Libido in Limbo: What You Need to Know About Your Postpartum Sex Drive
Sex played a big part in creating the baby you are now holding. So now that the baby is here, why can sex feel like such a foreign concept? Your libido, also known as your sex drive, undergoes a number of changes throughout your pregnancy, birth and postpartum. From hormones to mental wellness and physical recovery, getting your libido back to your normal after having a baby is complex, and we’re here to help you understand postpartum sex drive changes.
Reasons Women Have A Low Sex Drive After Having a Baby
Not every woman experiences a lower sex drive after giving birth, but many do. Like everything else in motherhood, the changes impact everyone differently. Many feel like their libido and postpartum sex drive after the baby is much lower. There are a few common reasons for that.
Postpartum Hormone Levels
All throughout your life, estrogen and progesterone play a big part in your sex drive. After you deliver a baby, these hormone levels take a big dip and continue to fluctuate for weeks and even months. The hormones that your body elevated for pregnancy and growing your baby dip, and that has an impact on many parts of a mom’s life. Be patient with yourself and your partner. These hormones will level out eventually, but the timeline looks different for everyone. Even though you might get an “all-clear” at your six-week appointment, you might not find yourself with a desire to have sex for months.
If you choose to breastfeed your baby, this can impact your postpartum libido for a couple of reasons. First, in order to produce milk your body needs to pump out prolactin, but this hormone is also tied to lower sex drives. Additionally, many moms experience feeling “touched out,” or irritated by any sort of physical touch, due to the demands of breastfeeding, toddlers wanting to be held and other physical demands on their bodies. It can be exhausting to have your body serving another human who is dependent on you. This can make it difficult to open up your body to intimacy with your partner, since you crave autonomy and space for yourself.
If you are experiencing anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD) or another perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, it can also play a role in your postpartum sex drive. Hormones are again at play here. Women who have these mental health difficulties often also experience a low libido after giving birth. Additionally, some Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRIs) such as Zoloft that are used to treat conditions such as postpartum depression and anxiety can have a side effect of lowering one’s libido. Please consult your doctor for more information about postpartum depression and advice about managing your mental health.
From personal experience, I noticed a lack of libido when I was struggling most with postpartum anxiety. I took an SSRI and continued to have a low libido while my body got used to the new medication. After a few weeks, my hormone levels evened out more, and my sex drive came back again. This is different for every mother, and it can take time and experimentation to find a good fit when it comes to any medication you may be taking. There are many things to consider when you are addressing postpartum mental health conditions, so be sure to talk about all of the care options with your healthcare provider and partner so that you get the support and treatment you need.
Distractions and Feeling Overwhelmed with a New Baby
For most of us, part of having a sex drive is getting in the mood for sex and intimacy with our partner. Many couples find that between not getting enough sleep, and new things to learn and take care of with a baby, the opportunity to mentally get in the mood for sex is limited. It can be tough to juggle nap schedules, bottle washing, and sexy thoughts at the same time. As you and your partner get more into a rhythm together, however, you will find more time and mental space to allocate to romance and connection. When you’re ready, getting in the mood might mean having fantasies throughout the day, exchanging sexy texts, or having playful physical interactions.
How to Get Your Sex Drive Back After Baby
1. Understand the Changes In Your Body
It can be frustrating to be undergoing profound physiological changes and not understand it all. Because there is often a gap in postpartum education and care, many women are not familiar with how their bodies and brains change throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Take time to learn about how your mental and physical health and needs have changed. Ask your healthcare provider and talk to your friends. Research brain and body changes of postpartum women from trusted sources. Work alongside your partner so that he or she can also better understand the changes and know how to be supportive. Understanding your own bodies is an empowering step, and that can help you reconnect with yourself and others.
2. Prioritize Safe Spaces for Discussion and Support
Start to talk about how you are feeling and what you are experiencing. It is not taboo or shameful to have a low sex drive after a baby. In fact, it is quite common. Grow your confidence by having honest conversations with yourself, your partner, and trusted people in your circle. This type of communication also helps set you up for the next step.
3. Communicate Your Fears, Desires and Needs
We chose our partners in order to feel connected with them in an intimate relationship. Sometimes it can feel scary to open up about things that are new, like having a low sex drive after the birth of your baby. Communication is so important. Let your partner know what you are feeling, and give them room to share their experience. Maybe sexual intercourse is not your primary need right now, but something else is. Take time to identify and communicate what your desires and needs are, so that you and your partner can grow together.
4. Create a Practice that Supports Your Libido
Once you understand the changes you are going through and are able to connect and communicate through them, you can find a practice that opens up your ability to regain your sex drive. Are you struggling to mentally get in the mood, and finding yourself peeking at the baby monitor when you are about to have sexy time?
Create a routine that allows you to calm down, get in touch with yourself, and communicate your needs to your partner. Maybe you need to take time for a hot bath with some candles and a lotion rub-down. Or, if something like OCD is a blocker to relaxing, maybe you need your partner to do a double-check of the door locks and electronics so that you can peacefully escape into intimacy.
Whatever it is, work to identify your needs and create a practice around that. Does this mean you will never think,“Oh no, is the baby breathing?” during an intimate moment? No. But it does mean that you are setting yourself up to make more space for mental, emotional, and physical connection.
Your postpartum sex drive will not look exactly like anyone else’s. It will probably also look different in each postpartum experience if you have more than one baby. However, there are reasons our bodies may experience decreased libido, and there are ways to continue to build intimacy with your partner as you continue to connect in new ways after having your baby.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. If you think you are struggling with postpartum depression, OCD, PMAD, or any other mood disorder, please consult with your healthcare provider.
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