In the midst of all the excitement of planning for a new baby, many couples don't think ahead about the adjustments that parenting brings. It is common for relationships to become tense in the first few months after a baby is born. Like other types of stress, the stress of caring for a new baby can build or destroy a couple's relationship. A new addition to the family poses a number of challenges, including changes in roles, dealing with unfamiliar tasks, physical and emotional exhaustion, and shifting attention away from the partner and toward the baby. As a result of these challenges, open and caring communication among partners becomes essential.
Sexual difficulties are common after the birth of a baby. Such difficulties may include:
Parental roles have historically been very clear and well-defined. Typically, the mother stayed home with the children and the father worked to support the family financially. In the majority of households today, this is no longer the case. Nowadays, many mothers and fathers both work, and as a result, parental roles have become less clear. This can often result in conflict and increased stress. Couples and families can reduce stress by taking the time to discuss and agree upon roles, responsibilities, and schedules. Discussion should be ongoing, since roles will change as parental responsibilities change.
Women may feel especially tired and overburdened if they work outside the home. Men may feel added pressure to succeed financially. Conflicts often occur when women need companionship or help around the house and their husbands are spending long hours at work. Men often feel unappreciated and left out when their spouses are spending so much time and attention on the new baby.
Tips for New Moms
Tips for New Fathers
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
National Women's Health Information Center
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
10 Tips for New Fathers. World of Psychology Psych Central website. Available at: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/06/19/10-tips-for-new-fathers/ Updated June 2011. Accessed January 11, 2013.
30 Tips for New Dads. Being the Best Father You Can Be Before, During, and After Delivery. Parent Wonder website. Available at: http://www.parentwonder.com/30-tips-for-new-dads-being-the-best-father-you-can-be-before-during-and-after-delivery/. Updated November 12, 2007. Accessed January 11, 2013.
Citak N, Cam C, Arslan H, et al. Postpartum sexual function of women and the effects of early pelvic floor muscle exercises. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand . 2010;89(6):817-822.
Johnson, CE. Sexual health during pregnancy and the postpartum. J Sex Med . 2011;8(5):1267-1284.
Postpartum period. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated October 12, 2012. Accessed January 11, 2013.
Recovering from Birth. US Department of Health and Human Services Womens Health website. Available at: http://womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/childbirth-beyond/recovering-from-birth.html. Updated September 27, 2010. Accessed January 11, 2013.
Roles Within the Family. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/Pages/Roles-Within-the-Family.aspx. Updated January 2, 2013. Accessed January 11, 2013.
Last reviewed January 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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