How postpartum stress affects your sex drive

As many as 50 to 75% of new moms experience low spirits. Baby blues can kick in a few days after your delivery and last up to two weeks.

The blues, stress, depressive symptoms and feeling exhausted can all result in low libido.

Let’s take a deep dive:

Postpartum stress

Caring for a new baby can be intensely stressful. New moms find themselves responsible not only for their child, but also for the demands of their partners, other children, and their own needs. All of these can be overwhelming at times.

Breastfeeding is a joy and a pain. It is a wonderful experience to be able to provide your child with the best source of nutrition, but it can also be difficult and frustrating.

I never knew how much work it was to breastfeed until I found myself literally tied to my baby 24/7.

Even though breastfeeding reduces cortisol levels and reduces stress levels, it can sometimes undermine your self-confidence, especially if you are having difficulties. When you lack confidence in your ability to breastfeed or be a good mother, it can affect your sensuality as well.

Touched out

Giving birth and being a mother was so overwhelming and surreal. I couldn’t think of anything else but how to give my baby the best care.

I didn’t even feel that my body belonged to me anymore. I stopped seeing myself as a woman and definitely not as someone with sexual needs.

My breasts felt like they had one purpose, to feed the baby. My nipples were so sensitive that whenever hubby tried to touch them, they hurt. For the first time in my life, I wanted my nipples and breasts left alone.

Clearly, the touch your baby and the touch your partner are very different, but they both can make you feel as though your body isn’t your own.

Utter exhaustion

When it comes to breastfeeding and having a husband, some women feel like they only have the energy to deal with one. I can relate to that.

Sleep deprivation is practically the normal state for any new mom. Even the best-behaved baby needs to feed every three to four hours.

Lack of sleep takes a lot out of you. It makes you groggy, irritable and decidedly unsexy.

It can also increase cortisol levels which further reduces your interest in sex.

Emotional roller coaster

Breastfeeding was an emotional roller coaster, especially when I was just getting started, when dealing with difficulties and during weaning. There were great highs when things were going well but the lows were devastating.

A lot of it was due to my fluctuating hormones. However, breastfeeding and having a new baby also impacted my feelings and thoughts significantly.

In fact, breastfeeding was so wound up in my emotions and psyche that if someone put a question mark of doubt in my mind, I got defensive and put all my walls up.

Partner stress

My husband was also impacted by my decision to breastfeed. Notice I said ‘my decision’?

Breastfeeding was such an intimate experience that was purely shared between myself and our baby, leaving my husband feeling excluded. In fact, he felt that he couldn’t bond with our babies as much and missed out on the joys of feeding them when they were younger. He never admitted it but I think he was actually jealous of the bond I had with our kids.

Adam also saw that my need for him diminished and my sexual desire waned. Needless to say, he was never that supportive of my decision to breastfeed. This led to resentment on both sides which did nothing for our intimacy.

Postpartum depression

Up to 15% of women who get baby blues will go on to develop a more severe and long-lasting depression. You may have emotional highs and lows, frequent crying, guilt, anxiety and difficulties caring for baby.

PPD usually occur in the first 2 to 8 weeks after the birth but sometimes can happen up to a year after the baby is born.

Among other things, PPD can make you feel anxious, guilty, hopeless, scared, panicked or worthless. It can be difficult to think, concentrate or even deal with everyday situations.

Lesser known and discussed is the fact that this form of depression can also take a toll on a woman’s libido. Postpartum depression can manifest itself in a number of ways, including decreased sex drive, lack of interest in sex, and difficulty achieving the big ‘O’. This can be a frustrating and difficult situation for couples who are trying to resume their normal sexual life after giving birth.

Postpartum anxiety

Between the baby blues and postpartum depression, is something we don’t talk about much – postpartum anxiety.

Anxiety is a natural response to protect your baby. Most moms learn to relax over time. However, if you constantly feel worried and on edge, you might have postpartum anxiety.

Postpartum anxiety can cause feelings of intense worry, fear, and panic. Symptoms can include difficulty sleeping, problems with concentration, excessive worry about the baby’s health, and feelings of helplessness. Postpartum anxiety can be very disruptive to a mother’s life and can also impact her relationships.

I suffered from postpartum anxiety for almost a year. I had all this nervous energy. Even when I was exhausted and trying to sleep, my brain wouldn’t turn off. I even had visions of my baby being hurt or dying.

Needless to say, I didn’t feel like having sex when I was so wound up.

If you think you have postpartum anxiety or depression, please see your doctor. If not treated, mental health disorders can have detrimental effects on yourself, your baby and family.

To wrap up

The good news? Having a baby and having sex are not mutually exclusive. You can do both. It’s just that you have to find ways to deal with the obstacles and adjust expectations.


Sharon James

4 thoughts on “How postpartum stress affects your sex drive”

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