It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today I want to continue our discussion about hormones, looking at women who are breastfeeding, pregnant, or going through menopause.
We started talking yesterday about hormones and libido–and specifically how libido is affected throughout the menstrual cycle.
But what if you’re not having a menstrual cycle–because you’re in menopause, you’re pregnant, or you’re breastfeeding?
So today, let’s look at how to boost libido and make sex seem like an attractive option, even when your body seems to have turned itself off.
How Arousal Works Physiologically
Arousal = Hormones + Blood Flow
Obviously there’s a lot more to it than that (there’s also emotional and spiritual intimacy, mood, etc.), but the physiological keys are hormones and blood flow.
Estrogen helps regulate the female cycle, and causes the uterine wall to thicken (which also causes more arousal). Our ovaries also produce testosterone (which builds arousal), and testosterone helps us produce more estrogen. And then there’s progesterone, whose role isn’t entirely clear in arousal (they’re still debating it).
But in general, when hormone levels are high and when we get increased blood flow to the genitals, we tend to have an easier time getting aroused.
So what does that mean for pregnancy?
For some women, the first trimester actually gets them aroused because there’s so much blood flow going to the breasts and genitals. For most of us, though, the extreme fatigue and nausea cancels all of that out! In the second semester many women start to feel their libidos come back–and they often come back with a vengeance! And then in the third tremester things get difficult again just because you’re so big and you’re not getting much sleep.
What about breastfeeding?
breastfeeding, at least in the initial stages if you are breastfeeding without supplements, chances are you won’t ovulate for several months (and sometimes up to 9 months). During those months you won’t get the boost that comes from testosterone–and you get a boost in the prolactin hormone which tends to decrease sex drive. Plus you’re exhausted from lack of sleep.
During menopause you stop producing very much estrogen and testosterone, which decreases libido. Plus your uterine wall becomes much thinner (less blood flow) which also decreases arousal. And lubrication becomes more difficult.
Our Most Important Sex Drive is Our Brain
All that being said–our most important sex drive is indeed our brain. Studies have shown that some women can even “think” themselves to orgasm–without any physical stimualtion at all. So it certainly is possible to “think” oneself to arousal–it can just be very, very difficult when you feel like everything has gone numb from the waist down.
And I don’t think it’s something you just do, out of the blue. You can’t go from 0 to 60 in 5 minutes. But if you make it a habit to try to get in touch with your body more regularly, then it’s can be easier.
I’ve got more articles on how to engage the brain and feel sexy even when your hormones are out of whack.
Daily Habits to Help Make Arousal More Likely
Feel your body! Seriously. Start a stretching routine that you do in the morning and in the evening. Do it with your children (if you have young ones!). Do yoga with babies. The more you actually FEEL your body, even in a non-sexual way, the more it will be easier to get your body engaged.
Make massage a huge part of your life. Explain to your husband that you want to start feeling more aroused, but you need that time to just relax and concentrate on your body. Take 15 minutes a night, at least, to talk and to have him rub your body. Need to learn how? Check out the Couples Massage video program here.
Baths with Bath Oil
Take a hot bath every night with bath oil that smells luxurious. Have your husband put the kids in bed or read them a story. Make sure you use a romantic smelling bath oil to activate the senses!
If you can, grab nap during the day, especially if you have young children. Every few weeks, if need be, hire a baby-sitter so you can have a 3-hour long nap one afternoon.
Spend time just snuggling with your husband in the evening. If you have a young baby that doesn’t sleep much, maybe snuggle while you’re holding the baby–and then watch netflix. But physically connect while you talk, watch a movie, or have some downtime.
Seriously. Stay away from too many breads and refined starches, and eat foods with healthy fats that help the body produce estrogen or that help the body with blood flow to the genitals! Some of the best foods: bananas, avocados, almonds, basil, and honey–seriously, try honey. It helps in the production of estrogen. Just put it in your tea instead of sugar.
If you do all that you’ll be paying more attention to your body, which will make it easier for your brain to engage and help your arousal. And you’ll be feeling more energetic and closer to your husband! But there still be more things you need:
Use Some Lubrication!
Sometimes we all need help from a tube! One of the effects of not menstruating is that there’s little blood flow to the genitals–which means we have a harder time with lubrication. But this is such an easy fix! And if you’re well lubricated to start with, it’s much easier to get aroused. It actually helps jumpstart the whole process.
Many of my readers swear by coconut oil. It’s all natural–no chemicals. It is a solid at room temperature (up to about 76 degrees), but then it turns into a liquid above that, so when it is rubbed on body parts it will become “oily”. And it’s edible, too! (enough said).
This is a new generation of lubricant! And they sent me their “Yours” and “Mine” lube to try. They’re different formulations–warming for her, and cool and tinging for him. And when you put them together–it’s really tingly! And kinda fun.
Seriously, if you’ve felt “nothing” from the waist down for a while, this can help you feel something again!
Consider Hormone Replacement and Supplements
I’m not a doctor, and I do believe that if you take any kind of supplements you really should talk to your doctor about them first. That being said, I’m a big believer in hormone replacement therapy if it’s not contraindicated because of cancer risks or something. But I’ve known so many women who tried different things for years after menopause to no avail before finding the right formula–and suddenly they could sleep and they felt alive again! But for many women it meant trying many different things. So don’t give up, and keep trying!
When you’re pregnant and breastfeeding you should NOT be taking any kind of hormonal replacement or supplement.
That being said, if you’re just going through perimenopause or you have low sex drive, ArginMax sent me a bunch of samples of their supplements which look interesting. For women, the supplement includes L-arginine, damiana, ginseng, and ginkgo biloba, which have all been known to enhance sexual enjoyment. The male version contains similar things, with different kinds of ginseng and no damiana. Then they both have other vitamins and minerals, too, making this a complete vitamin health supplement that ALSO helps with sexual enjoyment and arousal.
And again–if you do decide to take a supplement, please show it to your doctor!
Ultimately Sex is Difficult when Arousal is Low–But It’s Up to You
Here’s the truth: If you’re running around caring for everyone but yourself, and feeling nothing sexually, and you’re just waiting for your sex drive to return, chances are nothing much will happen.
Your sex drive won’t come back unless you chase it.
Unless you make it a priority to think about sex in a positive way, to FEEL and experience your body, to think positively about your husband, to cuddle, to prioritize the relationship–nothing will happen.
I get so many letters from women saying that “after the baby came, we basically had sex maybe 10 times in the next two years”. (Here’s one woman’s story of what happened when she stopped having sex after the babies).
What kind of life do you want? A great, solid marriage where you have fun and feel rejuvenated, or a relationship where you become like roommates?
No, it’s not easy. Yes, you’re exhausted. No, you don’t feel much of anything. Yes, it’s hard to get “in the mood”.
But you can do it–or you can at least make sex enjoyable, even if you don’t always reach orgasm. You can enjoy being close. You can enjoy feeling your body. You can enjoy feeling relaxed.
So what will you choose? It’s a whole lot better to choose to engage sexually than to try to do this:
Other posts in this series:
Let me know in the comments–how did you bring your sex drive back? Or are you walking through this right now? What do you find helps?