We decided to write a series of posts about sex, postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, and all the emotions and questions that surround the topic. We’re starting with the sex drive, or lack thereof, because moms experiencing PPD wonder if their sex drive will ever come back, if it’s “just them,” and other important questions.
How Postpartum Depression Affects Sex Drive
First and foremost, you should know that lack of sleep and exhaustion can definitely affect your sex drive. Chances are that your doctor advised you to avoid sexual intercourse for six weeks, longer if you experienced complications during delivery. But that six week mark doesn’t magically mean you’ll want to have sex. In fact, it can feel like the furthest thing from your mind.
We asked our Warrior Mom Ambassadors about their experiences with PPD and sex drive. They were more than willing to share their experiences in hopes of helping other moms feel not-so-alone.
These moms speak to the lack of desire to have sex after their baby was born due to postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. Some of them shared how they felt “touched out” at the end of the day due to constant contact with their baby.
I lost ALL desire and drive during the time I had PPD. The loss of drive, combined with my depression and anxiety put a strain on my marriage. My husband felt that I was no longer attracted to or in love with him. I’m 4 years postpartum and only now do I feel my sex drive returning.
What sex drive? It was gone. Bye. Done. I didn’t want anyone to touch me at all and had to force myself to be affectionate with my baby. The idea of touching and being touched was just a big NO. -Graeme S.
I have this really specific memory of Valentine’s Day, when I would have been very nearly five months postpartum. My husband touched me, very sweetly, probably a hug, and he said something about how amazing it felt to be so close. (He’s mushy, and he says stuff like this all the time.) All I could think was “I feel nothing. Nothing. Nothing. CALL MY DOCTOR.” To clarify: my normal has always been a pretty high sex drive, so when it goes, I get SCARED. It’s like a limb suddenly going numb. You’d go to the doctor if you couldn’t feel your arm, right? That sent me to the doctor.
When I was at my worst, all I could do was cry, so sex wasn’t really even on the radar. In fact, I tried once during this time and just bawled my eyes out. My poor husband felt so bad.But my normal libido (what’s left after carrying for a baby!) returned once I started feeling better. -Stephanie
One mom shared that one of her symptoms with Postpartum OCD was sexual intrusive thoughts which affected not only her sex drive but her desire to discuss sex.
I had, among others, sexual intrusive thoughts. So, the thought of sex terrified me because “what if I had one of those intrusive thoughts during sex?” I told my husband if that happened I would never be able to live with myself. So, I avoided sex like the plague for a long time. My husband was very understanding but I didn’t even want to talk about sex, so it was a very difficult period for us. (anon) Not sure if this is what you were looking for?
A couple of moms mentioned the fear of having another baby and experiencing postpartum depression again as one reason for avoiding sex.
I lost interest in sex while I had PPD. I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding most of the last 4 years between my 2 kids. Now I am so terrified of having another baby (and PPD) that I still have very little interest.
They say that new mamas often have low sex drive. I think I have negative sex drive, like lower than zero. We thought it was my anti-depressants but I’ve been off them for months. My son is 19 months old and I think the truth of it is that I’m terrified of getting pregnant again. Because I’ve learned so much about hormones and mental health I’m not ever going to take birth control or try another IUD and am not yet comfortable with other contraceptives. There’s a long road ahead of us. But this too shall pass.
Other mamas recognized that the medication they took for their postpartum mood and anxiety disorder negatively affected their sex drive.
I had no desire to have sex. I was already hospitalized by my 6 week postpartum appointment. After the hospitalization I was so heavily medicated I don’t think I could’ve enjoyed it and definitely didn’t want it. My husband was kind and never demanded it. Slowly my meds were reduced enough to give me a spark of desire, but like now (on depression meds), hubby doesn’t want to even try unless he knows I’ll enjoy it and by enjoy it that means climaxing. How am I supposed to know?! I too wanted it then and now to feel that he still found me sexy. It took some time.
I have had zero desire since getting on the right meds after the birth of my son. It makes me feel like a bad wife but he doesn’t have the same interest either. I wish I didn’t have to choose between meds that make me feel better and having an intimate relationship with my husband.
My Postpartum Anxiety and OCD manifested partly as an obsession with getting back to “normal” in the bedroom as quickly as possible. After all they give you the green light at 6 weeks postpartum, and I was supposed to be an amazing mom AND wife, right? I wanted everything back to “normal” as quickly as possible. When it took longer to heal,and the sleep deprivation and exhaustion made intimacy difficult, I began to obsess over it, and I became extremely emotional about the topic.
When I began a course of medication that *finally* allowed me to feel like myself again and the anxiety and depression lifted? The sexual side effects compounded what was already hard and left me feeling hopeless and disconnected from my husband. I felt like I was choosing between being sane and having a sexually fulfilling marriage. I was fortunate to have a doctor who took my concerns about the sexual side effects seriously and helped me navigate med adjustments and alternative treatment options. But honestly, there were many days when I just wanted to give up. Give up on sex. Give up on trying different meds and treatments. It felt so unfair for it to be so hard.
I’ve been pregnant/nursing from age 29-39 (still nursing baby 5 and I’m thisclose to age 40). Yes there have been breaks where I have claimed my body back, and managed my PPD/PPA with medication, however the meds combined with breastfeeding give me zero sex drive. Like, don’t even touch me at all. You can give me a hug but don’t you dare think it will lead to something else. It’s almost cringe-worthy, which is so awful to write but completely accurate in how I feel.
Some other mamas talked about how their partner didn’t want to have sex.
Actually for me it was my husband who wanted to stay away. I felt like if we had sex, I knew he still thought I was attractive. With everything I was feeling and thinking, I needed “normal.” When he didn’t want to have sex, it made me feel even more lost and like a failure. He struggles with depression too, but we handle it differently, he thought it was best to give me space, and that just made me sink deeper
The thought of sex made me gag. I didn’t want to be touched in any way by anyone. Really – after being poked and prodded all over my body and the depression gripping me tightly before and after labor, I was left wanting nothing more than to curl up into a ball in the corner of my shower and not move or speak.
Compounding this, my husband was also falling into a depressive cycle and had little interest. We went months and months without sex and it really began to put a strain on our relationship because of the lost intimacy. It still is nothing like it was before we had our son and is an area we’re trying to work on.
And one mom talked about how she just wanted to have sex because she felt guilty about her postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.
I may be unusual in that I was actually MORE interested in sex when I had PPD/PPA, but probably not for the right reasons. I felt so guilty for what I was putting my family through. Sex was the one thing I could do to make my husband happy. And, it also helped me escape from my thoughts for a little while.
As you can see, a lot of different things affect a mom’s libido when she’s dealing with postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, or other mood and anxiety disorders. It can start out simply with the feeling of being touched out by the end of the day or be based on medication side effects—and then it can snowball into an inability to even broach the topic with your partner.
The good news is, as you saw a number of mamas mention, once they started to feel better, their sex drives returned. We’ll talk about that in more depth in an upcoming post. We just wanted to share that the lack of sexual desire is not uncommon when you’re suffering from postpartum depression. You aren’t alone in that feeling and you shouldn’t feel like it’s “your fault.”
Next week we’ll be continuing our discussion about sex and PPD by delving into sexual trauma. It’s certain to be an important piece. If you have something to add to the post, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, please feel free to share what you feel comfortable sharing regarding your sex drive as you fought PPD.