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Why do women lose interest in sex after delivery?

Monday, 08 September 2003
Answered by: Puneet Bedi
Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Apollo Hospital
New Delhi
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Q. I am a 27 year old married woman. After the birth of my first child last year, I gained around 25 kgs. I am trying to reduce it. The birth of the child was normal and I did not have any sexual relation for the next 6-months. After that when I had sexual relation with my husband I realised that I did not have any feelings that I normally had before the birth of the child. Due to which I am not able to enjoy the intercourse with my husband. I also do not get orgasm during sex. I am worried that this may affect my married life. Please inform me about which doctor should I consult and is this an abnormality of mine or this could happen to any one after pregnancy?

A.  What you have written is a common complaint. Most women observe a loss of libido during the first year after child birth and especially so if you are breast feeding. Indeed, some women experience an increased libido which may sound paradoxical but, it explains a common origin of the problem at the hypothalamus (a part of the brain which determines our behaviour including sexuality) level in the brain. The causes are difficult to explain - from the stress (both physical and emotional) of new motherhood to lack of sleep, both have been blamed. Curiously these do not explain loss of libido in all cases. A hormone called prolactin which is released during breast feeding has been blamed but again does not explain all cases. The interesting thing to note is that until about 50 years ago when there was no contraception and no dire need / desire to restrict families; most children were born about 3 years apart. This shows that there was some kind of natural spacing methods. Some social biologists believe that it is the natures way of postponing the mixed child which is in the interest of the baby that you just had. So the loss of libido in early motherhood may be natures way of postponing procreation to ensure full attention to the first child. In other words a natural spacing method. Not only is the sexual desire reduced, the whole definition of sex changes after childbirth, you may enjoy physical proximity and touching, holding more than actual sexual intercourse. Not having proper sexual intercourse and orgasm should not frustrate you. I can assure you this is common and temporary. Meanwhile you should enjoy other aspects of close sexual relationship like caring, touching, feeling etc. until your desire for sex returns. Meanwhile you will do yourself tremendous amount of good by losing weight not only improve your self esteem and sexuality but your health as well.

A.  What you have written is a common complaint. Most women observe a loss of libido during the first year after child birth and especially so if you are breast feeding. Indeed, some women experience an increased libido which may sound paradoxical but, it explains a common origin of the problem at the hypothalamus (a part of the brain which determines our behaviour including sexuality) level in the brain. The causes are difficult to explain - from the stress (both physical and emotional) of new motherhood to lack of sleep, both have been blamed. Curiously these do not explain loss of libido in all cases. A hormone called prolactin which is released during breast feeding has been blamed but again does not explain all cases. The interesting thing to note is that until about 50 years ago when there was no contraception and no dire need / desire to restrict families; most children were born about 3 years apart. This shows that there was some kind of natural spacing methods. Some social biologists believe that it is the natures way of postponing the mixed child which is in the interest of the baby that you just had. So the loss of libido in early motherhood may be natures way of postponing procreation to ensure full attention to the first child. In other words a natural spacing method. Not only is the sexual desire reduced, the whole definition of sex changes after childbirth, you may enjoy physical proximity and touching, holding more than actual sexual intercourse. Not having proper sexual intercourse and orgasm should not frustrate you. I can assure you this is common and temporary. Meanwhile you should enjoy other aspects of close sexual relationship like caring, touching, feeling etc. until your desire for sex returns. Meanwhile you will do yourself tremendous amount of good by losing weight not only improve your self esteem and sexuality but your health as well.

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