The birth of a child is supposed to be a joyous occasion. It’s supposed to bring couples together because their love has been cemented in this very tangible form. However, many women soon discover that once the baby is brought home and in the days, weeks, and even months that follow, their libido seems to have gone the way of their once-slim waistline. What happened?
Causes of Low Sex Drive After Childbirth
The love they feel for their spouse is still there but the desire to engage in sexual activity is not. Granted, there is the doctor prescribed ‘waiting period’ before they should be engaging in lovemaking, but the waiting period is supposed to be something to be endured, isn’t it? You’re supposed to be marking off the days with a calendar with eager anticipation until you can jump each other's bones again and finding ways to ‘cheat’ that calendar.
But as the days tick by, there are some women who begin looking at the calendar with a sense of dread; they see the days as somewhat of a reprieve. These women once thought of sex with their partner with eagerness and were enthusiastic about this expression of affection. All of a sudden, they’re claiming headaches and exhaustion.
No one can deny that exhaustion is certainly a very valid excuse for a dip in a woman’s sex drive. A newborn’s demands not only on their time but also on their body if they’re breastfeeding will drain any woman of energy so that instead of craving sex with her husband, she’s more likely to be craving sleep.
Teresa, a thirty-six year old productivity and sales manager from Dallas can certainly relate to the above. “The desire was there but the strength wasn't. This was after the first two. After child three and four, we were bunnies...having sex within days of leaving the hospital. After a few months though, even that died down. I nursed and the last thing I wanted was some guy going to town on ye old boobies when I had kids hanging off of them all day. I was not turned on at all by about month three.”
The husband, for the most part, will be sympathetic during those first few weeks. He certainly can’t ignore the toll the new baby is taking on the new mother and can accept that their lives have changed with this new addition. If he tends to leave all the baby care to the mother, this is definitely going to change her desire for him and it will foster resentment on her part. Teresa adds, “I was exhausted doing all of the housework and taking care of an infant. He didn't help much.” Is it any wonder women turn away from men who seem to think since ‘she’s the mother’ than it’s all her responsibility while they sit on their couches watching the television?
But if he does pitch in, and once they settle into a routine and the mother’s body has healed, she should be ready for sex again, yet his advances are still rebuffed, leaving him feeling rejected. If he’s rebuffed enough times, he will stop making the advances.
The mother, for all her lack of desire, sees her husband’s lack of attention as proof that he is no longer interested in her, decreasing her self esteem and contributing to the second major reason a woman’s sex drive diminishes after the birth of a child: low self esteem.
Her body has just gone through this major traumatic event and for a high percentage of women, will not be returning to its pre-childbirth slimness. Our Teresa can concede that women should understand if men suddenly see them as less then the vibrant sexual beings they used to be. “I knew I was less than desirable. Come on...I didn't wear make up, my hair was nasty, I smelled like milk/spit up all the time and I always seemed to have dried stains on my shirt from my leaking breasts.” She felt unattractive and self conscious about her body in a way she may not have felt before the baby. She can’t believe that her husband could still find her sexy, so she pulls away from him. His pulling away then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and a chasm between the couple widens.
Other Reasons Sex Drives Change
For quite a few women, their sexual desire seems to hit a fever peak during pregnancy itself due to changing hormones. Once they give birth and the desire returns back to ‘normal’, this can be seen as a decrease in sex drive instead of just a return to their pre-pregnancy levels of desire.
Emily, a thirty year old teacher from Albuquerque believes this was the case for her. “If it did diminish, I'd say it would be due to fatigue, which comes along with caring for an infant, or perhaps that it didn't actually diminish from pre-pregnancy standards, but diminished from the heightened state of desire that comes during pregnancy.”
Ideally, the problem should right itself in a few months, barring any health reasons for the lowered libido such an the initial hormone imbalance of pregnancy that doesn’t seem to be righting itself when it should. In this case, drugs may certainly help level things off. But there may be other contributing health factors such as postpartum depression, drugs she may be taking if the pregnancy was a particularly difficult one, or even anaemia from a heavy loss of blood during delivery.
While there are a myriad of reasons for lowered sex drive after childbirth, both physical and emotional, the main tool in dealing with it is understanding and patience on both sides. For men, support and encouragement goes a long way in bringing back a woman’s desire. For women, they have to be very careful not to neglect their husbands in this new phase of their lives.
This new baby is depending on both of them, and only if they work together and give each other the best of themselves, can they give the best to their baby.