Post-partum libido, where are you?
November 12, 2008 7:29 PM   Subscribe

How long did it take for your libido to return to normal after giving birth?

I'm 5 months post-partum and am breastfeeding. My heretofore normal and, I thought, regular sex drive disappeared while I was pregnant and is still on the lam. I miss it. I know there are biological reasons that I'm not feeling the urge like I once did but when will my long-lost and beloved sex drive come back? Do I have to quit breastfeeding? I'm 40 and am not on any birth control. I haven't really menstruated yet though I had a little bit of something last month. I am not pregnant again. My husband is extremely supportive and is not pressuring me in any way but I no longer get all that aroused and have trouble orgasming and these things were never a problem before. Currently, my little girl is sleeping 12 hours a night so we have plenty of time to do it, I just never want to. At what point should I be checking in with my doctor to see what I can do? Does the libido return at some point? Please say yes!!!!
posted by otherwordlyglow to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

It's the breastfeeding.

Once that's done, you'll be fine.

(I have personal experience with the condition. It's a hormonal thing. )
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:45 PM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Agreed, it's probably the breastfeeding. I'm weaning my daughter now (she's 19 mos) and found loss of libido to be the only real downside to nursing. Good for you that you have a supportive partner!
posted by missuswayne at 7:58 PM on November 12, 2008

While you breast feed your oestrogen levels stay low, and for many women libido does likewise.

You may find it reassuring to read this paper:

"Women who breastfed their infants were significantly less interested in intercourse than those who bottlefed, irrespective of tiredness or depression, but this effect did not persist in the long term."

This is a perfectly reasonable topic to discuss with your family doctor or OBGYN.
posted by roofus at 8:02 PM on November 12, 2008

we just had our second a week ago. I don't expect to be back to normal business for about 6 months when my wife stops breastfeeding. ..and knowing the cost of formula, i'll quite happily wank away for a bit longer if I have to.
posted by Frasermoo at 8:16 PM on November 12, 2008

Response by poster: I guess I already know that it's the breastfeeding but for those that have gone through this before, how long after stopping breastfeeding was it before your libido came back?
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:20 PM on November 12, 2008

It doesn't take long at all, if memory serves. But my youngest is 21 so hopefully someone with more recent experience will weigh in here.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:34 PM on November 12, 2008

With my first child, my libido began to normalize when she started solid foods around 6-8 months (although things improved quite a bit once she was sleeping through the night around four months or so, but only in the sense that I was intellectually capable of imagining myself being a person who has sex). But generally, the less she was dependent on me for total nourishment, the better my libido, and I did continue to breastfeed until she was fifteen months old.

With my second, it took somewhat longer and I attribute this to the extra exhaustion of having two small children constantly touching me all day had a lot to do with wanting nobody else near my body if I could help it (this still occasionally comes into play, and my girls are 6 and 4 now). It's very emotionally draining, having a baby on you all day, and don't discount the effect that has on your sexuality.

It's reasonable to bring up with your doctor, but I wouldn't expect there to be a miracle solution. One thing that might help is getting a little extra exercise, maybe twenty minutes or so of very gentle yoga in the evenings to give yourself a moment a) to yourself and b) to think about your body outside the context of motherhood.

Another thing that might help, if you don't think it will affect your milk supply, is cracking open a good bottle of wine after the baby goes to bed, putting on some Marvin Gaye, and seeing where it leads.
posted by padraigin at 9:56 PM on November 12, 2008

Oh, and: next time you are at the doctor, make sure he checks your thyroid, which can apparently be thrown quite out of whack by pregnancy. But I wouldn't necessarily make a special appointment for it this early on in the game unless there are other reasons to do so.
posted by padraigin at 10:02 PM on November 12, 2008

Echoing the above. Introduction of solids, and with that, a new feeding pattern warms everything up. Also, and this is speaking from a Lactation Consultant in clinical training and as a breastfeeding mom, the return of your libido may not be an organic one, you may need to encourage it a bit. Libido is not just hormones, but hormones in combination with your brain--it helps to get your brain to recognize your current hormone levels as perfectly acceptable for a sex life. In other words, get started on a 'new normal' by having sex, whether you necessarily feel like it, on a regular basis. Go slow so that you and your partner can re-learn your body and its responses. Don't expect to make love to orgasm right away, but do work on getting to a point that it's comfortable, relaxing, and feels loving.

Your body has changed, shifted a bit, approach this like you two are new partners to one another. Talking to lots and lots of nursing moms, and from my own experience, there isn't some day or week or month that you really wake up and your libido has come back into town. If you are a woman for whom it has been subdued, you do have to coax it a bit. The good news is that if you are interested in rekindling your sex life, go slow, and are getting plenty of love, rest, and support, you will get your new groove. Leave things open for it to be a totally different thing for you (in fact, look forward to the newness of it all). And yes, yes, yes, if you've made efforts and it's not working, and you feel that breastfeeding is going well and is established, see your doctor to make sure that the anatomy and physiology checks out.

A tiny note--continue breastfeeding based on your goals and your relationship with your little one. Weaning for the strict purpose of regaining a libido may not necessarily work (remember, there are many more factors involved in sex drive than just hormones), and for some women, weaning a younger nursling quickly, have experienced a further tanking of their interest in sex. You didn't in any way mention that you were thinking of this--and I only mention it because I get this question A LOT, and I've never seen it be worth it for the very few women who have tried it.
posted by rumposinc at 3:53 AM on November 13, 2008

FWIW, I have a [nursing] 15mo and no libido at all.

These things would be easier to deal with if more women were honest about them. Life After Birth is a good read.
posted by kmennie at 9:58 AM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oooh, ooh, ooh. I was just unpacking a box of books and found a book I would highly recommend for you: The Mother's Guide To Sex, by Anne Semans and Cathy Winks (of Good Vibrations fame).

This book is so incredibly informative about how a woman's libido can be affected at all stages of motherhood, from procreative to empty nest.
posted by padraigin at 2:46 PM on November 13, 2008

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