Having a lowered sex drive or libido after delivering a baby is very normal. According to a scientific study of women who had just given birth within the last year, one out of five mothers had no interest in sex for three months after delivery. Sometimes the lack of interest in sex can last up to a year.
Let’s face it – you’re exhausted. You are trying to see to your baby’s needs, and the demands seem to be all day and all night. This translates into a major deprivation of sleep. Adding the responsibilities of taking care of the household chores and a possible full time job means that the fatigue itself can be overwhelming. If the baby’s father does not pitch in with infant care or other tasks, and it seems that he sits around relaxing while you work, resentment can quickly build on top of the exhaustion. Then too, your mate may be feeling jealous since all attention is no longer on him and you may not find this understandable or tolerable, breaking bonds of intimacy.
Rapid and abrupt hormonal swings compound the problem of libido loss, along with the susceptibility to depression. Estrogen, progesterone, prolactin and cortisol levels are all evening out from higher pregnancy levels. Even hormones from the pituitary and thyroid glands are transitioning to the new postpartum levels.
Finally, a sense of fear contributes to the decreased sex drive. You’ve been told right after delivery that you must abstain from intercourse due to the risk of infection or heavy bleeding. Then, when it is permissible to resume having sex, one may be apprehensive about:
- Painful intercourse – after an episiotomy (incision of the perineum and the posterior vaginal wall during second stage of labor) is healing, the stretching of skin may be painful. Vaginal lubrication may be less due to the falling estrogen levels. After a Cesarean section, pressure on the scar may be uncomfortable.
- Becoming pregnant again – some may fear a contraceptive failure or have heard stories that after delivery, you are very fertile.
- Orgasms – Orgasms may induce contractions that evoke memories of labor pains.
Fortunately, this decrease in sex drive is short-lived.
Communicating your fears and frustrations with your mate, while sharing the pleasures that parenthood brings, can strengthen the bonds between you and enhance your romantic feelings. Exploring together what excites you physically will in time create a heightened libido and a sexual relationship that you can both enjoy.
Barbara Hales, M.D. helps people improve their health and navigate the healthcare system of today. After working as a physician in women’s health and surgery for thirty years, she now focuses on helping the public at large through her book “Power to the Patient: The Medical Strategist”.