Pregnancy does a number to our hormones (and bodies) leaving some of us feeling less than our best. While it is completely fine to be “turned off” during pregnancy, some of us may be wishing that it wasn’t so. If you are reading this and thinking, “I miss sex. I miss the sexual connection and the orgasms and all of it, but UGGGGH I just have no desire to go through with it” then keep reading.
For a lot of women, the libido falls during pregnancy and just doesn’t seem to recover afterward.
I’m dividing this article into two sections: Pregnancy and the Early Postpartum Stage (4-6 months after baby).
Note: There could be a bigger issue at hand with a low libido. See our article on “What Happened to My Sex Drive?” for more information.
Taking a prenatal vitamin throughout childbearing years is important and will help keep hormones balance. The quality of the vitamin is the true importance, as one filled with dyes, sugars, and chemicals will not effectively aid the body. Check to see that your vitamin contains the mineral Boron. (Boron is involved in sex hormone production and has been shown to raise blood levels of estrogen and testosterone, especially in older women. Increased intakes have been shown to boost testosterone levels within one week. Low levels of chromium, magnesium, selenium and zinc deficiencies are also linked with lowered sex drive.)
Foods that Boost Libido:
(One should use discretion when it comes to consuming raw seafood while pregnant. As long as I know the source, I consume it – but I’m sure someone out there will yell at me for it.)
- Dark Chocolate
- Wine (in moderation, of course)
Supplements: (Always discuss supplements with your midwife during pregnancy and breastfeeding.)
- Magnesium– Magnesium supports hundreds of reactions in the body and often contributes to better sleep (which is great for hormones!). There are several effective forms of Magnesium:
- In powder form with a product like "Natural Calm" so that you can vary your dose and work up slowly.
- Ionic liquid form can be added to food and drinks and dose can be worked up slowly
- transdermal form by using Magnesium oil applied to skin. This is often the most effective option for those with damaged digestive tract or severe deficiency.
- Flake form sprinkled into a hot bath or a foot bath.
- Vitamin D- Supportive of hormone function, it is best obtained from the sun if possible, or from a D3 supplement or Fermented Cod Liver Oil.
- Fermented Cod Liver Oil– Provides many of the necessary building blocks for hormone production including Vitamins A, D, and K. It also is a great source of Omega-3s and beneficial fats.
- Gelatin - A great source of calcium, magnesium and phosphate. It supports hormone production and digestive health and helps sooth inflammation, especially in joints.
- Zinc - Necessary for the production and release of sex hormone in men and women, it can for found in oysters, crab, cashews, chicken, and chickpeas, or supplement form.
- B-Complex - They may calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety about sexual experiences. They are also involved in the synthesis of hormones involved in sexual function.
Herbs and Plants: (Always discuss herbs with midwife if you are pregnant or nursing.)
- L-ARGININE: An amino acid precursor to the formation of nitric oxide (NO), a molecule that mediates the relaxation of vascular and non-vascular smooth muscle in the vagina and clitoris.
- What does that mean? The vaginal dryness that naturally occurs postpartum may be helped with L-Arginine!
- Supplementation with L-argine may be an alternative to hormone therapy.
- MACA (Lepidium meyenii): This South America root has been used for decades as an aphrodisiac and to boost sexual performance. It has been shown to increase libido, enhance fertility, and may also support the secretion of sex hormones from the adrenal glands. Studies have also shown that Maca root may be effective managing SSRI-anti-depressant induced sexual dysfunction, more specifically a reduced libido and difficulties having an orgasm.
- Maca Root comes in different colors with different benefits. Research should be done before choosing the right maca for you. (My entire family, including the kids, uses it in smoothies to keep the body’s hormones balanced.)
- Many women notice less PMS, increased fertility, and improved skin while men notice increased sperm production, libido, and better sleep. Maca is also high in minerals and essential fatty acids, making it great for hormones.
- DAMIANA (Turnera diffusa and Turnera aphrodisiaca): This herb has been historically used in Latin American cultures as a tonic for both the hormonal and nervous systems. The plant has been shown to act as a phytoprogestin (plant form of progesterone), which can help to support natural progesterone levels in the body. This may, as a result, help to support hormonal changes postpartum, and enhance sexual health and libido.
- PANAX GINSENG (Panax quinquefolius): Korean Red Ginseng is another herb commonly used in the treatment of sexual dysfunction. The exact mechanism is unknown, however it may have a direct effect on the nervous system and gonads by increasing nitric oxide production, while increasing energy and stamina. It is also known to have aphrodisiac effects on those with sexual dysfunction.
- PHYTOESTROGENS: Phytoestrogens are substances found in plants that function similarly to estrogens within the body. By increasing circulating levels of estradiol, vaginal dryness and lubrication may be improved, while enhanced blood flow to genitals may have a direct effect on increasing libido. Phytoestrogens include: Dong quai (Angelica sinensis), Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), and flaxseed.
- GINGKO BILOBA - An herb known to increase blood flow to the brain and sexual organs.
- ASHWAGANDA - A supplement that can give you more energy and decreases the negative effects of stress.
- YOHIMBINE - An African plant known as the natural Viagra, and it’s possible that it decreases the likelihood of impotence in men.
