Get Low (Libido)
First, I owe y’all an apology. The interview with Mominatrix Kristen Chase went live while I was on vacation, and once I returned (given standard post-vacation craziness along with four days of no power thanks to Snomageddon ’10), I kind of forgot that anything posted and therefore COMPLETELY neglected to check in on the comments. Which I did this past week, only to find that many of you were asking — begging — for more info on the “women’s libido” supplement I casually referenced but did not name. The Advice Smackdown queue is also chock-full of crossover questions, as no less than SIX PEOPLE have emailed to ask for advice about low-to-non-existent postpartum libido.
You people are not having nearly enough sex, and we must change this.
Look, I don’t know the science, but I know that anecdotally, lots of women lose their sex drive after having a baby. Lots. Tons. A whole bunch of us. And yes, I am including myself here.
It was worse after my first baby. Body issues galore. My stomach, my stretch marks, my surgery scar. What if my boobs leak? What if the baby cries? Who am I? Who are we, anymore? We’re someone’s parents, OH MY GOD. We should be planning for college and filing our wills, not getting naked and sweaty. Then combine all that mental stuff with postpartum sleep deprivation — ugh. Not in the mood. Not tonight, and not tomorrow night either. Eventually, it got better, but I won’t lie: it took AWHILE, and there were many nights of crappy conversations as a couple about what was “wrong” and the mutual frustration and blah dee blee blah.
Second baby: Better. At first. The postpartum body issues didn’t bug me nearly as much, nor did the breastfeeding weirdness. After struggling mightily to nurse my first baby, I was DAMN PROUD of my new-and-improved boobs and their fantastic functionality the second time around. The belly was…well, it was what it was. I’d been extremely frisky during the pregnancy (HI. I LIKE OVERSHARING.) and actually had a hard time waiting the full six weeks post-c-section.
And then I weaned the baby. Aaaaand THAT’S when the hormones crashed through the floor and took my libido with them.
And it sucked. Blew. Insert slang for sex act of your choice. Those pesky body issues started bothering me again — I was fat and squishy and my boobs were too small. I didn’t really want to be touched. My poor husband tried so hard to reassure me — there was one night that started with a gift of some very pretty lingerie and ended with me in tears because of thong-related muffin top. And sometimes I was just tired. So tired. Really? Tonight? Okay, let me just get in bed and wait can you go let the dog back in I’m going to brush my hair see you in a minute zzzzzzzzz.
I would be flat-out lying to you guys if I tried putting on my Expert Hat and listing Five Tips For Improving Your Postpartum Sex Life. (At least one of them would probably include the hideous-sounding “have sex even if you don’t feel like it,” if I were being honest.) So instead I will put on my Commiserating Hat. My Understanding Hat. My Have Another Glass Of Wine While We Discuss Vibrators Hat. The hormones, man. Double-yoo-tee-eff.
If you are going through a rough patch, finding yourself crying in front of a frustrated partner and then Googling “AM I FRIGID” by yourself late at night, let me assure you: it will get better. If you ever once enjoyed sex, you will enjoy it again. Your body wants to enjoy it again. Your brain does too. The two just need to get back in sync with your cycles and body image and all the weird stuff that breastfeeding and birth does to you. You will get there. I once again want to heartily recommend Kristen’s book — along with her tips for sex while breastfeeding and how to analyze exactly what’s going “wrong.” Is it hormones? Your birth control? Lack of sleep or romance or a supportive and lined bra? Do you need some battery-powered assistance to keep things shorter and more satisfying? Better lube? (The book even lists female-friendly websites for such handy purchases! How thoughtful.) Do you need to talk to your doctor about pain down there? Or maybe…you’re just bored, and if things were a bit more interesting, you might be more easily talked into delaying your bedtime by a half hour or so. (Seriously: just because we’re the ones who had the baby doesn’t mean we should also shoulder all the blame for a so-so sex life. AMIRITE, LADIES?)
And oh! Right. That “women’s libido” supplement thing, that I have now teased you with for two overly long columns. Like one commenter already guessed: You cannot take it while pregnant or breastfeeding. Sorry. But if you’re not nursing, here’s the deal: It’s an herbal combination thingie readily available at Whole Foods and most vitamin/supplement places. I’ve taken two variations from two different brands: Gaia Herbs Women’s Libido and Hot Plants for Her. They’re both a wacky combination of roots and leaves and bark extracts. (The Gaia formula includes my favorite name for anything ever: “Horny Goat Weed.” I have no idea if the goats are horny or horned. Or both. I kind of don’t want to know.) You take a few capsules a few times a day and within 24 to 48 hours you have crazy embarrassing dreams about nekkid celebrities. And then about nekkid husbands. They don’t work like antidepressants, though: The effect wears off after awhile no matter how long you keep taking them. I would usually stop taking them after the…ahem…desired effect was achieved, then start up again after a day or two. Sooner or later, after a few good mutually fun and satisfying romps, the bottles end up in the back of the medicine cabinet. (This is where we insert our big legal disclaimer: Amy is not a health care professional. Ask your health care provider about these supplements before taking them.)
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