No libido after baby
July 6, 2011 12:31 PM   Subscribe

So, I gave birth to my first child 11 months ago. And I still have no interest in sex. What now?

My partner (male) has been more than patient, but I know it's an issue for him. I am still breastfeeding, and I realise that that can have an effect on libido. I just don't know what to do. I want to WANT to have sex, but I have absolutely no interest or desire in any flavour of sexual interaction at all. I want to address this before it becomes a problem for our relationship, but I'm not sure how to. I feel like my partner has done his part by waiting this long, but I don't really feel that it's reasonable to ask him to wait much longer without me taking some solid steps towards getting my interest in sex back again.

I also take Sertraline for depression (the depression is completely under control with this medication) which doesn't help matters.

I am currently seeing a psychologist to help me cope with anxiety, so I'm not that keen to get into counselling with my partner until I've finished dealing with the current round of problems, but maybe it's the best thing to do?

I would appreciate any advice on how you've dealt with this problem and/or how to approach my partner about it with a concrete plan. (I realise that it's a bit silly not to know how to talk to the father of my child about this issue, but there you are.)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Step one is speaking to your pediatrician and doctor (general practitioner and/or OB-GYN) about possible physical causes and solutions. Step two is speaking to your psychologist about whether the anxiety or something else might be causing this. Step zero (concurrent with steps one and two) is to keep the dialogue open with your partner throughout the whole process, and be honest.
posted by brainmouse at 12:34 PM on July 6, 2011

First: do not be ashamed to discuss this with your medical team. You have nothing to be ashamed of here. And they can help, by offering suggestions, listening and validating, or some other tactic - med change, whatever, I'm not a therapist. You are normal, and you deserve to have the sex life you "want to want." (great phrase!) Good on you for looking out for yourself, and for your partner.

Allow/request/demand your partner to show you non-sexual physical affection. Foot rubs, cuddling, spooning at night, hand holding.

Your body has had one big physical 'responsibility' for almost 2 years, and your brain is focused on that. It's almost like, maybe if you do another physical thing, your body will forget how to mother. It won't forget, but it's am easy fear to subconsciously develop.

Might also help to use the porn flavor of your choice to rev things up. (porn can include him telling you his fantasies!)

And, maybe spend some time alone with your own (naked) body, in a sexy or not sexy way. Feel yourself up. Do some guided whole body relaxation meditation, take long baths. Hiking or other
activities of various strenuousness can also kick start desire, just because they make you aware of your various parts.
posted by bilabial at 12:45 PM on July 6, 2011

It's not just that breastfeeding "can have an effect." Breastfeeding lowers libido, full stop. The hormones your body produces while you're breastfeeding are designed to inhibit libido so that you don't get pregnant before you've weaned your baby. Moreover, when you have a small person pawing at you every few hours all day and night, it's completely natural that you wouldn't want a larger person pawing at you in between.

Seriously, unless you have some independent reason to believe you have a medical problem, I would not take this as any evidence that anything is wrong with you. Let your partner know that you love him and want to want to have sex with him, but will likely not be able to "get it up" until you're done with this phase of your child's life. Then, discuss with him what you and he need to keep your marriage strong until regular sex is back on the table. But please don't beat yourself up about this.
posted by decathecting at 12:53 PM on July 6, 2011 [24 favorites]

Fake it, for the sake of your relationship, until the desire comes back (as above-work with the docs on that side of it)

I had no desire for almost 2 years, and even now its only like at 45% of by BC (before children!) sex drive. However, it is REALLY important to men in general, and not a terribly bad thing to have to do. Even if I don't finish in any explosive way it is still wonderful to be intimate with him and tend to his needs as well. Sometimes in my mind I group it in with my chores 'dishes? check. Kids? asleep. Spouse? Done!'
posted by Frosted Cactus at 12:54 PM on July 6, 2011 [12 favorites]

The breastfeeding definitely definitely definitely is part of your problem. Compounding it is your medication. Been there, done that, have the wardrobe.

