Low Libido: Just “Life” or Something Worrisome?

This piece originally ran in the now defunct (I think) Pregnancy magazine in 2010. Watching that cute video of the Nulls inspired me to dig this out this little diddy for the folks who requested the blog talk more about sexual health and lady parts. 

When my husband and I found out we were unexpectedly pregnant with our fourth (!) child, we walked around for months like two shellshocked zombies, completely dumbfounded that condoms, our tried-and-true method of birth control for 11 years, had failed us.

Sex after that news was out of the question. “I love you honey,” my husband said, “but frankly, I’m too tired!” Between my 24-hour morning sickness, chronic anemia, and my husband running around like a headless chicken to pick up my slack, neither one of us felt really sexy. We were still very much in love and committed to our relationship, and strangely, the unexpected pregnancy and unease about the future deepened our bond. We were in this together, come hell or high water.

But an invisible pressure kept needling me. Aren’t we supposed to want to have sex? If not, are we on a runaway go-cart to Splitsville? Magazines, experts on television talk shows, and even some of our friends put on the pressure regarding how much we all should be doing it, and if you don’t fit the mold then surely something must be wrong with you, right?

Not necessarily, says Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D, an expert in prenatal mood and anxiety disorders, and the founder of Postpartum Assistance for Mothers. “It’s normal to see a drop in sex drive for both the male and female during pregnancy. For women, the obvious culprit for lack of sex drive is the hormonal changes and fatigue associated with the first and last trimesters. But men can also have reservations on a psychological level, perhaps because of fear of hurting the baby or dismay of his partner’s ever-changing body. But if both parties are fine with taking a break, then they shouldn’t give in to external pressure. “We get into problems when we let others decide what’s normal and what’s not,” she says.

That’s because sex is only one expression of intimacy. Talking, holding hands and cuddling can be just as much a reinforcement of love and commitment, says Dr. Bennett. “Opening up one’s soul, heart and values–this is what brings couples close.”

When you should be worried

Can a temporary drought in intercourse be a harbinger for something worse? Could be, says Dr. Bennett, if intimacy is drifting and closeness is lacking. She recommends checking in with your partner every now and again to see if the current situation is still okay with them, otherwise, a rift can gradually attrit into a canyon if you allow too much time to pass. Stay close in ways that make you both feel comfortable, like giving one another massages, taking walks, even sharing a dessert during a particularly ravaging midnight craving.

Ryan had sex with wife twice a week. Now, sex is uncomfortable and he’s lucky if it’s twice a month and is worried if the frequency pre-baby will return. I can understand that. She’s seven months and getting big.” He has to be the initiator and she’s okay with following through but at the same time, she’s okay with no sex. He kisses her on the cheek, slaps her on the bottom. She has warm feelings for him becoming a dad and starting a family, and both believe things will eventually go back to normal. “I can imagine there will probably be a little delay there because of repairs, but we’re pretty much on the same page.

Getting Back on the Saddle

Now that the baby is born, my husband and I face new challenges of how to manage the midnight feedings and all the other demands that our three older children put upon us. We’re slowly trying to find our way back to each other and connect in a more physical way, but it’s like rooting around for a flashlight in a dark room. Which is typical, says Yvonne Fulbright, Ph.D, sexologist, relationship expert and author of Your Orgasmic Pregnancy: Little Sex Secrets Every Hot Mama Should Know. Fulbright believes that a long drought without sex could make reconnecting sexually post-childbirth harder. “Even if sex doesn’t feel sexy at this time, couples should map out the game plan [during the pregnancy] for post-birth action,” she says. “They should talk about their hopes and concerns for being sexually intimate again.”

Deciding when the right time need not have to happen hastily. Tina Tessina, Ph.D, a licensed psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, recommends starting slowly–soon as you’re over the all-night feedings, and have a little time to rest, give the baby an early bedtime, and make time to connect. Do little chores together, have dinner with each other, and then perhaps cuddle on the couch or in bed while watching your favorite TV show. “Then turn off the TV, and turn to each other. Don’t worry about being tired or not particularly excited. Just seek to express your caring for each other, and don’t make a big athletic exercise of it,” she says.

Okay BB&W, now dish! Any couples here ever struggle with keeping the love lights on?

The Man Myth