You have achieved a lot after growing up a baby and giving birth, mom. And trying to heal while you feed and care for your new baby is around the clock work. Finding balance in your new role may not include sex, even long after your doctor or midwife has approved it for 6 weeks. You may feel good about it (after all, you have to adapt to a lot), but you may also think, “No. Don’t. Don’t want to … What’s wrong with me?” *Sigh.*
There’s nothing wrong with you mom. Low sex drive for some time after birth is a normal evolutionary adaptive response that aims to ensure that you survive to continue procreating.
Here’s why so many new mothers have low sex drive after giving birth.
You’re probably too tired to have sex, but also too hormonal to want it.
You are probably exhausted. You may feel sore – and sex is not comfortable right now. You may be worried about changes in your body or about getting pregnant again. Or maybe you are just touched and feel like the only thing you are in control of is your body.
But hidden beneath all of these perfectly legitimate reasons is a torrent of frenzied and dwindling hormones that have an even greater impact on your sex drive.
When you are pregnant, your reproductive hormone levels are 1,000 times higher at one time than when you are not pregnant. And after giving birth, these hormones go down to menopausal levels. The resulting low levels of estrogen can lead to uncomfortable vaginal dryness – especially if you are breastfeeding – and a loss of sex drive.
In this way, evolution makes sure you “don’t want” it while you heal and invest your energy in keeping your new baby alive before you start working on the next.
You are fulfilled in a different way.
Oxytocin is the bonding hormone released during hugging, sex, and breastfeeding. Before giving birth, touching your partner triggers the release of oxytocin, which will help you feel good and bond with each other. But after giving birth, with all the cuddling and feeding, “the mother gets her oxytocin from her child,” explains clinical sexologist Dr. Kat Van Kirk. “This transfer of emotional energy is believed to decrease sexual desire and increase responsiveness to infant stimuli in postpartum women by activating the regions of the brain associated with the reward.”
Whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding, the skin-to-skin contact between you and your baby increases the release of oxytocin, which makes you and your baby bond and ensure that you care for them and survive.
The hormone prolactin also plays an important role in maternal behavior. Prolactin allows your breasts to grow during pregnancy and prepare them for milk production that will begin after the baby is born. This hormone helps you relax while breastfeeding, but it also suppresses your libido. This is biology again to make sure you are focused on the biological investment you just made in your baby.
Low sex drive can affect your partner as well.
Although research is preliminary, it is believed that elevated levels of prolactin in new fathers, just like mothers, trigger childcare behaviors while lowering testosterone levels after birth.
Studies have shown that the more fathers interact with their baby, the lower their testosterone levels drop, the lower their libido, and the less they focus on having sex and being more cared for. This is to help dads invest more energy in parental care than they do in giving birth to a new baby, while at the same time helping them relax and enjoy their newborn.
Breastfeeding can decrease libido.
Not wanting to have sex after giving birth is completely normal and definitely only temporary – especially if you are breastfeeding. In a study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers found a significant decrease in fatigue, an improvement in mood, and an increase in sexual activity, feelings, and frequency within four weeks of stopping breastfeeding once the hormones returned to their previous levels returned to pregnancy.
When to start having sex after giving birth is up to you.
Even if you’ve been medically cleared for sex, it can take a while before you feel like you are having sex again and it’s perfectly okay to wait. However, when the time is right for you and your sexual desire has returned, you may still have concerns about getting things started. Here are some tips to help you restart your sex life after the baby:
- Carve out couple of times. Take the time to be alone to remind yourself that even after you became a parent, you are still a couple.
- Be honest with one another. Talk about your physical changes, how it might feel to have sex or be intimate now, and anything else you might be worried about.
- Come closer. Look for other ways to express your affection while preparing for sex. Spend time together kissing and cuddling – without pressure.
- Use lubricants. When you’re ready, lube can help combat vaginal dryness and make sex more comfortable.
- First get in touch with yourself. Rediscovering your body and what feels good on your own is an important step in regaining intimacy with a partner after childbirth. Check out the toys made by our friends at Dame Products below for inspiration.
Bottom line: You are not alone if you lack the desire to have sex after giving birth. And like many other things that can be challenging during pregnancy and the puerperium, this will pass. But right now, having a low sex drive is likely just an evolution that will ensure your reproductive success – protecting the tremendous physical and emotional investments you’ve already made and the survival of you and your baby so you can pass your genes on to future generations . Pretty strong stuff.
Editor’s note: Other medical conditions can contribute to your lack of desire. And it’s important not to confuse lack of sexual desire with postpartum depression. So watch out for signs and symptoms such as severe mood swings, loss of appetite, overwhelming fatigue and disinterest or pleasure in the things that are important to you. If you think you might have postpartum depression, contact your doctor for immediate treatment and recovery. Painful sex should also be evaluated by a doctor, midwife, and pelvic floor physiotherapist.
If you’re looking to get things going or just want to have a little time to yourself, explore Dame Products’ vulva-approved options. As a female-owned sex toy company, they’re committed to cultivating pleasure – and that’s what we’re here for. Motherly readers can save 15% on Dame products with the code MOTHERLY.
Pom flexible vibrator
Finally a vibrator that can adapt to your needs. Brilliantly shaped for targeted or broad stimulation, the five vibration patterns and five vibration speeds ensure that you hit exactly the right point. Rechargeable and powerful, yet compact, Pom is a great way to get in touch with your body – whether you’re alone or as a couple.
Aer suction toys
With pulses of air and a gentle seal, the Aer suction toy delivers the excitement of oral stimulation even when you’re not ready to share your body that way – or otherwise want to draw your partner’s attention. With multiple levels of intensity and vibration patterns, your roadmap to the capital O is easy to follow.
Fin finger vibrator
The Fin Finger Vibrator offers double sensations and is a great way to synchronize the pursuit of pleasure. Exactly the right size for all the right places, Fin doesn’t get in the way of any position. The unique shape and vibrations allow users to get the feeling they want during foreplay, sex or solo time.
PS Lady literally guarantees your satisfaction with hassle-free returns within the first 60 days. With the code MOTHERLY you get a 15% discount on your purchase.
This article is sponsored by Dame. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.