"As you make your way
through a sexual lifetime, cultural attitudes about what it means
to be a woman and a mother are bound to influence or even inhibit
how you express yourself sexually. Let your experience be your
teacher, let your desires be your guide, and keep in mind that
both of these will be in constant flux throughout your life. Sometimes
you'll crave a three minute orgasm, sometimes you'll orchestrate
a three-hour symphony, and sometimes you'll want no genital activity
at all. What you yearn for today won't necessarily be what you
yearn for tomorrow, but each and every one of your desires has
something to teach you about who you are and who you're becoming"
- Anne Semans and Cathy Winks, authors of The
Mother's Guide to Sex
As a breastfeeding mother, my husband is still attracted to my breasts
(they've always been large). I'm wondering if I'll ever view my breasts
as sexual rather than functional again. Could it be hormones from breastfeeding
that does this or is it just the way I'm thinking.
Probably both. The hormonal changes related to breastfeeding can definitely
reduce sexual desire. Postpartum, a woman's estrogen level drops, and
levels of two other hormones, prolactin and oxytocin, rise. A decrease
in estrogen leads to a decrease in vaginal lubrication and a possible
decrease in your general sense of well-being. Prolactin and oxytocin
both have a physiologically calming and libido-dampening effect that
is particularly noticeable in the first few months after childbirth.
If you nurse for many months, these hormonal effects will level out-your
prolactin surge will be less extreme, and your ovaries will resume producing
hormones are only part of the story. You're also dealing with your own
changing body image, fatigue, and societal messages that women should
breastfeed behind closed doors. Some women feel the need to maintain
boundaries between the sexual and maternal functions of their breasts
in order to clearly distinguish between their roles as a lover and a
mother. Others are intimidated by the fact that their lactating breasts
will leak milk whenever they're sexually stimulated (you can reduce
the fountain factor by nursing before sex so your breasts aren't so
full). Let yourself go with the flow (sorry, bad pun) and rest assured
that your non-sexual feelings about your breasts are both temporary
and completely normal.
We have always had open bedroom doors in my house. How do my husband
and I handle having doors closed 'sometimes' without making our toddler
feel left out or shut out by mom and dad... which, incidentally, was
how I felt as a child when my parents would close their bedroom door.
If you're worried about ruining your open door policy, you can always
try to have sex when the kids are asleep or away from home. Or schedule
yourself a regular night away from home in a hotel where you're free
to be as rambunctious as you like. This approach can work, even though
it requires overcoming some logistical challenges. On the other hand,
we don't think there's anything wrong with closed doors, and an explanation
to the child that mom and dad need "private" time. Kids start understanding
privacy at early ages--when they're told people want "privacy" in the
bathroom, or that touching yourself is ok as long as it's done in "private."
Eventually, they'll want their own "private" time. Your feelings of
being "shut out" as a child may be related to the closed doors, or it
may also have just been a natural part of the separation that toddlers
have to go through as they learn they can't spend all their time in
mom or dad's company.
I have a 13 month old baby and am still completely uninterested in sex.
I even get up early on the weekends to avoid the possibility of having
it. Could my hormones be messed up from being pregnant (I had a very
healthy desire pre-pregnancy)?
We cannot emphasize enough how common it is for women to feel "completely
uninterested in sex" for as long as two years after their baby is born.
Your hormones aren't messed up; they're working perfectly. The postpartum
drop in estrogen (estrogen helps create vaginal lubrication) and a rise
in prolactin (prolactin helps create milk) can definitely depress a
woman's sex drive. Even when enough time has passed for these hormonal
changes to level off, you're still dealing with fatigue, sleep deprivation,
changing priorities, and the enormous expectations that are placed on
mothers--most parents' sex lives move onto the back burner for the first
two years of their child's life. You might want to try to reclaim desire
by indulging in simple pleasures that will help you reconnect with your
sexuality (masturbation, fantasy, playing with sex toys, getting a massage).
If you take the focus off, "I should have sex to please my partner"
and shift it to, "what would make me feel good in my own body right
now?" you're more likely to give your libido a successful jumpstart.
