Postpartum Libido Support
A common problem not talked about very often is the loss or decrease of libido long after childbirth. For many women, sex is the absolute last thing on their mind. Your body has changed, you are severely sleep deprived, you may have a touch of the baby blues and your breasts are most likely swollen and sore from breastfeeding all day. You may also need more time for your body and hormones to re-acclimate.
Experiencing a lack of sexual desire is completely normal and for many couples, parenting brings a new kind of intimacy to the relationship. Finding a new rhythm together and new ways to relate may take some time and the length of time varies in every partnership. Deciding when to start having sex should completely depend on your comfort level. However, if you feel mentally ready but your body is not following your lead, there are many natural steps you can take to reignite your libido.
There are a few reasons why you may be experiencing a loss libido after giving birth. Let's take a closer look at at some of the common causes.
Breastfeeding and Hormone Changes: While breastfeeding, estrogen levels decrease significantly (hormone levels of non-breastfeeding moms stabilize about 4-6 weeks postpartum). A common side effect of low estrogen is vaginal dryness and a “pins and needles” effect during intercourse. Using natural lubricants help with this!
Postpartum Depression (PPD): PPD is experienced by many women to different degrees from mild to severe. Estrogen levels tend to be low after delivery and can trigger PPD for several months following. Hormonal changes in combination with exhaustion, poor nutrition, and having consecutive pregnancies close to each other may increase the risk of depression. Give yourself time (for some women this is even a year) to let your body and hormones adjust.
Improper Nutrition: Many new moms tend to eat well and stick to their prenatal supplements during pregnancy but once the baby is born it all goes out the window. During pregnancy and even while breastfeeding, your body will source the required nutrients for the baby from your body. This leaves very little nutrients to maintain your own health, especially if you are not eating well or supplementing accordingly. Eating poorly can drastically affect your energy levels, blood sugar, and mental health which is detrimental to your sex drive.
Lack of Sleep: This may be the most common reason. After having a baby, moms are up at all hours of the night and it isn’t any better during the day. Energy levels are low and instead of napping while the baby sleeps, new moms tend to spend their time cleaning up and doing laundry. Be gentle with yourself, and give yourself time to rest and recuperate.
Adapting to new stressors: Being a new mom can be quite demanding as it brings about so many changes. This new reality can also be quite isolating and leave new moms overwhelmed and unable to manage new stressors. Remember things that you loved doing pre-baby that you could re-introduce to help remind yourself that your happiness and mental health is important too. Bringing back old routines, even if it’s just making your usual morning smoothie or watching a favorite show can bring comfort during this new transition and help manage stress. Talking with your partner, family, friends, or counselor is also extremely helpful for managing stress. It is extremely important to talk with a professional if at any point you feel unable to cope and need additional support.
Take time for yourself: This may seem a lot harder than it sounds but it may be the most important. Carving out a little mommy time is essential for reducing stress and boosting self-confidence. Something as simple as making sure you get a chance to shower daily, going for a walk in nature or just taking a moment to do something for yourself is so important for your mental health postpartum. Using essential oils and taking regular baths may also be great tools for unwinding. Spending 30 minutes outside daily with or without your baby will also help to uplift your mood as well as to balance hormones and cortisol levels. Whenever possible, try to take a few moments for yourself, whether it’s writing in a journal, napping, taking a warm bath, or having a friend or family member over.
Do not rush it: The doctor may suggest that you wait a minimum of 6 weeks before having sex for the first time but that doesn’t mean you have to. Communicate with your partner and explain your feelings. It’s common to have no desire for sex for the first 6 months postpartum, for some women, even longer. Start by figuring out ways you both can express your feelings for each other outside of sex. Spending some quality time together, massages or intimate touch, taking a bath or shower together, or just snuggling together on the couch are great ways to be intimate without having sex.
Get extra sleep: Sleep is essential in order to stay healthy. Try to nap while the baby naps. This gives your body a chance to recharge and heal. An adequate amount of sleep improves brain health and regulates moods. Sleeping when you can during the first few months is best, but once you find a rhythm with your baby, establishing a sleep routine is essential.
Nutrition: Many women try to focus on weight loss immediately postpartum. This may affect your milk supply as well as your energy levels. The focus should be on nourishment (for you and for baby) not on weight loss postpartum, the weight will naturally fall away.
It is important to continue using your prenatal or any multivitamins postpartum as well, especially while breastfeeding to ensure you are receiving adequate nutrients. Many women tend towards anemia postpartum - if you feel you may be low in iron, get tested and supplement as needed or add in more dark leafy greens, beets, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin seeds, lentils, and chickpeas.
