How Pregnancy and Childbirth Affect Women’s Sexual Desire
Pregnancy and childbirth are two of the most amazing things that a woman can experience in her life. However, these life events can also significantly impact a woman’s experience of sex and sexual desire. Unfortunately, the adverse effects of pregnancy and childbirth on women’s sexual experiences are often underestimated. Women are often expected to resume sexual activity soon after giving birth. This can lead to pressure, anxiety and guilt, making it more difficult for them to return to sexuality on their own terms.
Some ways pregnancy and childbirth affect women’s sexuality:
1. One of the physical effects of childbirth on women’s sexuality and libido is the trauma their body experience during pregnancy and delivery. Women’s bodies go through so many changes during pregnancy. Many experience significant levels of distress due to these changes. Even though some women’s body image returns to where it was, sometime after birth, many experience long-lasting body image problems.
2. Besides body image, many women experience tears, swelling, and discomfort lasting for weeks or months after delivery. These physical changes can make sexual intercourse uncomfortable or even painful. In some cases, women may experience decreased libido or difficulty achieving orgasm as a result.
3. Breastfeeding can also have a negative impact on a woman’s sexuality and libido. When a woman is breastfeeding, her body produces high levels of the hormone prolactin. This hormone is responsible for milk production. Prolactin can suppress estrogen production, which can lead to vaginal dryness and a decrease in sexual desire.
4. Another underestimated factor impacting women’s libido after childbirth is being “touched out“. Many women use this term to describe feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by physical touch. This feeling can result from caring for their children, especially newborns, who may constantly need physical contact and attention throughout the day. So, by the end of the day, women may feel like they have no energy or desire left for intimate sexual contact with their partner.
5. Another factor impacting women’s libido after childbirth is the pressure to resume sexual activity. Unfortunately, any healthcare professionals tell women they are ready to resume sex at 6-8 weeks after giving birth. However, this timeline may not be suitable for every woman. This time frame does not include women’s unique experiences after childbirth and if they feel emotionally ready to engage in sex. Women who have experienced physical trauma during childbirth or are experiencing postpartum depression may need a lot more time to heal emotionally and physically before even thinking about sex.
6. Last but not least is the negative impact of partner pressure on women’s sexual desire after childbirth. Sometimes partners underestimate the impact of pregnancy and childbirth on women’s bodies and minds. While feeling isolated and neglected, partners might pressure their female partners to have sex soon after birth. Unfortunately, this pressure can further strain the relationship and lead to resentment and conflict, further exacerbating the problem.
We need to respect and honour the negative effects of pregnancy and childbirth on women. They should not feel pressured to resume sexual activity before they are ready. Partners need to be patient and compassionate with women’s recovery after childbirth and avoid pressuring them to engage in sex before they are ready.
It is important to recognise that sexual health is an essential part of overall health and well-being. Women should not be ashamed to seek help or advice on how to navigate this sensitive time better. A sex therapist can provide guidance on managing physical and emotional changes and help women and their partners communicate more effectively during this transitional time in relationships.
I wish you all the best.