Hello! My daughter is 4, and we are expecting our second child in May.
Before we were parents, we really had an active sex life. We had lots
of fun together and would experiment frequently. That all seems so long
ago now. I really can't remember the last time I really wanted to have
sex, though I do do it for my husband's sake, even though that sounds
terrible! I really miss how much fun we used to have, and the intimacy
we shared. I have no idea how to get the feeling back, and feel like
I'm an old lady already!
First, let go of the comparisons to the pre-baby sex life. This doesn't
serve anybody well and your sex life will never be like that again!
(This is akin to the folks who long for the heady days of a new relationship
when the sex was nonstop. That stage doesn't last forever, but that
doesn't mean your current sex life is bad.) This is certainly not meant
to discourage you, but it doesn't help matters to have unrealistic expectations.
Parenthood sucks up your time and energy so unless you can afford a
battery of housecleaners, chefs and nannies, give yourself a break.
We've heard from hundreds of parents of toddlers who say their sex lives
took a back seat until the kids were more self-sufficient. With a new
baby on the way, you're probably not close to that point, but you can
build a few things into your routine to allow yourself time to re-energize
and relax--only then can you hope the spark will return. Get plenty
of rest, exercise, eat well and take time for yourself. If you spend
all your time with/on your kids, it's no wonder there's no desire left
for another. Use babysitters. This gives you some much needed time off,
and it frees up time for you and your husband to be together. Try just
being intimate without the expectation of a sexual adventure. You run
the show, rather than doing what your husband wants. Perhaps a sensuous
foot rub and cuddling naked is enough to make you feel sexually satisfied.
Give him permission to go off and masturbate. If you can compromise
on some ideas like this, you might find yourself eventually gravitating
back to some more common ground.
Can you have a happy, satisfying marriage without sex? My husband and
I disagree constantly on this one...I feel you need it to maintain a
certain level of intimacy...he thinks I am obsessed with sex and put
too much emphasis on it. Because of this, the issue of sex has become
a black cloud in our relationship. We have a 9 month old and have not
had sex in over a year. I just don't know how to lite the fire under
I can't answer that first question because I think every relationship
is different, and some marriages can, and some marriages can't. There's
a lot more to a relationship than sex, so it doesn't necessarily signal
the demise of a relationship when it takes a back seat. More importantly
for you though, is that it seems like you might need to understand that
in all relationships there are bound to be times of drought and abundance.
That your own sex life is undergoing a transformation should be seen
not as a signal of imminent disaster, but a temporary turn while you
learn to adjust your lives and desires to accommodate another being.
We've noticed that couples who take this long view, and accept the drought
knowing that the rains will come again one day, have a much better time
of surviving the rocky times. Times like these test out your communications
skills, your empathy, and your imagination.
My question is if we have to slow down with our love making, i.e. if
there could be a problem if we do it a little bit harder. I am about
6 weeks pregnant now, and am feeling very good. At which month should
we switch to another position, since the semi missionary is our favorite?
Both my hubby and I are chubby. Thank you so much!
If yours is a normal, healthy pregnancy, there's no reason to "slow
down" although you might want to wait until you're safely into your
second trimester (and past the riskiest time for miscarriage) before
you take the brakes off. You probably won't need to give up the missionary
position ever, though as you get larger (by about the fifth month, your
belly will probably get in the way), you'll need to fine-tune the position
by shifting slightly so that your abdomen is off to the side, not directly
beneath your partner's body. Alternately, you could lie on your back
at the edge of the bed with your partner kneeling or standing on the
floor between your feet. For much of your pregnancy, you can safely
enjoy any position you please-just make sure that your partner never
puts his full weight on you or applies pressure directly on your uterus.
During the second half of pregnancy, you should avoid lying flat on
your back or on your right side for prolonged periods of time; you'll
probably notice some dizziness and discomfort if you do. The weight
of your uterus reduces the flow of blood returning to your heart through
the vena cava (raising your blood pressure), and will also reduce blood
flow to the placenta-neither of which are good things. You can easily
adapt to this state of affairs by reclining on pillows in a semi-upright
Could you give us some suggestions for positions for intercourse for
pregnant women? It is getting rather awkward. Thank you.
