Your After-Baby Libido
Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano
Photography by Photographed by Maria del Rio
From hormonal fluctuations to sheer exhaustion, changes in your relationship to body image struggles, there are plenty of reasons your libido might have taken a nose-dive after having children. To help you learn more about your changing sex drive and for tips on how to get your mojo back, we’ve (once again) tapped S.F.-based sex therapist Elizabeth McGrath to walk us through some of the bigger issues at hand, and some of her advice to go with them.
Don’t Compare Your Pre-Baby Sex Life To Your Post-Baby Sex Life. Your entire life has just made a major shift, and the same goes for your sex life. Expecting your bedroom behavior before and after baby to look the same will often lead to disappointment and worry. Excepting that your libido and sexuality will always be in fluctuation, and most definitely after such a monumental event as having a child, is one of the first steps in exploring your shifting sexual feelings, wants, and needs.
Experiment With Different Forms Of Intimacy. Don’t feel like intercourse? McGrath suggests looking into what else you can do to feel connected. “Massages, cuddling, bathing together, taking a brief amount of time for eye contact, and holding hands can all be ways to explore intimacy that may feel new,” she says.
Work With Your Exhaustion. Sleep deprivation is a very real and challenging experience. And feeling sexy in that space can be super hard. “If you are feeling overwhelmed with physical contact, chores, and things to do, what does intimacy feel like in that space?” McGraths suggests asking oneself. “Maybe intimacy feels like the freedom to fully collapse into sleep without feeling guilty or worried about that being a bad want to have.” She explains that many of her clients report giving so much to their babies, they feel that giving sexually will drain them beyond their capacity. In these moments, McGrath suggests taping into what feels the most nourishing. “If you can tap into that want, what does that feel like? Whatever it is, even a flash moment of want, how can you have that for yourself?”
Acknowledge Shifts In Attraction. If you’re feeling less hot for your partner (this goes both ways), it’s important to explore that shift. “Acknowledge those feelings in yourself and look at the reasons why,” advises McGrath. “Maybe you see your partner as a mother/father and less as a sexual creature, maybe you worry about pain and pleasure with sex and the post-baby body or maybe you feel like your attraction is rooted in a very specific physical look to your partner that has shifted some. Knowing what you feel can help you to find grounded ways to communicate this to your partner. If you feel guilty or self-shaming, you can say that, too. Although you might be concerned with hurting your partner’s feelings, talking about any shift in sexuality is important. It’s much harder to experience your partner feeling, emoting, and connecting differently with you when you are unclear about why that is.” Talking about these normal feelings with a trusted friend, or—for the non-pregnant partner—learning more about the pregnant and postpartum body online, is a good place to start.
Check In With Your Body. “Many folks who have given birth report a feeling of disconnection from their physical self, feeling completely tapped into their baby, or feeling detached from their daily experience in general,” says McGrath. “While it might be uncomfortable or bring up judgments or worries, what does it feel like to be in your body from moment to moment? What, if any, sensations can you feel? Even if what you feel is physical exhaustion or pain or sadness, how can you give yourself a moment to be there and just notice how it feels? On the flipside, how can you be nourished? Can touch be nourishing? Can connection be nourishing? Where do you find yourself taking the deep breath of pleasure rather than the body sigh of deep depletion? What gives you space to be in your body? It is from there that you can find your desire and want.”
Fake It ‘Til You Make It. “If you find yourself with a brief or full moment to connect, consider allowing yourself to go through the motions and see, experimentally, how it feels to try some of the ways you have enjoyed being sexual with your partner,” suggests McGrath. “Trying the ‘trying’ option is to give yourself a space to momentarily move beyond the thoughts in your head that may be telling you that you are tired, less sexy, or feeling disembodied. Sometimes when we begin anyway, we find ourselves in a moment where something feels good or our curiosity is sparked and that can give us a new perspective on the possibilities for sex. Try this from a place of just seeing what happens, not comparing your old and new sexuality.”
Embrace Self-Love. If the sexual appetites of you and your partner are mismatched, talk about it, and be open to self-satisfaction. “Approach your partner from a place of compassion and help them understand what you would like to do with them and work together to experiment around new possibilities,” advises McGrath. “Talking about sex and needs can be awkward, but it can also be fun and provide a lot of clarity. Maybe you worry about your partner’s feelings and perspectives on sex and your changing sexual relationship, but have feelings and perspectives that you have never shared with them. Masturbation is a good example; while you or your partner may have had certain feelings about it before baby, times of transition can be moments to experiment with it as a changing aspect of your relationship. While we may all have needs, it can be helpful to consider what is available for self-nourishment and what we are open to our partners doing to care for themselves.”
Beware Of Bigger Problems. If you feel pain, are foggy, or disconnected from your experiences, consider talking to a friend, bodywork specialist, or doctor. Vitamin deficiencies (especially Vitamin D and iron) or postpartum depression (for both partners) might be at play.
Grab The Lube. “If you don’t already use it, now is a great time to start,” says McGrath. “Changes in estrogen can make vaginal tissues drier. Lube is going to make your exploration more slippery and possibly more comfortable. As with other stigmas, there is one about vaginal wetness and it being an indication of want and desire. While it can be one of the ways we have to experience turn-on, it is never the full measure of desire. As our bodies change, we need to be given the space to embrace lube as a great tool for greater sexual enjoyment, sans stigma.”
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