Although babies bring lots of joy and excitement, they can also be exhausting, overwhelming and stressful. This life-changing experience turns your world upside down and can have damaging effects on your relationship. Indeed, research shows that first-time parents argue 40% more, on average, after their child is born.
If this sounds familiar, there are things you can do to prevent your quarrels from becoming a long-term issue and help maintain a strong partnership.
Jennie Miller, a psychotherapist and couples counsellor at Jennie Miller Counselling, said: “I think nearly all couples experience a rough patch after having children. It’s a major change to the home and life.
“It’s important to keep in contact with each other and make sure you give your partner a break from the home. That way, it will get better. How long that takes depends on the communication and support in the relationship.”
Keep the romance alive
When you’re sleep-deprived and devoting all of your time to taking care of your newborn, it’s only natural for the romance in your relationship to dwindle. In a recent survey conducted by cosmetic medical clinic Health & Aesthetics, one-third (33.2%) of people said that the biggest change in their relationship after having a child was the lack of quality time spent with their partner.
Although your relationship may no longer be the priority, you must still make time for each other once you’ve grown accustomed to your new hectic schedule. Otherwise, the lack of romance could eventually cause you to feel like roommates.
Jennie Miller added: “We put everything else in our diaries but rarely our relationship, which we push even further down the list of priorities when children come along.
“Book time together to have practical catch-ups—this might be just 15 minutes twice a week. Then also allot time to spend with your partner. In the early days, this might just be agreeing to flop on the sofa and watch a film together.
“As time goes on, get out of the house without the child if you can. Take it in turns to decide what to do—the cheap option is go for a walk together. It’s very beneficial to be away from your home environment.”
When you’re able to dedicate a full evening to your relationship, making the effort to get dolled up and go on a date so you can flirt and feel sexy will help reignite the spark that was initially there before the baby arrived.
Body confidence and intimacy
One in six (16.2%) people who answered the Health & Aesthetics survey said the aspect of their relationship the baby’s arrival had affected most was the intimacy they shared with their partner.
Dr Rekha Tailor, founder and medical director of Health & Aesthetics, said: “It’s recommended you avoid having sex for six weeks after childbirth to allow your body to heal, but you may find that intercourse isn’t on the agenda for much longer.
“Breastfeeding, hormonal changes and the physical symptoms of childbirth can cause your sex drive to drop. Most women experience a lower libido for around a year after having a baby.
“The changes to your body, such as weight gain and stretch marks, might also seriously affect your confidence. This can make it a challenge to feel sexy and be intimate with your partner.”
Although this is completely normal, you must address the issue so your partner can understand what you’re going through. Without this communication, your partner may become resentful and feel insecure.
Jennie Miller said: “If I ask someone how they view their partner, they often don’t have any problem with how their partner looks. They just want to experience that closeness again.”
“Don’t expect to go from no contact to full-on sex—it’s important to build up to those ‘in the mood’ feelings. Make time to cuddle, knowing that, to start with, it won’t go further. Then build up contact from there.
“The sexual part of a relationship evolves over time. It may no longer go on for hours but 15 minutes of sexual intimacy is better than none.”
As well as noticing visible changes to your body after giving birth, you may also experience urinary incontinence or vaginal dryness, making it difficult or even painful to have intercourse.
“Although your body has changed, there are many ways to ease these symptoms, so you don’t have to compromise on your sex life,” Dr Tailor said.
One method is to perform pelvic floor exercises every day during and after pregnancy. According to several reports, these exercises strengthen the muscles your body uses to control the flow of urine and can prevent or improve the symptoms of urinary incontinence.
To relieve any pain or discomfort you feel during sex due to vaginal dryness, apply water-based lubricants to both you and your partner before intercourse. However, research shows this is only a temporary fix, and if the symptoms worsen you should seek advice from a medical professional.
For a long-term solution to vaginal dryness, painful sex and urinary incontinence, you can undergo a vaginal rejuvenation procedure known as Femilift. This uses a laser to stimulate the growth of collagen and help rebuild and tighten the vaginal tissue. The pain-free treatment takes only 15 minutes, has no side effects and produces results that last between 12 and 18 months.
“Femilift can dramatically improve intercourse by increasing sensitivity, tightness and lubrication, as well as doing wonders to a patient’s confidence,” Dr Tailor said.
“If the symptoms are disrupting everyday activities by causing discomfort, pain and embarrassment, this treatment can bring the patient a life-changing sense of relief.”
In some relationships, one partner taking leave from their job to look after a baby while the other returns to work can bring about resentment. It can be difficult to adjust to life as a stay-at-home parent, and to feel like you’ve completely lost your independence. Partners who return to work might struggle with being away from the child or feel side-lined.
Jennie Miller said: “Often couples get into a competition over who works the hardest or who’s more tired, but you’re both in the same boat and should work together.”
It may help to talk to your partner about each other’s daily experience to fully understand what difficulties you’re facing. Recognise how hard you’re both working and that both roles are equally valuable to your family.
When you’re focusing all of your attention on your baby, it’s likely you’ll miss having time to yourself. Over a quarter (25.6%) of people Health & Aesthetics surveyed cited the lack of ‘alone time’ as the most notable change to their relationship post-childbirth.
In this scenario, it’s easy for heated disagreements to arise, as you or your partner feel more and more irritable. The Health & Aesthetics survey found almost one in ten (9.8%) people felt becoming parents had harmed the communication in their relationship, while 15% said it had led to a greater number of arguments.
Don’t let the issues escalate—you’ll be able to take much better care of your relationship and child when you feel revitalised. Accept somebody’s offer to babysit, or take it in turns over the weekend to give each other a break, so you can recharge your batteries and relax.
However, if the conflict continues to grow because you’ve been unable to resolve your arguments, you may need to seek professional advice from a couples counsellor to help restore your closeness as a couple.
Although welcoming a new addition to your family is a wonderful experience, you must be realistic about the inevitable changes it will bring. Raising a child is hard work, but with communication and support, together you’ll be able to face any challenge thrown at you, and get your relationship back on track.