If you’re feeling like your libido isn’t off-the-charts high lately—or it’s practically nonexistent—first, know that you’re not alone. Moms are having less sex during the pandemic, burdened as they are by the unique stress that comes with a global catastrophe. A lower sex drive is also common during pregnancy and can persist even after giving birth.
No matter where you’re at in life, how amazing your relationship is or how much you’ve enjoyed sex in the past, you may notice a notable—and unwelcome–decline in your libido.
And while having a lower libido is just fine if that’s all good by you, if you’re looking for a root cause, here are a few possible reasons why your libido may be lower than it used to be.
Significant life changes and stressors
Significant life changes affect every area of your life, including your libido. Whether it’s positive, like a new job, or negative, like the end of a relationship, a big life change can increase stress and lower your sex drive. When your mind is occupied with this adjustment, it can be difficult to keep your thoughts in one place–and if there’s one thing arousal requires, it’s focus. If these new stressors lead to an uptick in drinking or recreational drugs, your libido may be further negatively affected.
One of the biggest life changes that can dampen your sex drive is new motherhood. New moms often discover an unprecedented level of exhaustion. When fatigue increases, activities that were enjoyed in the past may no longer seem as pleasurable. Unsurprisingly, sex is no exception.
Another factor that new mothers may encounter is dyspareunia, or painful sex. About 50% of women report painful sex after giving birth, whether the birth was natural or via C-section. After months of pressure on the pelvic floor, these muscles may still feel strained after giving birth, causing pain during penetrative sex.
Furthermore, changing hormones play an important role in libido. “During pregnancy recovery and breastfeeding, your body is producing more hormones like prolactin and testosterone, which contribute to decreased sexual desire and overall libido,” says Tovah Haim, founder of Bodily, an online destination that offers education on women’s health. Your body may also produce less estrogen after giving birth, which can result in uncomfortable vaginal dryness.
Low self-esteem or bodily changes
When someone feels attractive and confident, they’re more likely to pursue and enjoy sex. Conversely, if someone has low self-esteem, they’re more likely to feel self-judgmental, or “in their heads” during sex—a recipe for an unpleasant experience. They may start making up excuses to postpone sex, or avoiding it altogether.
When our bodies undergo drastic changes, it can be hard to find them attractive, especially if we’re comparing them to what they used to look like. This is another reason why being a new mom can lead to lowered libido. Parts of our body may stretch, sag and hang differently than they did before giving birth. Although all of these changes are a testament to a mom’s strength, it can still be hard to lovingly look at them in the mirror. It’s natural to worry, then, that someone else might find us less attractive, too.
Most medications have side effects, and decreased libido is a fairly common one. This is caused either by the medication creating unpleasant physical symptoms, like vaginal dryness, or by affecting hormones that regulate sexual desire. The most frequent offenders of libido-lowering medications are antidepressants, such as SSRIs or SNRIs. Others include heart medications, blood pressure medications, hormonal birth control and even antihistamines.
Chronic medical conditions
When someone is dealing with a chronic medical condition, it’s no wonder that sexual desire can fall flat. A condition that causes pain, discomfort or distress may sever someone’s connection to their body and desire for physical pleasure. Medications needed for treatment can also impact libido, as mentioned above.
Apart from physical conditions, mental health conditions can also impact libido. People dealing with depression often stop enjoying things they used to find pleasurable—including sex. Anxiety can come with so many mental twists and turns that it’s difficult to focus during intimate moments. Other mental illnesses may eat away at someone’s confidence or sense of self, making them feel undesirable or even unlovable.
How to boost libido
Fortunately, decreased libido doesn’t have to mean an end to sex forever. There are several ways to work towards revving up your sex drive. If you want to lift your libido, give these a try:
Talk with your partner
Communicate your feelings, no matter how complicated they may seem. Assure your partner that your decrease in libido has nothing to do with them, but that you’ll need their support as you navigate intimacy again.
This is especially important for new moms: “Even though you may have been ‘cleared for sex,’ know that your body has the final say and you'll know when the time is right,” says Haim. “If you are feeling guilty for not feeling ready, try talking to your partner about the physiological aspects of the postpartum journey, and how it affects your sexual desire and overall libido.”
Together, you can brainstorm ways to feel intimate that don’t necessarily involve sex. Maybe these include showering together, giving each other massages, cuddling more frequently, or even just holding hands or showing affection in public. Eventually, you may feel encouraged to introduce new toys, positions, or experiences to your sex life.
Speak with your doctor
Communicate that you’re experiencing a lower-than-normal libido and that it’s negatively impacting your life and/or relationship. It may feel like an embarrassing conversation, but it’s definitely nothing that your doctor hasn’t heard before. They may prescribe bloodwork to rule out medical causes and go over your current medications to make sure they’re not the culprit.
They can even prescribe medication to help, such as Addyi, an FDA-approved “little pink pill” that increases sexual desire. If you think that your mental health may be behind your decreased sex drive, get the help of a therapist, psychiatrist or couple’s counselor.
Nourish your body
It’s never a bad idea to give yourself some extra TLC. As a busy mom, you may not have time for pedicures and bubble baths, but think about what you can do to benefit your health.
Maybe you can squeeze in one workout a week, add some green veggies to your lunches, take a multivitamin before bed or meditate for five minutes a day.
No matter how you show up for yourself, it will help pave the way to better health, less stress, and an increased sense of confidence–all of which could help revitalize your sex drive.