Best thing is to talk with your doc. There may be things that can be done to help the sex drive as it relates to the medication but in my opinion till the breastfeeding time is done that will only go so far.

The only thing I can recommend really is to go ahead and participate when you are rested and perhaps when someone is watching the baby. At times libido will come back when you are in the middle of things. I know that sounds a bit sexist but as you said, you have a patient partner, and if you can meet them in the middle so to speak it will help your relationship.

It can and will get much better. I promise.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:56 PM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Trying to do something about your libido while you're still breastfeeding sounds like a recipe for frustration and self-recrimination. I'm not saying to wean (unless you want to), just be patient with yourself. This too shall pass.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:58 PM on July 6, 2011

Fake it, for the sake of your relationship, until the desire comes back

Don't do this. It will only lead to frustration and anger. He will be able to tell you aren't in to it and that will hurt him and cause friction.

I had the same problem, but ours went of for much longer. I gave birth to our son and a year later was pregnant with our second. It wasn't until she stopped nursing that I finally got my sex drive back, but not all the way. Mothers get tired from late night feedings, all day feedings, pumping milk, changing diapers, laundry etc etc.

Our children are 2 and 4, but they still drain a lot of energy out of me. We don't have sex nearly as much as my husband would like, but I make sure to give him satisfaction that doesn't always involve penetration.

When we were having libido problems, I would offer handjobs or maybe a blowjob here and there. He knew I didn't want to really be touched (and who does when nursing 24/7?), but just that was enough for him for a while. I would tell him early on in the day while he was at work or send him a flirty text about it. He would get excited knowing it wasn't full sex, but that I was interested him...and he would be taken care of after bed time for the little ones.

Not having sex was hard on him, but my husband understood and never pressured me for it. He was fine with oral sex and handjobs for a very long time (occasionally he would get the real thing, but it was never something he pushed me to do).

Talk to your doctor just to make sure nothing serious is going on. But I think its perfectly normal to not have a sex drive for awhile after a baby (especially nursing). Talk to your partner, be honest and open with him. Explain you do love him, you do want to be physical, but right now you just can't. It's hard to want physical contact at night when you've been physical all day with a little one. You just want to enjoy being free while the little one is sleeping, but you'd be happy to give him something else. You might even find that just giving him pleasure, could be what you needed to get you going as well.

Good luck with the baby! All will settle itself in time.
posted by Sweetmag at 1:15 PM on July 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

Have you gotten your period back yet? This may be way too much information to permanently attach to my username, but I just got mine back at 8 mos postpartum (I'm still breastfeeding) and my libido shot up (relatively) the day after my period ended.
posted by rabidsegue at 1:15 PM on July 6, 2011

I have been there and I feel so bad for you. Weaning and getting past the toddler ages where there are little grabby hands pawing non-stop at your body every waking moment will make it much, much better, but you're right - that seems like a forever from now.

The advice we got last time around - from doctors, therapists, and well meaning friends - was "fake it till you make it". YMMV, but that was a terrible experience for me. I felt pressured to do things I didn't want to, and it made every sexual encounter feel like a violation. A lot of resentment and hurt built up around sex and ultimately it probably did more damage to our relationship than just waiting until *everyone* was ready to have sex again would have.

I am on baby number 2 now (after a 10 year hiatus) and we both realize this time around that, really, there are way more important things to worry about and that this period of our lives will be over and back to sexy sexy business time before we know it.

