MAMIHOOD

5 Reasons for Low Sex Drive + What to Do to Get it Back

by: Alejandra Carrasco, M.D. and Christine Maren, D.O.

by: Alejandra Carrasco, M.D. and Christine Maren, D.O.

Physician founders of Hey mami!

Your libido was alive and well at one time, hence your current state of mamihood, and it can be revived once again.

But, before we dive into the whys and hows, we want to preface with the fact that during a season of breastfeeding it’s pretty natural to have a low libido (so don’t freak out), it will likely return when you’ve finished feeding another human.

Now, for the rest of you that don’t fit in that category, there’s still a bunch going on in mami-land that doesn’t lend itself to feeling overly sexy—changing diapers, reading the same book for the tenth time, stumbling over toys in the dark, getting woken up at 5AM—yep, those things are a real turn on for most women.

Still beyond the daily challenges of parenting, there often can be physiological issues that negatively impact your sex drive.

After all, your body has accomplished some extraordinary feats and gone through some intense changes, but fear not—there are ways to get that mojo back if you feel ready to hop back in the saddle.

1.   Hormone Swings and Shifts

Most of the time the root cause of low libido is hormonal (shocker, right?).

An imbalance of any hormone, whether high or low, can start a cascade of unwanted effects (including low libido), none of which are pleasant to deal with.

Estrogen is the primary sex hormone in women; it plays a major role in your cycle, in pregnancy, and contributes to the notably physical attributes of women.

And when it gets out of balance, it leads to a variety of issues. For example, estrogen imbalance has become prevalent among premenopausal women, and is often caused by certain meds, toxins, and even constipation. But we also see young women with low estrogen levels – and this can have a big impact on sex drive.

Progesterone, another major sex hormone, helps regulate menstruation and plays a key role during pregnancy; its levels fluctuate throughout a normal monthly cycle and vary based upon age and stage of life.

Issues with the ovaries or hypothyroidism (we’ll look at that later) can lead to low progesterone, and in-turn relative estrogen dominance. We commonly see low progesterone at play in women who struggle with low libido.

Testosterone is typically associated with men as it’s their primary sex hormone, but it’s present, and essential to women, too. Low testosterone is often a result of excess stress—and we’re quite certain no one has skirted through mamihood stress-free.

This hormone plays a role in your monthly cycle, bone and muscle strength, and sexual desire.

In our practices, when we want to check hormone levels, we use the DUTCH test as it provides a comprehensive assessment of sex and adrenal hormones (we’ll look at the adrenal piece later).

2.   A Tired Thyroid

The thyroid gland produces hormones that relay information to your organs and tissues, controlling processes such as metabolism, growth, and mood. The thyroid gland can become overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism).

Hypothyroidism is one of the most under-diagnosed conditions affecting women. And it can be triggered from the stress of a major life event (like giving birth, being thrust into parenthood, and having your life turned upside down!), an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s, certain medications, radiation treatments, and/or low iodine levels.

Hypothyroidism can decrease estrogen and testosterone levels in women of reproductive age, resulting in lack of sexual desire, and can affect a woman’s ability to conceive.1

In our practices, we recommend a comprehensive thyroid panel to diagnose thyroid conditions, which includes:

  • TSH
  • Free T3
  • Free T4
  • Reverse T3
  • TPO  antibodies
  • thyroglobulin antibodies

If you want to learn more about these labs and our optimal reference ranges, download our free lab testing guide.

3.   High Stress

In our society, on-going busyness and a high stress lifestyle are common—and even seen as a badge-of-honor.

Due to the nature of the job, mamis, in particular, struggle to keep chronic stress at bay.

Stressors can include: major life events that induce an extended period of stress, such as a death in the family, or as the accumulation of small stressors that are constantly or frequently present, such as deadlines that never seem to be met,  financial worries, and daily tasks that feel overwhelming.  Interestingly, it has been found that these daily stressors, not major life events, are more related to sexual difficulties 2.

Some stress stems from comparing ourselves and our lives to what we see in the constant stream of social media. 

So let’s be real: all those images are cherry-picked, have had filters applied, and are out of context.

They tempt us into thinking we are not enough; driving us to do more.

Yet, if you have face-to-face conversations with real women (like we do in our practices every day), you’ll find not one of us is perfect or has it all figured out…

…but we’ll digress.

Hence, learning to reduce and manage stress is paramount.

Yoga, mindfulness techniques, daily exercise, or joining a moms group are all great ways to let go of some of that tension.

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4.    Blood Sugar Balance

Blood sugar issues, like insulin resistance, are an increasingly prevalent problem and another underlying cause of hormonal imbalances among both men and women.3

Keeping blood sugar under control is critical to sexual and overall health.

Although not always possible, it is ideal to address blood sugar through diet and lifestyle choices instead of meds. Below are a few starting points:

  • Cut out refined sugars
  • Greatly limit or omit simple carbs
  • Add high-quality protein and healthy fats at each meal
  • Increase physical activity—get in a good sweat several times a week
  • Reduce stress-levels as much as possible

5.    Side Effects of Medication

Prescription drugs like antidepressants, birth control and cholesterol lowering medications can all have a profound impact on hormone balance and healthy libido.

Although there are times when depression and anxiety need to be treated with medication, it can come with its share of side effects, including difficulties with desire, arousal, and orgasms.4

Hormonal contraception can be a double-edged sword. If you don’t wish to conceive or the timing isn’t right, using a birth control with a high effectiveness rate—like hormonal contraceptives—can be a must. However, several studies have linked these contraceptives to negative sexual function.5

Statins medications are commonly prescribed to address high cholesterol.  Cholesterol is a precursor to a variety of sex hormones,6 and lowering cholesterol too much can effect sex hormones. In fact, statins may cause libido changes by lowering sex hormones.7

If you think side effects of medications could be an issue for you, definitely talk with your doctor to discuss possible alternatives.

Finally, Don’t Give Up On Yourself!

A healthy, vibrant sex life is worth fighting for and can do wonders for bringing back your confidence, happiness, and sense of calm.

Low libido is often a message from your body telling you that something else is going on – take it as an opportunity to address underlying issues and achieve better health.

You are absolutely worth it!

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30057137
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4199300/#R11
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3949699/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5776161/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6421036/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22339/
  7. https://www.ajconline.org/article/S0002-9149(15)00459-2/pdf

Our Bio

We are doctors Alejandra Carrasco M.D. and Christine Maren D.O. We’re board-certified through the American Board of Family Medicine, and certified in functional medicine through the Institute for Functional Medicine. We’re on a mission to support women as they navigate mamihood—from preconception through pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond. As mamis of 3 (each!), we got you.

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Hey Mami was founded by physicians with a vision for a better mamihood
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