Our survey respondents spoke fondly of the missionary position, woman-on-top
(which allows you to control the depth and angle of penetration), rear
entry (a practical way to avoid jostling your pregnant belly), and side-by-side
(whether face-to-face, or "spooning," side-by-side positions provide
full-body contact without either of you having to support the other's
weight). Many women find that pillows are their best friends. You can
surround your belly with pillows to make it more comfortable to lie
face down; prop yourself upright on pillows; kneel on pillows; or position
pillows beneath your hips to take pressure off your back. And speaking
of best friends, don't forget that you can either hold a vibrator against
your clitoris or slip it between you and your partner in every one of
I'm wondering if you can tell me how menopause may affect a woman's
sex life. What can we expect? Will my husband go through his own "menopause"
and will it affect him, as well?
This is a huge question that is beyond the scope of our book. Hormonal,
physiological changes inevitably affect a woman's sex life (this is
equally true during puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause).
Estrogen levels decrease during menopause, resulting in thinner vaginal
tissues and reduced vaginal lubrication. Hot flashes, interrupted sleep,
and fatigue can also short-circuit desire. While men go through less
dramatic a change, they do experience a decrease in testosterone levels
in mid-life. Hormone therapy (taking synthetic hormones under medical
supervision) can help mitigate some of the less desirable effects of
menopause, but we would definitely urge you to consult with a medical
professional about this.
I have a 14-year-old son who is very modest and embarrasses easily.
My bedroom is right above his, and we have a very squeaky bed. I'm worried
that my son will hear us making love. I've been in his room when my
husband has sat on the bed and I can hear that so I can only imagine
how bad it is. WD-40 hasn't helped much, we can't afford a new bed,
and my husband has a bad knee that precludes using the floor. My son
is, however, is a good sleeper and probably isn't aware of anything.
The problem is, I think, my own hang-up. I remember thinking that my
parents surely didn't do that! How can I get over this? It doesn't seem
to bother my husband - much.
I can appreciate your concern. I have a squeaky bed and don't like the
idea that my neighbors downstairs can hear me, so I can see why you'd
be extra concerned about your son. The truth is, if he can hear you,
he probably will never mention it out of embarrassment. But even though
you thought your parents never had sex, it's not a bad thing for kids
to know their parents have sex--it makes us more human to them, and
gives them a glimpse of a healthy adult sexual relationship. I don't
think you need to worry about causing him emotional harm. On the other
hand, if you just can't let go of your own embarrassment around it,
or are afraid that you might be disturbing his sleep, then you've no
choice but to: 1) get a new mattress (save your pennies or buy one on
credit) 2) switch beds or bedrooms with your son or 3) have sex in another
room (on the couch perhaps).
similar questions follow, along with Cathy and Anne's reply:
My husband masturbates while on the Internet and I'm asleep with my
kids. Is this cheating? It's very upsetting to me and makes me feel
unattractive, or as if I'm not interesting enough.
I'm on bedrest and we can't have sex. My husband has started watching
porn movies at night when I'm sleeping (I found the videos while he
was at work). I've very hurt by this. Should I be? I guess it's better
than him having an affair but can't he be celibate like I have to be?
We're going to answer these two questions together because they share
a common theme, namely feeling hurt or betrayed by a partner's sex drive.
In our society, we tend to approach sex from the standpoint of scarcity,
not abundance. All too often the equation becomes: "If my partner is
masturbating, watching porn, enjoying sex chat on-line, or fill-in-the-blank,
there won't be any sexual energy left for me," as though sexual energy
is a finite resource when, in fact, it's endlessly renewable. Similarly,
your partner can turn his or her sense of scarcity into the equation-"If
we haven't had sex in three months, we're never going to have sex again"-and
either badger you for attention or withdraw completely. The bottom line
is that it's definitely counter-erotic to feel guilty, pressured, or
abandoned, so if you can empathize with each other, you stand a better
chance of being met halfway in some sensual encounters. If you can respect
and appreciate your partner's sexual desires rather than being threatened
by them, you're likely to sustain intimacy regardless of whether you're
sharing every sexual experience. Why not put the focus on your own desires?
