Sex drive is also known as libido. This term describes the sexual desire one does or does not have. Even if you did not need to talk about your libido pre-baby, chances are it can impact your identity and relationship after having a baby. There are a number of things that impact postpartum sex drive including internal and external factors. In this post, we will discuss the things that impact sex drive, causes of low sex drive, how to increase your sex drive, and other parts of postpartum sex.
What Is Libido and Does It Change After Giving Birth?
Libido is highly impacted by your hormones and natural ability to relax into your body. After giving birth, there are a number of things that impact your sex drive, perhaps causing low sex drive or, in some cases, a high sex drive after baby.
While during pregnancy, your hormones increase around 1000 percent, the birth of your baby and the placenta drastically change that. Two hormones that plummet in the postpartum season highly impact sex drive and libido. Estrogen, which promotes vaginal lubrication and libio, decreases after giving birth. Progesterone, which also drops after birth, is another hormone linked to arousal. When estrogen and progesterone plummet, oxytocin and prolactin increase. Prolactin specifically is linked to both vaginal dryness and loss of libido, which can be part of a low sex drive in postpartum women.
As you experinece an increase of oxytocin, the love and connection hormone, you have this desire fulfilled in other ways. The desire to be connected to another human and share that intimacy is often fulfilled by the caretaking of your baby. From skin-to-skin, snuggles, and playing, you find fulfillment in the connection you are craving. While this is, clearly, very different from the connection of sex, the the biology and the bond creates a fulfillment for many moms.
Many people expect that hormone levels even out withi days or weeks of delivery. In reality, hormone levels can continue to fluctuate until around 6 months and even longer if mom is breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding Impact on Postpartum Sex Drive
As mentioned above, breastfeeding can prolong the time it takes the body to regulate hormones. Aside from that, the physical act of breastfeeding can impact the arousal of the body. For some moms, breastfeeding fulfills the need for touch and interaction. For others, it may stimulate arousal as breasts are sensitive and erogeneous zones, leading to a high sex drive.
Some women (or their partners) may be uncomfortable with leaky or sore breasts. This can prevent some couples from engaging in sex and can decrease the sex drive.
Touched out and Postpartum Sex Drive
Along the same lines is the concept of being touched out. When you are breastfeeding or you are holding your baby or snuggling, you are spending a lot of time with someone dependent on you and your body. For many women, this creates a feeling of being “touched out” which can impact sex drive as you do not want to think about or engage in physical connection.
RELATED: Touched TF Out
The Mental Capacity to Get Turned On
Many people do not consider that there are mental needs in order for one to become aroused. Postpatum sex drive is impacted by the ability or inability for one to get into a mental state of desire and relaxation. For may moms, the running to-do list can be preventative to day dreaming, fanticizing, or relaxing into the act of sex when it does occur. Mental arousal is essential for your body to respond and prepare for sex, so without the ability to get there, low sex drive can be the impact.
Exhuastion and overwhelm can also play into the mental capacity for sex drive arousal. In a state of exhaustion and/or overwhelm the brain can be in survival mode and not capable of moving to less “essential” needs.
It is important to note that this can cause a higher sex drive for some postpartum women. For some, sex is a stress release and a highly desired part of overwhelm.
Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Sex Drive
Postpartum depression, related to the hormonal changes and other outsie factors, can greatly impact sex drive and libido. Those struggling with postpartum depression may have low levels of hormones needed for libido. Additionally, many SSRIs used to treat things like postpartum depression can have a side effect of decreased libido.
Women struggling with postpartum anxiety may also notice an impact on sex drive. If your anxiety makes it difficult for you to get out of your racing thoughts or feel in tune with your body, easing into sex may be difficult.
Related: Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?
How to Deal with Low Libido After Giving Birth
1. Take away the pressure to make it to a certain ending point.
Start by enjoying and exploring. Notice what does and does not feel good. Focus on the journey, not the destination. If you are putting pressure on yourself or your partner to experience an orgasm or have another outcome of sex, you will internalize that pressure and heighten any fear or anxiety. Have honest conversations abut easing back into sex with your partner.
RELATED: Sex After Baby, Am I Ready?
2. Know what you need to warm up
While there was likely a time in your life when you could jump in and get quick arousal, that time is not now. Chances are you need more foreplay, and not just physical. This might also be this mental and emotional connection that you’re requiring from your partner. If you’re feeling extremely overwhelmed, you need communication and connection points with your partner. To increase your sex drive, you need to know what you need in order to even consider and enjoy sex again.
Maybe it’s some sexy text throughout the day, maybe it is taking care of the kitchen and making sure that’s all cleaned up so that you don’t have to think about it and you can enter this intimate space. Maybe it is some physical kind of foreplay. Think about what it requires for you to warm up and give your libido a chance to even be activated.
3. Get to Know Your Changed Body
In many ways, your postpartum body may feel like a foreign land. This goes for your vagina and all of the other parts that have experienced change. The mix of pelvic floor changes and body image can play into uncertainty of your body. Get to know your pelvic floor changes with a pelvic floor therapist (this is so empowering!) and spend time appreciateing and honoring your body after baby.
Want to learn more about the changes in your body, mind, and emotions after a baby and how it can impact your intimacy?
Is your partner sexually frustrated and you’re unsure how to talk about postpartum sex and intimacy?
Do you want to communicate and connect better so that your sex life can improve?
Want ideas for ways to connect?
Check out Back in the Sack: A self-paced eCourse.
In this eCourse you’ll hear from a number of experts who share all about your body and brain after baby and how you can get back into the groove with confidence and connection (instead of resentment and fear).