Good luck to you.
posted by lilnublet at 1:19 PM on July 6, 2011 [6 favorites]

My empathies. It's so hard, and I remember how a big part of me just didn't want any physical contact, at all, with anyone, after all that baby care and the body changes and the side-effects of depression meds and awake-time stresses and poor sleep. My happy place during pregnancy used to be lying in a grassy meadow on a summer day with my husband and puppies and babies and butterflies all snorgling and cuddling and tickling me - and it changed to wanting to float in lukewarm water in a dark, silent isolation chamber. Seven years in, my happy place is now more like having a nap all by myself in a comfortable bed at a beachside cottage to the tune of my husband and child heading out to play for a couple of hours. I can't yet imagine when my happy place is going to be lying tangled and sweaty in a mess of sheets with my husband (again), but we've found some compromises for real-life happiness in the meantime.

Agreeing with the answers above me - the breastfeeding affects your libido, and your lubrication - so does the medication. Talk to your doctor, of course. But, you might need, if you're not already, to make sure you're getting some personal space in order to recharge and to feel more like your old self - which takes work, planning, organizing, negotiation and sometimes money, which adds to the stress and exhaustion. For me, that was dog walking or going to a movie, or even lunch out without the baby and with a childless friend and talking about anything but babies, which my husband happily and easily accommodated. Things are even better now that she's of an age to go to sleepovers - though I know that's a long time off for you.

And, good sleep, however I could get it, made a huge difference in my attitude toward everything, and turned out to be a larger part of the equation than I ever realized. Working on having our bedroom as a sanctuary is an ongoing project, but it keeps us sane (fine, saner).

If you're getting enough couple time too, that might help. I've read that men need sex to feel connected, and women need to feel connected to have sex. You might need to schedule (again, it feels like work, to me) dates that are long enough for you to get back into each other, and to re-focus some of the attention on him (which is harder now, because it's so easy to give it to the baby instead) so that you both feel more romantical again and court each other a bit. Dipping toes in rather than cannonballing. What also worked for us was finding ways to be closer and active without being in bed - showers together, etc. We still use a lot of "alternatives", because of our small house/sleepwalking child/I hate extra laundry so don't muck up the sheets/distracting snoring dog issues, but it gets better.
posted by peagood at 1:24 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hormones are serious.

But also you're busy in a way that you never were before. Chores? Omg. Not to mention the 567 things you need to think about now.

This is totally normal.
posted by k8t at 2:44 PM on July 6, 2011

Mod note: please take side convos to MeMail and not here. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:59 PM on July 6, 2011

My second baby is eight months old. For the first kid, we were celibate from the day she was conceived until she was. . . this age, actually, eight months. That was for pretty good reasons, but it was hard on my husband. The second kid, we've been much more involved, and that's better.

One of the things that worked for me in the early months postpartum was to say "Self, I am not that into having sex right at this minute, but you know what? I am willing to be convinced. I am willing to try to be into it. " And so I would archly indicate that perhaps we should go to bed early, and I would try to work with whatever nascent eddies of desire I could work up, and the evening would definitely not be a Letter to Penthouse or anything but I would have an OK time.

Now, obviously, if you're *not* willing to be convinced, this won't work, and that's a deeper problem that needs addressing. So I guess that's the first question. Are you willing to give it the old college try?
posted by KathrynT at 2:59 PM on July 6, 2011 [6 favorites]

I think you should fake the desire and do it, even if you don't really feel like it.

I am a man. My wife and I are expecting our fifth kid in November. Getting back into the swing of things always takes work and compromise, but that's part of being married. I choose to do THIS for her and she chooses to do THAT for me. It's how you show your spouse that you actually care about them.

If my wife refused to have sex for a year after the first baby was born, there would never have been a second baby. I would have gone elsewhere for physical attention. That sounds crappy and shallow to say, but it is true.
posted by tacodave at 3:05 PM on July 6, 2011

One of the things that worked for me in the early months postpartum was to say "Self, I am not that into having sex right at this minute, but you know what? I am willing to be convinced. I am willing to try to be into it. " And so I would archly indicate that perhaps we should go to bed early, and I would try to work with whatever nascent eddies of desire I could work up, and the evening would definitely not be a Letter to Penthouse or anything but I would have an OK time.