Healthy routines to focus on: Prioritize time to enjoy your meals whenever possible, even if it requires some planning or getting up earlier to eat uninterrupted. This will not only give you valuable time to yourself, but it will also give you time to recharge and nourish yourself which might make you more open to connecting with your partner. Staying prepared with simple, blood sugar balancing snacks such as vegetables and hummus, fruit with almond butter, hard-boiled eggs, and nuts is a great way to stay nourished and squeeze in some food when you can. Overall, balancing your meals or snacks with fat, fiber, and protein is a great way to keep your hormones balanced.
Foods to focus on: Nourishing herbal infusions, bone broth, plenty of water, plenty of protein (pastured eggs, grass-fed beef, beans and lentils), fiber (flax, psyllium husk, fibrous vegetables), healthy fats (avocado, coconut milk/oil, grass-fed butter, nuts and seeds), and lots of fresh produce (dark leafy greens, berries, non-starchy vegetables), while ensuring you are having regular meals as often as possible.
Exercise: as soon as you’re feeling ready to - start exercising - even light walks can be helpful for increasing circulation, blood flow, and libido. Start with walks and hikes and move towards any other kinds of activity that feel supportive and not stressful. Focusing on strengthening your pelvic floor with specific exercises, pilates and yoga can be a great way to begin exercising postpartum.
Herbs For Boosting Libido (Breastfeeding Safe)
Maca (Lepidium meyenii)- A powerful adaptogenic tonic for increasing sexual libido. It even helps to increase libido in women who are on antidepressants. It works by increasing both sexual desire and decreasing sexual dysfunction.
Take try Maca in capsule form or powder form daily - it’s great in smoothies!
Red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) - Targets the female reproductive system and increases sexual drive.
Drink 1-3 cups of red raspberry tea or infusions daily.
Milky oat tops (Avena sativa) - Increases libido by relaxing the nervous system. It is also known to increase milk supply while breastfeeding. Best taken in tea or infusion form drink 1-3 cups per day - perfect blended and brewed with Red raspberry leaf.
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) - Adaptogenic herb which increases libido as well as milk production postpartum. Take 3-6g of Shatavari powder in almond milk or water in the morning or night after eating - this can also be taken in capsule form.
Ceylon Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) -Helps increase libido, particularly if you had gestational diabetes or have high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar has shown to negatively impact sexual function. Include 1-6 g of cinnamon daily, powder form which can be added to tea or foods.
Fennel Seeds (Foeniculum vulgare) & Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) Fennel contains phytoestrogens which help to increase libido. Like cinnamon, fenugreek can also aid in lowering blood sugar levels. Both can be enjoyed in meals.
Supplements for Boosting Libido
Probiotics + probiotic-rich foods- Probiotics and probiotic-rich foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso, support digestion and healthy bowel movements while supporting immunity and mood. A professional line of human strain probiotics that are utilized well by the body, or incorporating more fermented foods, will allow for the proliferation of healthy bacteria in the gut. You can start with 3 billion CFU, and gradually work your way up to 10 to prevent any digestive discomfort (constipation or loose stools).
Omega 3- Helps balance out your progesterone and estrogen levels, which will help you produce more nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is essential for dilation of blood vessels and which leads to bigger and better orgasms.
Take 1250 mg daily.
Zinc- This is another supplement which helps to boost your testosterone and prevents it from being turned into estrogen by blocking the enzyme responsible.
Take 30 mg daily with meals.
Magnesium- Aside from helping reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, magnesium allows for increased levels of free testosterone in the blood. This helps increase desire and sex drive.
Take this in powder or capsule form with a dosage of 200mg daily.
Vitamin A- Deficiency of vitamin A results in decreased production of sex hormones. Insufficient levels of testosterone and estrogen can cause ovaries to shrink. You can take 5,000 IU once a day, in capsule form. Though many find it most helpful to Increase Vit A-Rich foods: Cod liver oil, butter, eggs, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, dark leafy greens.
B Complex- Essential for supporting adrenal glands during times of stress and to increase blood circulation, hence providing more energy. B6 is required for the production of testosterone and B12 is a mood regulator, both functions are directly related to libido. Increase Vit B + b12-Rich foods: Eggs, salmon, seeds and nuts, dark leafy greens, avocado, legumes, and nutritional yeast. Speak to your holistic practitioner to see if a B-complex may be supportive for you.
It is best to consult with a holistic practitioner prior to taking or combining herbs & supplements.