There's no reason you couldn't be sharing fantasies with each other,
watching porn together, or (in the case of the woman on bed rest) requesting
a sensual treat such as a foot rub that could make you feel pampered,
rather than ignored.
I've had a cesarean with a horrible scar plus I have so many stretch
marks that my tummy skin could reach to Mars. I feel very unattractive
so I don't want my husband to see me naked or touch my tummy. My husband
doesn't seem to mind but I feel bad when I see him looking through the
Victoria's Secret catalog. How can feel more in the mood for sex when
I feel ugly?
Yours is a common concern among mothers who are shocked when their
bodies don't zing back into pre-baby shape (the case with most of us,
so you are not alone). You can feel ugly, or you can choose, like many
of the moms we spoke to, to view your scars or sagging breasts as the
rewards of the miracle of birth, as evidence of the creation of new
life. On a practical level, if your embarrassment persists, you can
opt to have sex by candlelight or you can peruse that Victoria's Secret
catalog with your husband and choose something which allows you to feel
sexy and covered.
After caring for a baby and toddler all day, I feel "touched out" by
the end of the day. My husband's feelings are hurt when I tell him this.
How can I help him understand and keep our romance alive?
Many times, partners read "touched out" as a flat rejection. What you
can do is think about what would make you feel sensual or sexual, and
share that with your husband. Ask him to do the same, and you can probably
arrive at some compromises. Maybe you'd love a warm soak in the tub,
and wouldn't mind him joining you. Maybe your partner would like to
watch some porn with you lying beside him while he masturbates. This
can be a great time to explore a variety of sexual and sensual alternatives
to intercourse, and give you the tools to break free of an old routine.
I'm on complete bedrest with my pregnancy, and my husband and I aren't
allowed to have sex. I'm not allowed to have any kind of orgasm so we've
pretty much stayed away from each other. How can we stay connected through
the rest of this pregnancy?
Well, after all that abstaining, just think about how great your first
orgasm will be! But on to your question. You and your husband can stay
connected through a variety of intimate contact. It's not always about
the physical--showing each other how much you love each other can be
done in thousands of way, kind words, love letters, thoughtful gestures,
spontaneous getaways, special meals, little treats, you get the idea.
As for the physical, only you know how close you can be without feeling
a sexual urge--so experiment with that, perhaps its just holding hands
during a movie, sleeping spoon style, etc. It may feel like a restriction,
but this can present you with some great opportunities to connect on
a deeper level.
Since I've been pregnant, I've been SO horny! I can't get enough, but
my husband is afraid we'll hurt the baby. My doctor has assured him
that sex is okay, but my husband just won't do it. How can I get him
to enjoy my new curves as much as I do?
You can't make the man do what he doesn't want to do. If he's been reassured
by you and your doctor and still isn't game, I think you need to respect
his anxieties and not push. On the other hand, this doesn't mean you
can't satisfy yourself--it might be the perfect time to try out a vibrator,
dildo, some erotic videos or sexy lingerie. Chances are, if your husband
sees how much fun you're having, he probably won't resist for long.
I am wondering if orgasm while pregnant is safe. The reason I am asking
is that I have had one late miscarriage and one premature baby. Thanks!
During a normal, healthy pregnancy, orgasm is perfectly safe. However,
we're not qualified to say whether yours is a risk-free pregnancy, and
we'd encourage you to check with your doctor for advice. If your medical
practitioner has determined that you're currently at risk for miscarriage,
he or she will instruct you to abstain from penetration and orgasm for
at least the first trimester. Many of the doctors and midwives we interviewed
for our book acknowledged that there's no conclusive data supporting
a restriction on sexual activity to prevent miscarriage-they simply
prefer to err on the side of caution, and so do we! Similarly, if you're
at risk for premature labor, your medical practitioner will instruct
you to abstain from penetration and orgasm during the last trimester
of your pregnancy to avoid the possibility that strong uterine contractions
might trigger preterm labor.
