Open University, says it’s all about the small, simple changes rather than dramatic overhauls.
She tells us: ‘Even though passionate love inevitably declines in all relationships over time, it can be reignited and rekindled by introducing simple small changes to your relationship.’
That might mean simply kissing more often, or making time to cuddle up on the sofa together.
Focus on regaining intimacy
‘Focusing on becoming intimate again – and that doesn’t just mean sex,’ says Rebekah. ‘Talk to each other, touch, kiss, bathe together, be naked around each other.’
It’s all about becoming comfortable around each other again and bringing back physical touch.
Take things slowly – you don’t need to rush straight into sex. Just enjoy being intimate again.
‘Enjoy being intimate,’ says Jacqui. ‘Making out may not result in sex, but it will bring you closer together.’
Assess how you initiate
‘Some couples have their own secret or personal ways of signaling to each other that they are in the mood or thinking about sex,’ explains Jacqui. ‘It could be a look, a certain outfit, or a private code word.
‘For others, it can feel like alchemy, smoke, and mirrors; trying to detect signs of interest and read between the lines.
‘Instead of being indirect, put the topic out there. Pay your partner a compliment. Let them know you find them attractive and that you’re feeling sexy.’
Schedule in some time for romance (Picture: Getty Images)
Break bad habits
‘Try to break any habits you have got into,’ Rebekah advises. ‘If you go to bed at different times now, then try to make an effort to go to bed together.
‘Take time away from the children and TV to focus on each other as individuals. This could be in the short window when the children are in bed before you#
Stop the judgement
Stop comparing your sex life to some unattainable ideal, or beating yourself up if your relationship isn’t exactly as it was when you started dating.
‘Remember that there is no right or wrong, provided both partners are open and engaged,’ Rebekah notes. ‘Don’t judge your sex life by societal standards. Just as there is pressure to “bounce back” to your previous dress size after a baby, there is also pressure to have an exciting, often porn-like sex life.
‘Instead, talk openly to your partner to discuss what works for you both and where you would like to get to. Work towards that, giving yourself time and space to reach that goal.’
Get away from it all once in a while
Just physically getting out of the house can make a huge difference.
‘Get out of the house for at least one night and spend a couple of days together away from the humdrum of daily life,’ advises Jacqui.
‘You don’t have to go far from home or spend a lot of money, the point is you need to relax and enjoy some unpressured time. For parents, leaving the kids behind can reprioritise the couple relationship.
‘Studies show that for women, getting away is especially important. Women often have the lion’s share of household and childcare responsibilities. At home, they’re thinking about the laundry, lunch, paying the bills, cleaning the house, and checking things off their mental to-do list. Away from home, they are more likely to feel passionate because they can forget about these domestic pressures.’
Keep communication open (Picture: Getty Images/HEX)
Talk about sex… in a positive way
Jacqui says: ‘Talking about your sexual relationship together can be helpful, as well as a bit of a turn-on, especially if you can be honest about your fantasies and what you desire from each other.
‘For some, it can feel more awkward and quickly become a taboo subject. So, when you talk, always focus on the positives. Instead of listing what you and your partner aren’t doing physically, concentrate on what you are doing with each other.
‘It’s unhelpful to look for quick fixes to sex issues. Remember that talking about sex issues can make us feel extremely vulnerable, especially if one partner feels it’s their fault or that the problem rests with them.
‘Discrepancies in desire usually stem from a combination of circumstances and it’s seldom only one partner who needs to change.
‘Turn off your phones and set aside other distractions. Acknowledge that it may feel awkward, and don’t expect you and your partner to head straight up to the bedroom once you’ve finished talking. Be patient.’
Plan some romance
It might not sound particular exciting, but sometimes romance needs to be scheduled in, so you can fully relax and enjoy it.
Jacqui recommends: ‘Get the kids out of the house and the dog walks completed early and dedicate an evening to being together.
‘Set the scene with a bit of romance. Remember that what’s romantic for one person may be cheesy and funny for another. So think about what you and your partner both like and find romantic. It may be a memory from a holiday together or a time in your relationship before passions waned. Dress up (or down) for the occasion and enjoy time together.
‘Remember that cooking a 3-course meal may sound like a treat, but a full tummy and indigestion are unlikely to make you feel passionate.
‘Similarly, sharing one bottle of wine is a good idea but opening the second one not so much. Over dinner, keep the conversation on-topic. Talk about past times when sex was fun and easy, maybe. Ask your partner what they find sexy about you and tell them what you find sexy about them.
‘Maybe put on some mood music after dinner and enjoy a smoochy dance. Getting in the mood is fun and far more likely to lead to sex than a cold standing start.’
Enjoy intimacy again (Picture: Getty Images)
Explore fantasies together
Now is a great time to start fresh and try something new.
Rebekah tells us: ‘Connecting with your body, your wants and needs in the bedroom can help you to start to reconnect with yourself in everyday situations.
‘Redefining your sex life, your likes and dislikes is an opportunity to take control in what can often be a time where you feel tied to, and responsible for another small human.’
Have a proper think about what you’d enjoy trying – then discuss this with your partner.
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‘Share with your partner some of your sexual fantasies,’ says Jacqui. ‘If one of you finds it easier to talk about sex than the other, take turns in talking.
‘Talk about different sexual positions or kinds of sex that you’ve always fancied trying out. If you’ve always wanted oral sex and your partner has never initiated this, then let them know that you’d like this.
‘If it turns you on sexually then it’s likely to be mutually pleasurable. Maybe you’d like your partner to wear sexy lingerie or use a sex toy. Some things will require you to plan ahead – this can be fun in itself and makes the postal delivery far more interesting than usual!’
Need support? Contact the Samaritans For emotional support you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
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