Keeping Your Relationship Strong After the Birth of Your Baby

Image for new baby article 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

Sexual difficulties are common after the birth of a baby. Such difficulties may include:
  • One or both partners feeling so tired that they have littleinterest in sex
  • One partner having more interest in sex than the other
  • Sexual conflicts or increased arousal with breastfeeding
  • Interrupted lovemaking
  • Postpartum depression

Defining Parental Roles

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
  • Accept that you will probably feel overwhelmed by your newresponsibilities. Most new mothers feel the same way.
  • At times, you will probably feel unappreciated, resentful,envious, or even scared. Do not keep these feelings inside. Make time totalk calmly and openly with your partner about how you are feelingand to ask for help and emotional support.
  • Encourage your partner to help you care for your baby. Be supportive of his help, even when he does not do things the way you would like them done. Make it a point to thank him for helping and to tell him how much this means to you.
  • Look for the humor in your new experiences—it will help makethe rough times smoother.
  • Be sure that you and your partner schedule some regular time tobe together each day, even if it is not much.
Tips for New Fathers
  • Keep the lines of communication open with your partner. Sheneeds to know what you are feeling and how she can help. At the sametime, she needs your support. If you want to talk, try to scheduleit at a time when your partner is not overwhelmed and exhausted(such as after being up all night with a crying baby. It may bebest to schedule time to talk when the baby has gone to bed orwhen someone else is watchingthe baby. If you are feeling frustrated and stressed, talk aboutyour feelings instead of blaming or criticizing your partner.
  • If you are worried about finances and feel the need to worklonger and harder at your job, communicate this to your partner. Although you may feel this pressure, it is important to balance work and home life until a routine is established. Try to work your normal day and go home to pitch in. Once things even out, you can discuss working longer.
  • It is normal to feel a bit awkward handling your newbaby. However, the more you participate in caring for your baby,the easier it will get and the more comfortable you will feel.
  • Lookfor opportunities to help out. Holding and cuddling your new babywill help establish an important bond. Help yourpartner with diaper changing and bottle-feeding, and be supportiveand encouraging if your partner decides to breastfeed.
  • If yourspouse has been trying to comfort a crying baby for a while, offerto hold and comfort the baby yourself, or help with some of theother chores to ease your partner's burden. Keep in mind that yourpartner may be feeling exhausted and unappreciated, especiallyduring the first three months. Find opportunities to relieve herburdens and be sure to show your appreciation.

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RESOURCES

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org

National Women's Health Information Center
http://www.womenshealth.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
http://www.sogc.org/index%5Fe.asp

Women's Health Matters
http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

References

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.

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