New mothers are often told that after six weeks, it is okay for them
to have sex again. I know it took me longer than that to feel comfortable.
I had an episiotomy, and although it was not a severe cut and healed
normally, I still felt a bit of pain there for quite awhile. What advice
do you have for women who still feel as if they are recovering after
six weeks, but who want to enjoy sex again?
Take your time, go slow, and only do what feels comfortable. The six
week guideline is just that--a guideline--but as you pointed out, there
are plenty of good reasons why women might not be ready for sexual intercourse
at six weeks. If you're feeling in the mood, try some other kinds of
sex--anal intercourse, oral sex, mutual masturbation--and only do what
feels good to you.
How do you deal with it when one of your pre-teen children hears you
It depends on what your kids know about sex already. If you've explained
sex to them by now, then they probably know what you're up to and it
doesn't require any further elaboration. Kids overhearing their parents
have sex is not the end of the world. I believe it helps them understand
that their parents are normal sexual beings, and it shows them what
a healthy adult relationship can be like, so that when they're ready
for one themselves, they've got something to refer to. If you think
your kids have no idea what the sound was, you might want to reassure
them that mom and dad were loving each other in private (not hurting
each other), and take the opportunity (pre-teen is not to early) to
explain sex and reproduction to them. There are lots of good books and
age-appropriate materials. Ours has a section on talking to your kids
about sex, and two of my favorites are It's Perfectly Normal and More
Speaking of Sex.
Hi, will orgasm during early conception leads to any risk?
and Cathy: Sexual activity poses absolutely no threat to a normal,
healthy pregnancy. It's true that if you have a history of miscarriage
or are at high risk for miscarriage, your medical practitioner will
probably instruct you to abstain from intercourse and/or orgasm during
your first trimester. However, as long as yours is not a high-risk pregnancy,
there's no way that the uterine contractions of orgasm could harm your
fetus. We'd encourage you to enjoy as many orgasms as you like! When
mom feels good, baby feels good too!
When I feed my little baby my three-year-old son and my husband like
to watch me feeding. My husband is very much fond of my breasts and
wants me to keep the other breast bare while we are together in bed
and feeding the baby. The kids co-sleep with us. How about our three-year-old
child seeing his dad watching my breasts, and sometimes gently touching
and Cathy: It's nice that your entire family has such an appreciation
for your breasts. How you respond to this is really a matter of personal
preference. Certainly no harm will come to you, your son, or your husband
from watching you breastfeed, and it probably satisfies your son's curiosity
and helps everyone become more comfortable with their bodies. As for
the gentle touching, we also don't think there's anything wrong with
your son seeing this display of affection, but if your husband's intention
is sexual, it's best left to a time and place where you can enjoy complete
Why is it that some partners can find a G spot or clitoris so easily,
and know what to do to help bring on orgasm, while others don't know
what they are doing? Is it up to us women to teach them? Any suggestions?
and Cathy: Good sexual partners are made, not born. Those of your
partners who have provided the most sexual pleasure probably had the
benefit of experience, practice and good communication skills. It's
certainly up to you to instruct any new partner on how to please you.
Many men find it intimidating or confusing to figure out what makes
a woman tick sexually (It's not like we're taught this in school!),
and female partners aren't mind-readers either. Here are some practical
Get to know your
own anatomy and sexual responses. You can't expect a partner to locate
your G-spot if you've never figured out where it is yourself.
Find out what
type of touch brings you particular pleasure by masturbating, playing
with sex toys, and/or reading a good book on sexuality.
Learn how to
ask for what you want. Your partner will be grateful and you will
be infinitely happier in bed.
Relax. Try not
to be too goal-oriented. Enjoy the process of pleasing each other,
ask for feedback, and be patient. Sexual discovery can be an end in
There are plenty of excellent books, videos and websites devoted to
you, Cathy and Anne! Additional question and answers are available here.