It’s normal for a new mom to feel like sex is low on her priority list. After all, she is spending all of her energy nursing, napping and rocking a baby.
During pregnancy, a woman’s reproductive hormones are elevated, but after she gives birth, these levels crash. This can cause vaginal dryness and a low libido.
Many new moms find that their sex drive takes a nosedive because they’re just so darn stressed. From a lack of sleep to juggling work and childcare to figuring out how the heck they’re supposed to do this whole motherhood thing, it can be hard to find time for anything else, let alone sex.
There’s also the fact that most newborns are fussy and scream for their mamas for long stretches of time, which can leave a woman feeling tired and uninterested in her partner. Combined with a dip in estrogen and vaginal dryness (especially when breastfeeding), that can make sex feel uncomfortable and unpleasant.
But there’s a good reason for low libido postpartum: When you’re pregnant, your reproductive hormone levels are at all-time highs, but after you give birth they quickly crash to premenopausal levels, causing a drop in sex drive and uncomfortable vaginal dryness that can make sex seem unpleasant or painful. It’s evolution’s way of ensuring that you take care of your new baby and don’t get pregnant again before your body is ready to have another one.
If you and your partner are still interested in sex, then the key is to be patient, talk openly about how you’re both feeling, and try some things that may help. With a little patience, romance and some provider-approved lubrication, it’s likely that your desire for each other will return.
A woman’s body is busy recovering from childbirth, producing milk if she is breastfeeding (which requires more of your attention than the rest of your hormones), and if she had a C-section or other complications, healing from physical trauma. If she also has to focus on her relationship with her partner, it’s not surprising that a new mom may want to put sex near the bottom of her to-do list, or even out of the picture entirely.
When a woman and her partner are ready to resume intimacy, it’s important that they make the time. Making sex a priority will help both women and men avoid problematic dynamics in which he wants to have sex but she’s not interested, for any number of reasons—ranging from being tired to worrying about changes to her body to simply feeling unenthusiastic.
A low libido post-baby is also due to the hormone prolactin. This hormone prepares your breasts for breastfeeding, but it depresses libido. Once again, evolution is at work: your body is focusing on the biological investment it just made in the baby so that it will survive and pass on its genes. Fortunately, prolactin levels drop quickly once breastfeeding is over. Then your libido can return to pre-pregnancy levels. But it can take a while to get there—sometimes as long as a year or more.
It can be hard to find time to get intimate with your partner when your focus is on a new little one. Keeping up with housework, naps and feedings, and a social life can make sex seem like something you’ll do later – not the first thing on your list. If your sex drive has gone on hiatus, you may want to discuss it with your partner and try to schedule intimate time.
Hormonal changes and fatigue are major contributors to decreased libido after baby. After carrying your bundle of joy for nine months, delivering them and nursing them if you’re breastfeeding, and adjusting to your role as a mother, you’ll be exhausted. In addition to this, hormonal cascades can leave you with lowered estrogen levels that can lead to vaginal dryness and a decreased desire for intimacy.
It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year for some women to return to their normal libido after having babies. But it’s important to remember that this is a temporary change and your libido will likely increase again. Until then, you and your partner can connect through nonsexual physical intimacy, such as kissing, cuddling and holding hands. You can also engage in sexually stimulating activities, like oral sex or mutual masturbation. Just make sure you have lubrication on hand and don’t push through any pain or discomfort.