- TULSI (holy basil) - a popular Indian herb that boosts stamina and energy levels, something that is particularly important when participating in strenuous physical activities!
- CATUABA BARK - The bark of this tree, native to Brazil, is used in the country's traditional medicine practice as an aphrodisiac. In pill form, it is said to stimulate the central nervous system, basically kick starting your body's sexual functioning.
Scents and Flowers: (While essential oils are wonderful, they should never be consumed, and research should be done before diffusing certain oils while pregnant, nursing, or around babies.)
Certain scents and flowers are said to increase libido because they produce certain chemical reactions in the brain. Remember to pull these scents from natural sources and not chemical variations.
(Read more about why sex during pregnancy is wonderful on our blog)
Talk to your midwife about any herbs before you take them.
Often, you are just too tired and have lost that loving feeling while growing another human. Here are a few ways to boost your libido:
- Include the libido boosting foods in your diet and do away with GMO foods, soy, and sugar.
- Read books and blogs – and watch movies that may get you all hot and bothered. If I hadn’t had been pregnant when “50 Shades of Grey” came out, I would have been by chapter 5. I’m not saying to pull out the porn (not my idea of a turn on, but if it is for you – go for it!), what I’m saying is to get the feelings flowing.
- Wear Something Sexy – Whatever that may mean to you. For me it’s a simple, short nighty (not lingerie, very comfortable, but yet makes me feel very pretty!).
- Flirt – There is no way that you will be in the mood without the words and touching that should happen first. This is HUGE for me during pregnancy. Send sexy text messages (or pictures), play footsies under the dinner table, and hold hands.
- Did you know that holding hands reconnects a relationship? YEP – and a happy relationship is one full of sex. (Most of the time anyway.)
- Talk about Sex – Keep your partner in the loop. Let him know how you are feeling. Let him seduce you.
- Masturbate (Alone or Together) – Rev your own engine to get the party started. Let your partner in on the action, or handle it yourself. Reaching orgasm will help the body crave it more often.
- Make Out – Yep, like you are in high school. Doing this a few nights in a row may start to make the body crave more.
- Kegels – DO YOUR EXERCISES! A stronger pelvic floor makes sex SO MUCH BETTER.
- Take your (High Quality) Prenatal Vitamins – They will help keep the body in check.
- Talk to your Midwife about Supplements – Below you will read about herbs and supplements known to boost the libido. Most should be fine (as they are natural and do not trigger contractions or other labor issues) but all should be approved before taken while pregnant.
- Limit Caffeine - too much caffeine can wreak havoc on the endocrine system, especially if there are other hormone stressors involved too like pregnancy. (The endocrine system is what drives your sexual desires.)
- Eat Well – Include as many of the mentioned foods, eliminating soy, GMO’s, and processed foods that are known to lower sex drive.
- Get Good Sleep – A Tired Mama does not equal a Horny Mama. So get your rest, let the body have the energy to enjoy a good roll in the bed.
It takes a while to rebalance the hormones of the body after giving birth. It is typical to not desire sex, or even to fear it after a more traumatic birth experience, but there are ways to help. If you are breastfeeding, it is known that while the body produces milk, the libido can naturally decrease.
- Take Care of Yourself – You need to “fill your cup.” If you are not happy with yourself, you are not going to desire sex. A few minutes a day, a lunch with a friend, even a bubble bath can reset your self-confidence.
- Cut Out the Sugar - High levels of sugar in your bloodstream can turn off the gene that controls your sex hormones. The simple sugars, glucose and fructose, are metabolized in your liver, with the excess stored as fat lipids. Excess fat synthesis deactivates your SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) gene, causing your levels of SHBG protein to drop dramatically, and it is this SHBG protein that controls your testosterone and estrogen levels. HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup – and all labels it is given these days) falls into this category!
- Lose the Soy - Many studies have shown that soy's estrogenic isoflavones interfere with the production and usage of testosterone in your body. There's also some evidence that soy can cause gynecomastia (male breast enlargement), and plenty of evidence for its reproductive toxicity.
- Sleep – A newborn deprives you of sleep, but trying to get in as much rest as possible will aid the libido.
- Exercise – As soon as the green light is given, start exercising. Cardio, strength training, yoga, or anything you love! Get the blood flowing, toxins sweating out of the body, oxygenated blood pumping to all the sexual parts! Not to mention that exercising will help get your pre-baby body back, boosting your sexual confidence!
- Eat Whole Foods – Include the mentioned foods, but make sure you are well all around. Cook your food, shop local farmer’s markets, and be aware of what you are consuming.
- Relax and De-stress – Find a hobby of your own: read, write, knit, color, anything that will clear your mind and decrease stress levels. This will reduce cortisol levels and improve sex drive.
- Increase Vaginal Fluids – Insert a vitamin E capsule daily to help the area produce more lubrication. Skip any lubricants made with mineral oil, petroleum derivatives, parabens, artificial colors, scents, or flavors.
- Check any prescription side effects – Many medications have effects on your sexual health.
NOTE: Some of the herbs mentioned above may not be safe if you are breastfeeding or during pregnancy. It is important to consult with your midwife prior to taking any supplements or herbs.