This. And this doesn't mean "fake it." Don't force yourself to have sex if you don't want to. But be open to having a sexual encounter with your husband. I read an article recently (and my Google-fu is failing me and I can't find it right now) that stated that a lot of women report losing their sexual desire, by which they mean losing their desire to initiate sex. But many of those women also report that, if their spouse initiates sex and they are open to it, they find they are able to participate and even enjoy the sexual encounter.

So when you say you have no interest in sex, does that mean you can't contemplate initiating sex? Because just because you don't have that fire in your loins that makes you want to jump the guy doesn't mean that you might not be willing to be open to having sex.
posted by devinemissk at 3:52 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hmm I am a guy and married but no kids yet (start trying next year) But if i am like any other guy a handjob with you naked would be good enough.

Also does he just come up to you and ask for sex? IF he worked you up would you then be in the mood. I know that I can get my wife in the mood if I work her up slowly.
posted by majortom1981 at 4:33 PM on July 6, 2011

I feel like my partner has done his part by waiting this long


Desire will come when it comes, and "are we there yet? are we there yet?" is only ever going to make that slower. Your desire for your partner is not a favour you do for him; it's something wonderful that happens to both of you. It's always sad when wonderful things disappear, but you really need to understand that this is not your fault and that your desire or lack of it is not a moral issue and has nothing to do with what's fair or reasonable.

I recommend not faking desire, because then when it does reappear there will be no question in either of your heads about its authenticity.

But there is of course nothing wrong with offering him an orgasm as an act of generosity, in much the same spirit as he would offer you a backrub or a sleep-in.
posted by flabdablet at 7:55 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

As (almost) everyone here has noted, this is normal and a predictable, common response to the hormonal effects of nursing added to the psychological and time-management effects of baby-parenting. Don't beat yourself up and don't force yourself into intercourse. You'll hate it, and him, if you do.

That said, keeping your marriage as strong as possible is really important, especially when you have a kid. The stakes are high.

My suggestion is to take penetrative sex off the table for, say, a month. Just tell him: I can't do it this month. But instead, take the initiative to do other stuff. A blowjob in the shower is easy and clean. An affectionate handjob on the couch, maybe. Let him know in advance so there's no pressure or confusion as to where the action is going to end up. Penetrative sex when you're not into it is awful and will do more harm than good to your relationship. But if you show him affection and give him orgasms other ways, he'll be fine, and you don't need to be turned on to have those things be tolerable.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:21 PM on July 6, 2011

Talk to him about it, the effects of breastfeeding and how you feel. Tell him what you'd be willing to do for him and what's off the table for now. Tell him you're feeling bad about it.
Worse than no sex is not knowing what's going on.
posted by Omnomnom at 4:48 AM on July 7, 2011

I'm generally not a fan of faking it, for all the reasons its not a good idea. But, I say this instead: make sure you're talking to your man about, but then, just commit to it. Commit to it slow at first - "I am going to have sex with my husband sometime this weekend, and then I don't have to do it again for a long time" - and then try it out. Because for me, it always seemed like I had no interest in sex because I was exhsuated/breastfeeding/wanted to cook/clean/sleep/watch tv/sleep/playwithbaby/sleep. BUT once things got going..... it wasn't so bad. In fact, it was usually good. And then, slowly, I remembered that sex could be fun and sometimes it only takes a little while, and I was willing to give up a little while of sleep. But I had to commit to doing it to make that happen.

YMMV, of course, and, of course, talk to your doctor(s) about all of it - I'm not sure how the antidepressents and whatnot play into the situation.

And use a lot of lube.

Hang in there. It'll get better - either through time, or through really working at it. You say you want to want it, and that's at least half the battle.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:34 AM on July 7, 2011

er, what Kathryn T said and I somehow missed.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:35 AM on July 7, 2011

Mod note: this is not a good thread for sarcasm and slagging on other users, please try again.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:40 AM on July 7, 2011

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