Updated: Jun 27
1 in 4 women in her childbearing season of life will experience a decreased desire for sexual interaction with her partner. This stat goes up to 60% + for moms during the whole first year postpartum. What's more, because of societal taboo and lack of education, this subject is rarely discussed in either a clinical or social setting to provide encouragement or natural solutions for women looking for more support. We are on a mission to change that!
As midwives, we see postpartum clients in our office for follow-up appointments during the entire first year after birth. It's a safe space for moms to talk about all kinds of adjustments during this tender time, but we are especially adamant to process her sex life with her.
We'll ask if she has resumed intercourse yet, does it feel okay physically and emotionally, is she able to openly communicate her needs to her partner, are they enjoying sex as much as they want to, how does she feel hormonally and mental health-wise, does she want help with any of the logistics of enjoying sex?
Like all things womanhood, libido can be a complicated puzzle that is dynamic in each season of life and bearing with all the things that fluctuate over time for women. Today we will identify the 3 most important aspects of increasing libido for moms:
Libido Killers: identify what is keeping your libido low
Natural Libido Boosters: learn the tools for increasing libido
Libido Long Haul: make a plan for long-term libido health
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There's a difference between normal life circumstances happening to your libido (breastfeeding, for example), and being in a libido rut (no return of sexual desire after a couple years postpartum). Obviously there are biological factors in the former that are protective to you reproduction abilities- your body keeping desire low so that you do not end up with another baby nutritionally dependent on you. whew! Thanks, mom bod.
Then there are the issues with the latter, most commonly influenced by stress, relationship changes, and hormone or other health issues. You are the only one who can really know which category your low libido fits into, so be gracious and honest with yourself as you compare some of these ideas to your own experience.
Pregnancy can really disrupt hormonal balance for women. Many moms identify this as a turning point from a once-healthy to now-lackluster libido. Some women experience their sex drive as unchanging while others have an increase, and no two pregnancies are identical even for the same mother. Most women however, find that the hormones meant to transform her into the sole care giver and nurturer of her arriving baby take the spotlight off her satisfaction in the bedroom.
Postpartum comes with so many ups and down and transitions. New moms are balancing many changes and demands to her sleep, infant care, relationships, self-care and time management. Her body is different, and still recovering in many ways the entire first year after the birth. It's not uncommon for there to be some hormone (and mood) fluctuations with this normal amount of stress.
Breastfeeding is a physically demanding experience for most new moms, but the lactation hormones present to make milk, naturally suppress the reproductive hormones that make moms interested in intimacy.
Hormonal birth control, even the progesterone-only pill that is safe for breastfeeding, can influence hormone levels as well, commonly causing mood swings and decreasing libido.
Physical stress comes in the form of recovering from childbirth, under-eating or overexercising, not getting enough restorative nighttime sleep or suffering with inflammatory issues. Many moms report that simply experiencing a normal day of parenting and family life leave her utterly exhausted and crawling into bed as soon as she gets the kids down.
Emotional stress can be exacerbated by fluctuating hormones causing mood swings, difficulties inside her romantic relationship, or simply feeling overwhelmed with the responsibilities of motherhood. Mental health disorders are responsible for a lot of increased emotional stress for moms, including depression and anxiety.
The fear of becoming pregnant before she is ready again can be a huge stressor for women, making it almost impossible to enjoy sex. Alternatively, the stress of trying to conceive at the desired time and not getting pregnant right away can contribute to difficulties with libido as well.
Dryness is a common complaint from new moms who are breastfeeding, but can be a factor for women with hormone imbalances even after she has weaned her child.
Vaginal pain impacts up to half of all women who have given birth, whether from poor healing of a laceration at birth, pelvic floor dysfunction, vaginal dryness or unresolved trauma.
Lack of Intimacy:
Time, or lack of it, is one of the biggest complaints moms share for why their relationship health and intimacy is not what it once was. Huge shifts in the family dynamic leave less time for romance, spontaneity and intentionality with one another. Being at the mercy of children's bedtimes, or shared sleeping spaces can make enjoying sex even harder.
Emotional capacities shift after a couple become parents together. Women often report that they have a stronger desire for an emotional connection over a physical connection. She wants to verbally process, cuddle or share in some other kind of quality heart-centered time before she feels available for sexual intimacy.
Stress becomes another factor in lack of intimacy if the couple has not been able to adapt their relationship to parenting together well. The absence of teamwork, healthy communication and sharing in the responsibilities of family life can create tension and animosity, not exactly stirring up all the sexy feelings with it.
