What about birth control?

Unless you're hoping to become pregnant right away, sex after pregnancy requires a reliable method of birth control — even if you're breast-feeding.

At first, your health care provider might recommend barrier methods such as condoms and spermicides. These are available over-the-counter and are safe to use at any time. You might also consider birth control methods that contain only the hormone progestin, such as the minipill or Mirena, a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD). You can begin using the minipill and other progestin-only contraceptives immediately after childbirth.

Birth control methods that contain both estrogen and progestin — such as combined birth control pills or NuvaRing (vaginal ring) — pose an increased risk of blood clots shortly after delivery. For otherwise healthy women, it's OK to begin using combined birth control pills and other types of combined hormonal birth control six weeks after childbirth.

Although birth control methods that contain both estrogen and progestin have long been thought to decrease milk supply for women who are breast-feeding, recent research suggests this might not be true. If you're breast-feeding and want to take birth control pills, ask your health care provider to help you choose between combined birth control pills, which contain both estrogen and progestin, and the minipill, which contains only progestin.

What if I'm too tired to have sex?

Caring for a newborn is exhausting. If you're too tired to have sex at bedtime, say so. This doesn't mean your sex life has to end, however. Consider making love early in the morning, while your baby naps, or while your baby spends a few hours with a trusted friend or loved one.

What if I'm not interested in sex?

That's OK. There's more to an intimate relationship than sex, especially when you're adjusting to life with a new baby. If you're not feeling sexy or you're afraid sex will hurt, share your concerns with your partner.

Until you're ready to have sex, maintain intimacy in other ways. Spend time together without the baby, even if it's just a few minutes in the morning and after the baby goes to sleep at night. Share short phone calls or send text messages throughout the day. Look for other ways to express affection. Rekindle the spark that brought you together in the first place.

If communicating with your partner doesn't help, be alert for signs and symptoms of postpartum depression — such as intense irritability and anger, overwhelming fatigue, lack of joy in life, and difficulty bonding with the baby. If you think you might be experiencing postpartum depression, contact your health care provider. Prompt treatment can speed recovery.

What can I do to boost my sex drive?

Most sexual concerns associated with pregnancy or childbirth resolve within a year. In the meantime, concentrate on ways to promote your physical and mental health. For example:

  • Set reasonable expectations as you adjust to parenthood.
  • Appreciate the changes in your body.
  • Eat a healthy diet, including plenty of fluids.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine.
  • Rest as much as you can.
  • Ask your partner, loved ones and friends for help.
  • Join a support group for new moms.

Remember, taking good care of yourself can go a long way toward keeping passion alive.

July 10, 2012 See more In-depth