#224 – Pregnancy and Postpartum Challenges for Sex – Paula Leech

#224 – Pregnancy and Postpartum Challenges for Sex – Paula Leech

Listen to “224: Pregnancy and Postpartum Challenges for Sex – Paula Leech” on Spreaker.

Paula Leech 

Pregnancy and Postpartum Challenges for Sex 

In the quest to know the various kinds of things that get in the way of sexual desire, sex therapist Paula Leech walks us through two situations that probably have the most profound impact on sex life and interest in being sexual for couples, particularly in women: pregnancy and having a baby. What are the challenges and opportunities, as well as strategies for people who are in either of these stages? 

Sexual struggle while trying to get pregnant/during pregnancy 

Fertility is getting more and more challenging nowadays because of the life that we live in, so more and more couples are struggling to get pregnant and needing to have intervention. What we know as a natural human process now becomes an intense one, and all the anxiety can just hijack it and make it all so hard. As a result, sex can become something that is very clinical, high stress, high pressure, and obligated. The fun and the casual nature of it can shift. Having to do the process month after month on a somewhat scheduled basis can have a dramatic change in the nature of a couple’s sex life and can really impact their experience and interest in being sexual.  

Barriers to intimacy after giving birth / adding a child to the family 

Giving birth or having an addition to your family changes your life, and your sexuality is profoundly impacted by this. Your world just flipped upside down, and the reality is that your body will be in survival mode. It will take different amounts of time to recover. The baby’s needs are so consuming; your spouse’s sexual needs can easily go down the priority list. Physically, changes after birth can also complicate sexuality. Chemically, having sex with the partner can be replaced by bonding with the baby as mothers get the same kind of hormones. So, the biological reality is you can easily lose desire to have sex during this period for the first one or so years. 

Reconnecting with partner 

During these two phases, challenges around sex and finding connection with your partner are discovered. On top of the insane amount of change happening, you can also find yourself renegotiating the roles in your relationship with your partner, as well as getting to know your partner as a co-parent. This is also the phase where you will be finding yourself, as well. When you can’t find yourself, you are not going to feel good about sharing yourself with another person. Desire is such a complicated recipe. You got to feel tethered to yourself enough and be comfortable in your own skin to be able to show yourself.  

How to maintain a sense of intimate connection, maintain some focus on pleasure and presence 

There is no going back to normal after either of these processes. Anxiety is the primary culprit for most sexual dysfunctions. if you are stressed, the body shuts down sexual functioning. Also, this may be the first time that you will be confronting a big change to your sex life, but it definitely won’t be the last thing you are going to adapt to because your sexual life will just undergo natural changes (as you get older, for example). Bear in mind that this is a season. This is a hard, painful, and vulnerable experience for couples to go through, and there is no going around it. It may require talking again about what intimacy means now, how to expand that definition of intimacy and find ways to get connected with your partner. Seek help if needed. Most importantly, give yourself a lot of credit and grace as you are navigating the most profound amount of changes in such a small amount of time.  


Paula received her bachelor’s degree in Family and Human Development at Arizona State University and then went on to receive her master’s degree in Family Therapy at the University of Massachusetts, in Boston. Post family therapy licensure, Paula became AASECT (American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists) certified as a sex therapist and worked with individuals, relationships, and families in private practice in Boston, Massachusetts for ten years. In that time, she received AASECT certification as a Supervisor of Sex Therapy and co-founded a sex therapy agency and training institute where we saw clients in addition to training therapists to become competent, confident sex therapists themselves. Paula continues to regularly present at various training institutes as well as Universities and therapy agencies across New England. 

Resources and links: 

Website: https://www.paulaleech.com/ 

Instagram: @paulaleechtherapy 

More info: 

Sex Health Quiz – https://www.sexhealthquiz.com 

The Course – https://www.intimacywithease.com 

The Book – https://www.sexwithoutstress.com 

Podcast Website – https://www.intimacywithease.com 

Access the Free webinar: How to want more sex without it feeling like a chore:  https://intimacywithease.com/masterclass 



#162 – Perinatal Mental Health & Sex – Emma Shandy Anway

#162 – Perinatal Mental Health & Sex – Emma Shandy Anway

Listen to “162: Perinatal Mental Health & Sex – Emma Shandy Anway” on Spreaker.

Perinatal Mental Health and Sex

Emma explains what perinatal mental health is and includes thinking about pregnant, becoming pregnant and the intersection of this with your sex life. When sex becomes about having a baby, Emma points out that it can become difficult to connect with your partner. Redefining sex is the focus of her conversations with couples. 

You’re Expecting; Now What? 

Once pregnant, other issues creep up in terms of body and hormone changes that may affect your sex life. Emma suggests connecting with your partner by answering the question ‘what is sex to you?’ In the case of not falling pregnant, Emma finds that couples may disagree or resent each other on the way forward which can lead to them becoming disconnected and thus affecting their sex lives. In the case of actually having a child, being flexible is key to a successful sex life and keeping communication open, is part of that in a big way. 

How to Handle Problems 

Emma discusses statistics of traumatic events around pregnancy and divorce but mentions that there is also a big impact on couples sex lives. Sitting down with your partner and redefining sex so that you and your partner can consciously work on your sex life together is crucial to its survival. She also recommends joining a support group. This can normalize the experience for you and highlight that it can be overcome. 

Links and Resources 




Emma is a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (#119249) in Davis, California under the supervision of Karina Parker Knight LMFT (#48111).  

Emma is a sex and perinatal therapist as well as a couples and individual therapist that uses emotion-focused therapy (EFT) with influences from attachment and family system theories.  

​She was drawn to and became interested in sex therapy in graduate school when she had the opportunity to work under Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers, and felt passionate about deepening her expertise in the field of sexual intimacy and sexual identities. After taking courses through the Northwest Institute on Intimacy (NWIOI) she is now a Certified Integrated Intimacy Professional. 

She did not enter the world of perinatal mental health until she experienced my own late-term pregnancy loss which opened her up to the lack of help available to women and couples struggling with this type of trauma. 

#11: Tammy Senn – Postpartum Sexuality, Listen to Your Body

#11: Tammy Senn – Postpartum Sexuality, Listen to Your Body

Well, the last episode of my podcast was about pregnancy and sexuality, and it seemed to make sense to go right into the next obvious topic, which is postpartum sexuality.

Talk about a lot of change to adjust to! You’ve got not only the physical impact of carrying and birthing a baby, but you’ve got the emotional, the psychological, and the relational impacts as well. Life is not the same once you’ve had a baby. It’s a complex time with a lot of changes and challenges. (more…)

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