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The Mother Goose Syndrome

QUESTION: Up until a month before the birth of our first baby, our sex had always been wonderful and plentiful. Now, although I'm down to my pre-pregnancy weight and take care of my health and diet, I don't make love to my husband. My gynecologist blames it on breastfeeding. I feel as sexual as Mother Goose. Is it because I don't get enough sleep?

ANSWER: Though it is true that a lack of sleep and hormonal changes may decrease your sexual appetite dramatically in the first year following birth, breastfeeding does not sentence you to celibacy. "Mother Goose Syndrome" is, in part, a result of having so much of your need for physical nurturing met in cuddling your baby; your need for hugs may have decreased temporarily. Some moms are so relieved to put their bundle of joy down for a nap that the last thing they want is to jump into someone else's arms -- even if it's their beloved.

For a number of reasons, it's common for sex to decrease in the first year after birth. However, since you have not had sex since before your baby was born, it is probably a good idea to do so in the near future. Your lack of libido may be a psychological barrier of some kind that symbolizes your image of what a mother is or should be. This could be in conflict with your experience of yourself as a sexually active woman. Can mothers enjoy sex? Are mothers sexy? Did your mother enjoy sex? Will your husband experience your body differently after the birth of a child?

Your body has been through many changes in the past several months. Sharing your body with your baby and also with your husband may require a gradual synthesis for you. You're probably wondering how sex might feel, now that your vagina has expanded for the birth of your child, or you may need to rediscover your body in its new form. Even though you may be down to your pre-pregnant weight, body changes after birth are real. Acknowledging and embracing the changes that motherhood brings to you physically may release associated feelings as well. Explore these feelings with your husband and with other women who have become mothers. We adjust to changes as we express and talk about them.

When you're ready, arrange to have uninterrupted private time with your husband to explore your bodies anew. Explore how your body (and perhaps his) have changed, now that you have become parents together. Light candles, take a warm bath together. When there's time to relax again and focus on yourselves, tell each other how you feel. And realize that you will have to schedule, plan and protect this time as a couple. The time of spontaneous lovemaking is temporarily over, but this doesn't have to mean that lovemaking is over!

You may find that though the frequency of lovemaking decreases, the quality of sex increases. Many women report deeper and stronger orgasms following pregnancy and birth. Indeed, the increase in surface area of the womb and heightened blood supply brought to the lower pelvic floor during pregnancy can contribute to greater sensuality.


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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