You are not Broken: Sex and Libido in Pregnancy and Postpartum with Dr. Kelly CaspersonMay 25, 2022
Today’s podcast starts and ends with a BANG! It’s a topic that implicates neuroscience, hormones, human relationships, the physical body, the societal body - and yet sex and libido in pregnancy and postpartum is so rarely spoken about and so many couples struggle with in silence. But Dr. Kelly Casperson is here to the rescue! Originally a urologist with advanced training in pelvic medicine and surgery, Dr. Casperson shifted her practice toward sexual health and intimacy when she discovered so many women struggled with it, especially postpartum, and felt lost and helpless. Data shows that 70% of people struggle with sex after having a baby. But there IS something you can do about it, starting with listening to this extremely illuminating and interesting episode. You are not broken.
Open and Honest Conversation
Perhaps the most seemingly simple, important and yet rarely exercised step toward a better sex life at any stage of life - and even more importantly during the pregnancy and postpartum time of great changes and transition - is open and honest conversation. Taking pause to communicate and evaluate our expectations can go a long way towards a deeper understanding and thus deeper connection, both emotionally and physically. As your roles as humans transform, our perceptions and needs may change, and communicating this clearly to your partner can go a long way. There is a lot to process during this time of transition. False beliefs about a “lack of desire” or frustration and stress can be layered, and muddle the reality of the situation, leading toward false assumptions. Talk about your needs and feelings, and truly listen to theirs.
Hormonal & Physical Changes
On top of emotional and psychological change, it is also a time of great physical changes for the birthing partner. The expectation to “return to normal” after six weeks postpartum is literally quite unrealistic, as certain hormones take a few months to return to their pre-pregnancy levels. Prolactin, a hormone released by the pituitary gland that supports breast milk production, can cause vaginal dryness, making arousal and orgasm more challenging. Using lubrication can help with these challenges and make sex more enjoyable. Estrogen levels also drop significantly, almost creating a temporary, menopause-like physical experience. Vaginal estrogen cream can be helpful to relieve dryness and soreness. A prescription is required, but it is completely safe to take during breastfeeding, so ask your health provider if you think you may benefit!
The Orgasm Gap
A study was done compiling ten years of data examining the frequency of orgasms among many different partnerships. Among its many findings, the report showed that heterosexual men experience the most frequent orgasms from sex with a partner - about 97% of the time - while heterosexual women experience them about 60% of the time under the same circumstances. While arguably sex isn’t always about orgasm, the dopamine hit that pleasure provides is an important element that causes us to seek it out, and if the dopamine is not present we can naturally assume one is less likely to do so. The same - or even stronger dopamine release - can just as well be had from eating ice cream on the couch and watching Netflix, which arguably a lot of us tend to choose over sex at one point or another. This doesn’t mean you are broken. Pleasure comes in many different forms. If you want to improve upon or restore a previous type of libido or sex drive, try to communicate clearly with your partner about what brings you higher levels of pleasure and what kind of intimacy you are seeking. Great sex isn't an accident, especially in long-term monogamous relationships. Just like most things, it takes practice.
Mind over Matter
In the complex, multidimensional experience of sexuality and libido, mindfulness can also play a part. Neurologically speaking, an orgasm cannot be achieved when the frontal lobe is activated, the part of our brain responsible for cognitive functions such as memory and problem solving. Often overwhelmed as new parents, the timing of sex can play a big role in its enjoyment. When sex is competing with sleep at the end of a long day - sleep will inevitably often win! Try to find times outside of bedtime for intimacy, scheduling it in if necessary.
There are so many factors at play within the changes of new parenthood, take the guesswork out of the equation. If you’re seeking more or a different kind of intimacy, discuss it with your partner as openly and honestly as you can and listen to today’s podcast which is filled with countless golden pearls of (evidence based) wisdom. We’re also sharing a few of our favourite resources on the topic below. And remember - you are not broken.
- Rekindling Desire by Barry & Emily McCarthy
- Magnificent Sex: Lessons from Extraordinary Lovers by Peggy Kleinplatz
- Better Sex through Mindfulness by Lori A. Brotto
Taking you from anxious and overwhelmed to confident during your childbirth experience:
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