Leandie Buys Realtionship Therapist & Clinical Sexologist

PND - Low libido after having a baby could be more than just exhaustion

In 2009 I wrote “Seasons of Sex” and one of the chapters in the book is titled “Kids happened, what happened to Us?”.

I wrote about this important topic for a reason – having a child changes your life completely! It changes you as a person, and it changes your relationship and the dynamics between you and your partner.

It is no longer just the two of you, there is a tiny, demanding, adorable third person in your lives, and they turn your world upside down!

Many of my clients are new parents who need help renegotiating their relationship roles after a new baby is born. They are often unprepared for how much their relationship changes – from the lack of quality time together, to a change in libido (especially from the mother’s side).

Abandonment and lack of libido

Most often, women have been dragged to my officers by their partners so that I can help them “do something” about their sex lives. Men feel abandoned, neglected, and that the baby gets all of their partner’s attention. Women are ‘emotional’ and tired, and are not interested in sex.

Even when the men offer to help with the baby, and do their best to take the pressure off of their partners, the women often lack any interest in intimacy. This is a very normal reaction to the physical and emotional trauma that comes with giving birth, and the responsibility that comes with raising another human being.

Renegotiating the relationship

Most women are advised to abstain from sex until they have had a six-week check-up at the gynaecologist following the birth of their baby. However, this does not mean that her libido should be ‘back to normal’ and that she should be ready to have sex ‘at the drop of a hat’ like in the past.

For many women, it takes a while to get back her physical self-confidence, and to come to terms with herself as a sexual being again. Once they have breast-fed their babies, a lot of women find it difficult to allow their husbands to see their breasts as a sexual thing again. Through counselling, I teach couples how to renegotiate their relationships, and to lay out new expectations going forward.

But when does lack of libido indicate a more serious problem?

When lack of libido is combined with irritability, exhaustion, sleeplessness, appetite changes, negative and guilty thoughts, and possible thoughts of suicide over a two week period or more, it could indicate Postnatal Depression.

Postnatal depression:

Women who experience postnatal depression often come to me saying “I don’t know what is wrong with me.” Instead of the ‘expected’ feelings of overwhelming devotion and attachment towards their baby, they feel distant, sad, and completely lacking in energy.

They cry often, and could even display symptoms of extreme anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder.

If my patients present with any of these symptoms, I will immediately refer them to their gynaecologists to test for Postnatal depression (PND).

PND is actually more common than we think, but still carries a stigma. Women are afraid to admit that they are feeling depressed and sad after the birth of their child because society ‘expects’ them to be full of joy and happiness.

Treating PND

Postnatal depression can last between three and six months. However, a quarter of women who suffer from PND could battle it for up to 12 months!

Postnatal depression not only affects your own happiness, but it can affect the relationship between you and your partner and the relationship and connection you have with your child. It is vital to seek help through counselling, and medication if necessary.

PND is most commonly treated through therapy, and anti-depressant drugs. Women are usually afraid of going on anti-depressants if they are breast feeding, however, there are a number of anti-depressants that can be prescribed that will not affect the baby.

If you think that you may be experiencing postnatal depression, please feel free to contact me. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you will be able to enjoy a fulfilling and joyful relationship with your partner and your baby. It is not a sign of weakness to seek help, but a step of courage.

Click this link to read about one of my client’s experiences with postnatal depression.