Natural Libido Boosters
While the *real answer* to some of the libido killers mentioned above is to identify the root of the issue and get some targeted support on board (in the form of an expert practitioner, asking for more help or overhauling some of your priorities to include better self-care), many moms want and need some quick wins. Here are some ideas to naturally boost libido, even while you work on the harder /deeper issues of your low libido (more on that in the next section).
The more you have it, the more you want it. It's just one of those freaky laws of nature. Having sex begets more sex- so when in doubt, push yourself toward physical intimacy. Chances are, once you overcome the barriers of finally getting to it, you'll remember pretty quickly that you like it too.
It's a fact, women who wear socks to bed are more likely to orgasm during sex, orgasm more quickly, or have multiple orgasms. It's not super sexy being completely naked except for your socks, but this may be a small price to pay for this research-backed libido hack. Some of us can use all the help we can get!
When the libido issue is suspicious of being tied to hormonal imbalances (see the info HERE to know if this is you), seed cycling can be a super simple, gentle and effective food-as-medicine approach to hormone balancing. Get your free Seed Cycling E-book to learn all about it.
The act of sitting over steam (with or without herbs) for just 10 minutes before sexual contact can increase heat and blood flow to the pelvic tissues, making arousal and orgasm more readily available. Listen to THIS to find out more about how to make this apart of your pre-sex routine.
A favorite book of ours, Lucy Libido, shares on all the ways essential oils can be used for maximizing enjoyment in between the sheets.
Maca has a long history of use in Peru, and is a highly nutritious food source rich in amino acids, iodine, iron, magnesium. Maca is known for improving mental and physical stamina, increasing both sexual desire and performance. It is also reputed to increase fertility, and ease menstrual and menopausal complaints. This herb is not recommended for pregnancy but can be used in breastfeeding, check in with your primary care provider on it being a right fit for your postpartum.
Damiana is another ancient libido remedy, with use dating back 300 years from the Aztecs. It enables progestin receptor binding activity (which allows you to use the progesterone your body produces), and known for its antidepressant and nervous system stimulant qualities. This herb is not recommended for pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Ginkgo is proven to improve sexual response in the body, or increase ability to orgasm. It is a libido enhancer for both for men and women but has better outcomes for women. One of the mechanisms of ginkgo is to improve circulation, bringing blood flow to reproductive organs for easier arousal. This herb is not recommended for pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Find our very own Libido Enhancing Tea Recipe here, to get your hands on a totally natural, and effective love potion.
Libido Long Haul
Piggybacking off the disclaimer in the last section, the real lasting change you are going to see with stubborn libido is going to be creating a plan that optimizes your overall physical, emotional and relational health. Gather some of the helpful tips below for increasing libido and female body literacy. You may enjoy employing our downloadable habit tracker HERE for some accountability in this area.
Open up with your partner about what changes you have noticed with your sexual desire. Let him know that it's not his fault (this goes a long, long way), but be honest about the things he can do to help. Make a plan together to adjust the types of intimacy and frequency. Set small goals together for alone time, date nights, and especially a benchmark discussion to come back together again and reassess how each of you are doing with the changes.
Keep a record of times in the day, the week, the month when you notice your desire increasing. You may note during stressful times that you have to be pro-active, or that you can make the most of your libido increasing around ovulation. Track libido fluctuations with some of the things you try, whether that be herbs or diet changes or new sleep strategies etc. It will be important to look back on what is working and what is not, since libido can fluctuate so much for each individual woman.
You are worth taking care of! Libido can be a marker of overall health. Low libido that is continually out of sync outside a biologically demanding time (like pregnancy or breastfeeding) should be a sign that you need to take a deeper dive into your health.
Make a plan to gradually become more disciplined in sleep quality, stress management, optimal nutrition, decreasing inflammation and hormone balancing. Set a goal to make appointments with a naturopath, pelvic floor therapist, hormone specialist or counselor. Don't be afraid to set a high standard for what it would look like for you to be THRIVING in your body and work towards that. A healthy and well-cared for a mama is going to set herself up for a healthy and balanced libido!
After producing over 100 episodes on our women's health podcast, At Home with Kelly + Tiffany, we have collected 8 episodes on libido issues alone. Take a listen for some additional encouragement:
And don't forget to grab our herbal love potion. You don't have to accept low libido as a new normal part of your mama life! It's a gentle yet powerful midwife-approved recipe that can help support your libido holistically. Plus, it's delicious!
Although we are licensed midwives by profession, we are not YOUR midwives. All content and information on this website is for informational and educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice. Although we strive to provide accurate general information, the information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice. For more information, click here.