"Why can’t I get in the mood after having a baby...." This question has come up multiple times and I thought it would be interesting to some if I skimmed the surface of an otherwise very complex subject.
First of all, your hormones went crazy having that baby! The hormone called progesterone, for example, spiked to 100 times it’s normal levels during pregnancy in order to hold off contractions until your baby was ready to meet the world. While it may be well intentioned, it may also be damaging to expect to resume your pre-baby intimacy before you're ready. First of all, one needs to physically heal. Secondly, trying to correct something that is due to a hormone imbalance may be putting undue pressure on mama-bear. Even with the best of self-confidence, your hormones may have not equalized yet or they may need help doing so and it could be why you simply can't get "into it" with your partner. This is common...SO common, that I've started referring to it with women as "the light-switch" (you go to turn it on and--nothing). So don't feel guilty and let's explore ONE of the many reasons a runaway sex drive could be happening to you.
It turns out our hormones play off of each other and some of them use the same pathways for getting around. Plus we affect our hormones with our stressful, busy lifestyle, poor food choices, and toxic product choices or environment. All things considered, today let’s focus on PROCLACTIN. Prolactin is a hormone that is responsible for many things within our body. Specifically, during postpartum it’s responsible for lactation. Excessive prolactin (a heavy milk supply), however, is a sign of lots of prolactin which decreases TESTOSTERONE. This is relevant because testosterone is a main hormone for putting you in that “come hither” mood. Not only that but prolactin interferes with your thyroid and a low-thyroid condition can also cause a spike in prolactin as a result. Increased prolactin = decreased testosterone = decreased sex drive.
Does this affect all women?
Whether or not you are pregnant or breastfeeding, we have prolactin working within us. Someone with a hypothyroid condition (under-functioning thyroid), for example may see a decline in testosterone and a low sex drive. As well, closer to menopause, prolactin spikes, once again decreasing testosterone and, with it, the bedroom mood.
Can we fix this?
TOTALLY! But it’s intricate and takes a lot of considerations. Hormones are like a domino effect; an imbalance of one will effect others. There are foods you can eat to encourage a production of testosterone and heighten your libido but the impact will really depend on a number of other factors as well. This is where all those jokes evolve from dad's quipping that how after a baby, there's no more fun in the bedroom. If not addressed, things may rebalance on their own. There are, however, circumstances when they don't which is when it's beneficial to get proactive about it!
Should I stop breastfeeding early?
Don’t stop breastfeeding because you read this! In fact, studies show longer is better for you and your baby! Enjoy this time and don’t feel at fault if things take time to get back to how you used to feel. As mentioned, there are proactive approaches that you can take to start feeling like yourself again WHILE you're breastfeeding.
Foods that increase testosterone:
Free Range, grass fed, or organic meat (these are complete proteins and contain the building blocks for these hormones).
oysters (they a rich in zinc and important for conversions and mood)
Foods that help balance hormones in general
green or chamomile tea
How to stop challenging your already tired hormones:
cut out soy (soy is an additive in so many products already that buying soy products can lead to an excess of estrogens (hormones) in the body)
reduce coffee consumption
reduce alcohol consumption
no more cheap, commercial meats or dairy!!!
no more farmed fish (wild fish is great though)
I genuinely hope this gives some of you a sense of ease when it comes to this sensitive topic. Like I said, there are many hormones at play and we only addressed prolactin. Contact me for further questions or purchase a consultation package to receive your intake forms and get a more personal look into your specific situation.
Live it well!
Katie Reitsma, RHN