When you have a baby and are pouring all of your energy into caring for that new little life, you sometimes feel like you might never want to have sex again. Most of us expect that feeling right after childbirth and know that it will pass. But what if it doesn’t? Intimacy after kids is a whole new world, one which might require some exploring and readjusting. How do we navigate this new course? Is there anything we can do or are we destined for a life of not wanting sex? In search of answers to these and other questions from our readers, we turned to our partners at Your Wellness Center.
1) How does breastfeeding affect libido? Are there any options for exclusively breastfeeding mamas from a hormonal support standpoint?
If you’ve breastfed, you already know that breastfeeding is not helpful to a woman’s libido, nor is it ideal for working on restoring intimacy with your partner. Besides having a wee one literally attached to you for hours each day, breastfeeding, especially in the early days, can be painful. On top of all this, your hormones are still seriously out of whack. Judy Couch, FNP-C, hormone replacement specialist at Your Wellness Center, confirms this. Your hormone levels are shifting back to normal, Couch reminds us, and there are many changes occurring in the body.
While for many breastfeeding mamas, the best treatment is to give it time, Couch says that hormone therapy is a possibility if needed. First, you would have a complete hormone profile done to determine where there is a deficiency. Once the results came back, you would visit Your Wellness Center for a consultation. If deficiencies are found, a plan would be made specifically for you. According to Couch, progesterone and thyroid hormone are always fine to take. After all, progesterone is the “hormone of pregnancy,” so you would not be introducing anything harmful to the baby. You can also rest easy knowing Your Wellness Center only uses bio-identical hormones, not synthetic, so you’re giving your body the same hormone it manufactures naturally.
If testosterone treatment is needed to improve libido and help restore intimacy, a study in 2008 determined that testosterone did NOT cross over into breast milk, no matter how it was administered – vaginal cream, sublingual drops, or subcutaneous pellet implant.
2) How does actually giving birth to a baby impact libido? What happens hormonally after giving birth that may impact libido and what happens physically after giving birth that may impact libido? What can help with intimacy issues?
So many factors come into play when it comes to getting yourself back to normal (well, a new normal!) after giving birth. Besides the massive hormonal shifts occurring in your body, your environment and workload have changed drastically.
First, the hormones. According to Couch, in pregnancy, your estradiol (the hormone responsible for all things female) level is around 4300 pg/mL. After delivery, it shifts back down to normal, which is around 100 pg/mL. Progesterone also drops immediately after the baby is delivered. These are HUGE shifts happening in a matter of just hours, but can take 8-10 weeks to even out to pre-pregnancy levels. It’s no wonder so many women suffer from post-partum depression!
Besides the hormones, let’s look at other factors that could cause intimacy issues after you give birth:
1. Mom’s age – As we age, levels of our key hormones start to drop. Add in the roller coaster of pregnancy and childbirth and you might be left with quite a mess.
2. Pregnancy type – Was it a stressful pregnancy? Easy one? This will absolutely affect recovery time and time it takes for you to get, um, back in the saddle. 😉 Also, if you had infertility issues and needed hormones to get pregnant, you very well might need hormones to get back to normal.
3. Delivery – What kind of stress did your body experience? More difficult deliveries could result in lengthy recovery times.
4. Environment – Now that the baby has arrived, what’s going on in your life? Are you dealing with other children? Preparing to go back to work? – All of these things will affect how you feel about intimacy.
“Stress and the effects on us is the number one reason we die. We handle it very well outwardly, but that doesn’t mean our bodies aren’t responding,” Couch said.
Between the hormonal effects and the massive life changes babies bring, we need to be gentle with ourselves. Especially in this busy season of pregnancy and childbirth and babies, we must practice self-care. For some women, that will just require time to adjust. For others, it might require hormonal intervention. Either way, do what you can to make yourself content.
3) Incontinence is common after pregnancy and delivery… what can be done about weak bladder?
According to Couch, the first thing we need to determine is whether the problem is due to a structural issue or a hormonal issue. Typically, when women are newly post-partum, the problem is more structural. You also need to consider what kind of delivery you had. Did the doctor need to use forceps? Did you suffer damage?
“Just hormones may not be the answer,” Couch says. She also stresses, “Do NOT live with it. Too many potential treatment options exist.”
One of those treatments might be the O-Shot®. But what exactly IS the O-Shot? According to the Your Wellness Center website:
The O-Shot is a revolutionary method of using your own blood-derived growth factors to rejuvenate the vagina to help relieve women with urinary incontinence and/or sexual health issues. This technique is a non-surgical, drug-free procedure with almost instantaneous results for better, healthier sex. Benefits include increased sensitivity and desire, increased natural lubrication, tighter vaginal skin, 95% resolution of urinary incontinence, and stronger/more frequent orgasms. Plus, because we are taking and using your own blood, there are no allergic reactions and minimal-to-no discomfort.
The treatment is a 3-step process. First, the blood is spun down in a centrifuge so the PRP (platelet-rich plasma) can be collected. This is the best part of the blood and contains many growth factors. Interestingly, A few drops of calcium chloride solution are added, tricking the platelets into thinking the body is injured. This releases and activates 8 growth factors that normally help heal wounds. (CMB Mom Perspective: Genius! How cool is that?!) Numbing cream is applied to the vaginal area and the PRP is injected around the clitoris and into the vaginal tissue. Not to worry, the numbing cream is extremely effective, so you shouldn’t feel pain!
Some women have immediate improvement, while others need an additional shot 2-4 weeks later. We can stop worrying about “leaking” when doing jumping jacks (OK, who are we kidding? We would love to not worry when we sneeze!) AND improve sexual sensitivity? Sounds like a win all around!
Another potential treatment is diVa™, also known as laser vaginal therapy, made to treat vaginal dryness, vaginal laxity, urinary incontinence, decreased sensation/libido, painful intercourse, and episiotomy scar tissue. It includes an initial series of three treatments followed by a maintenance treatment every 8-12 months. Like with the O-Shot, numbing cream is used, so you should not feel pain.
Kaitlyn Hunter, FNP and MedSpa expert for Your Wellness Center says, “One of my patients returned for her second diVa treatment and told me one week after her first diVa treatment she didn’t have to wear a pad anymore because her urinary leakage was gone!”
4) Can men’s libido be impacted after becoming a parent? We are both just so tired all the time, that neither one of us have any motivation.
Well, from a hormone perspective, their libido isn’t affected, but becoming a parent is a huge life change for both men and women. Not only that, watching a wife go through so many changes – and being exhausted right along with her – can certainly affect a man’s libido.
When our husbands do come to us in search of intimacy, Couch urges us to remember a few things. “I think sometimes people forget there is more than one way to have sex.” You can restore intimacy in other ways. Experiment with things that can work. It’s important, so try not to just ignore it. For men, it’s a very strong, natural, normal urge and need. In our relationships, it does a lot.”
When it comes down to it, try to remember that this exhausting, wonderful phase of childbirth and newborn babies is fleeting. You may feel like you will never sleep through the night or use your breasts as anything other than milk machines, but trust us, you will. In the meantime, you have options to ensure you are feeling your best.