Libido During Pregnancy and Nursing

Believe me, If pregnancy has your libido doing wacky things, you’re not alone

Yeah — it isn’t always like this.

always had a crazy-high libido, so when I had my  pregnancy, I was surprised when my desire quadrupled! I was thinking about sex for a VERY large portion of my day, and my husband and I were having sex every chance we could in-between busy work schedules.

In the second month of pregnancy, I began bleeding heavily, and — thinking it was a miscarriage — we rushed to my doctor who diagnosed me with a large blood clot behind my new forming placenta and my uterine wall. This can be very serious, and often results in the loss of the pregnancy.

I was put on bed rest, pelvic rest (which I was told meant no intercourse and no tampons, basically nothing inserted inside the vagina for any reason, and no lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk), and given grief brochures to prepare me for the worst.

Pelvic rest

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explains that studies have not proven that refraining from sex actually works to help prevent pregnancy complications or preterm labor and premature birth. However, they still recommend pelvic rest in certain cases.

Iwas stuck in bed, sad and bored. I was told no intercourse, so I just masturbated all day, every day, while binge-watching Netflix and eating chocolate-covered Oreos.

I masturbated for my burning desire. I masturbated as a boredom buster. I masturbated as a way to deal with the stress of possibly, and very likely, losing my baby.

I finally passed the clot successfully, and without any harm to the fetus. I was allowed off bed rest, but by that point I was experiencing something known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which is basically extremely horrible morning sickness, which lasts all day, every day, and makes you feel like you have the most horrendous food poisoning that never goes away.

This is what supposedly killed Charlotte Brontë while she was a mere four months pregnant.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is one reason why some wanted pregnancies get terminated later in the pregnancy, and one reason why we need consistent affordable access to safe, legal abortion. If you find a medication which works (or don’t mind being hooked up to an IV the entire pregnancy for hydration) and you choose to follow through with the pregnancy-torture that is this disease (something which I did and don’t regret in spite of the hell on my body), then great! I’m right there with you. But having been through these debilitating symptoms myself, it’s clear to me why a woman must be allowed to choose to end the pregnancy if she cannot handle them.

The only medication which worked made me extremely drowsy. Once again, I was basically stuck in bed, with nothing to do except slowly sip ice water to keep hydrated, sleep and masturbate. Because somehow, even though I couldn’t stomach any food or drinks, and even standing up made me vomit, my pregnancy hormones were still making me absolutely insatiable to the point where I was naked in bed and giving myself orgasms hourly!

This trend lasted throughout the pregnancy. I had unstable blood pressure, which progressed to preeclampsia (a serious disorder during pregnancy which can be dangerous to both the mother and the baby) in my last trimester, and so was put on hospital bed rest, and the first thought which came to my mind while quickly packing for my month-long hospital stay, was whether I could pack my vibrator! I didn’t, but I definitely thought long and hard about it. And I did still sneak in self-love sessions at night when I knew I wouldn’t be disturbed by any nurses!

This extremely high libido lasted through the rest of my pregnancy, before slowly returning back to its normal, still-high-but-not-that-high pre-pregnancy levels by the time I was about two months postpartum.

We conceived our second baby (by accident, while using an IUD) when our first baby had just turned a year old. Again, I had some bleeding, and was put on pelvic rest, which my new doctor breaks down for me to say no intercourse OR ORGASM as orgasms actually cause uterine contractions, and if there are certain complications, or the cervix isn’t fully sealed shut for whatever reason, it increases your odds of miscarrying. Hmm, so that meant no masturbating? Yes, it was confirmed, that being put on “pelvic rest” meant no sexual activity of any kind! SAY WHAT?!?

My second pregnancy was miserable. I was more tired. More cranky. Horny, without any safe form of release. By the time I was cleared for sexual activity (6 weeks postpartum), I was well into breastfeeding, something I hadn’t done with my first baby, and it absolutely killed my sex drive. I had never in my life had such a complete and utter lack of interest in sex, not just with my husband, but even with myself. Of course, being worried about my lack of desire, I immediately made an appointment with my OB-GYN.

What follows is an interesting human biology lesson:

Women need certain levels of hormones for sex (at least pleasurable sex) and libido.

  1. ESTROGEN: Breastfeeding decreases a woman’s estrogen level. Estrogen is responsible for maintaining moistness and flexibility of her vaginal lining, so if levels drop, which they do after birth and during breastfeeding, the lining becomes dry and can cause intercourse to be quite uncomfortable. Lube would be absolutely necessary. But low estrogen can also cause a stiff, less flexible vagina, which could be painful even with ample lubrication.
  2. TESTOSTERONE: Levels drop substantially while nursing. Now while this is known as the “male” hormone, women need testosterone, too, and it is a key factor in her ability to orgasm as well as having any desire in the first place.
  3. PROLACTIN: Your body begins making a hormone specifically for breastfeeding, called prolactin. This hormone is what instructs your body to produce milk. Prolactin also causes a sharp decrease in estrogen and testosterone, which we already established has a strong effect on libido.

In addition to the hormonal issues involved with breastfeeding and low libido, there is another issue at hand as well. Breastfeeding involves lots of skin on skin contact with your baby, and releases a ton of oxytocin (also know as the ‘love hormone’), which biologically makes sense. Nature wants you to bond with and love this new infant. But it has a detrimental effect on libido. See, once people meet their max threshold of oxytocin, they feel “over-touched” and don’t wish any more contact with others. So after a full day of nursing, a lot of women have just had more than enough oxytocin, and truly don’t want anymore! They don’t want to have sex with their partner. They don’t want to cuddle. Or even touch! This is how I felt for sure. I filled my quota for oxytocin with my baby, and unfortunately that didn’t leave any room left for affection with my husband, who got left feeling dejected and lonely.

Some researchers also speculate that your drop in libido during nursing (but not if you had a baby and formula fed, which you’ll see why in a minute) is purely biological. You see, before the relatively new invention of birth control, women faced the high possibility of becoming pregnant shortly after they gave birth, which is extremely hard on the woman’s body, as well as difficult on the baby should there be limited resources available. So, biologically, your body isn’t aware you can take birth control, and is trying its best to keep you from getting pregnant again while you have an infant (which your body knows because you are nursing) the only way it knows how: by DESTROYING your libido! And let me say, it is awfully effective.

Now if you formula feed (like I did with my first baby), your body ends up thinking the baby didn’t survive birth due to no breastfeeding (because your body didn’t hear about the invention of formula, either), and therefore is ready to get back in the sack and make another baby!

Phone a friend

Asking others their experiences about masturbating during pregnancy was enlightening. I asked a group of my fellow mom friends about whether they had elevated libidos during pregnancy, whether they masturbated solo or preferred the company of their partner, and how that changed post pregnancy, whether breastfeeding had any effect, etc.

  1. Out of a set of 32 women, 20 regularly masturbated prior to pregnancy, 4 did occasionally, and 8 women never did.
  2. Out of the same 32 women, 28 regularly masturbated during pregnancy, 2 masturbated occasionally, and 2 never did.
  3. Out of the same group of 32 women, only 2 regularly masturbated during nursing, with 25 women claiming to completely abstain from all sexual activity!

So, what do these numbers mean?

If you are pregnant and suddenly completely insatiable and can’t keep your hands out of your pants, go for it! If you are breastfeeding and are repulsed by your partner or even the thought of sex, know you are not alone, and it is just hormonal, and should all go back to the way it was prior to your pregnancy!


With Love,