Personal question for you—how's your sex life, really? We're asking because the big L-word, your libido, actually has a lot to do with your overall health and wellbeing. That may all be fine and well, but being prioritizing time in the bedroom throughout parenthood isn't always a walk in the park—but is it a crucial component to navigating the inevitable stressors of parenthood? We decided to take a closer look and called on the experts to help. We sat down for a Perelel Health Check with Dr. Lyndsey Harper, founder of Rosy, and naturopath Dr. Caitlin O’Connor, ND. Read on for their guidance below.
Your sexual health is connected to your overall health.
First, let's break down the science behind your sexual health. "The decrease of stress, the decrease of anxiety and the improvement of mood and feelings of contentment [and] the decrease of all these stress hormones and increase of the feel-good neurotransmitters," says Dr. Lyndsey Harper, founder of Rosy. "It's akin to any other intervention that we might do for our mood, such as exercise."
"We know that there is some cardiovascular benefit for our heart health, there's some bonding benefit for our partnerships, and [there's benefit] for our own self-discovery."
And for moms, having sex can help with navigating the daily stressors of parenthood.
How? Well, your hormones and nervous system are to thank for that. "We have oxytocin, which is similar to what's produced when you're bonding with your children," explains Dr. Caitlin O'Connor. "We get oxytocin release with our sexual health, which helps us bond with our partner but I think of oxytocin as the hormone that helps us tolerate the stresses of parenthood when you have an infant, but also a hormone the helps us tolerate the stresses of daily life."
"Sex is a great way to tap into that natural capacity that we have for healthier, happier brain function."
- Dr. Caitlin O'Connor, ND
What's more—not only are you releasing the love hormone, but you're also tapping into your parasympathetic nervous system just as you would with a daily meditation or mindfulness exercise.
"So much of our day is stuck in that stress response," continues Dr. Caitlin O'Connor, "that anything you do to get parasympathetic is really important."
"The scientific side of your sexual health is actually pretty complex, but if you think of it as a bonding or relaxation practice, it's simple. I think of it as a daily reset if you're feeling tired, annoyed, if you need more inspiration—it's a helpful way to balance your neurochemistry and give you a nice burst of these hormones that you're already making yourself. So often in medicine we're looking for what we can take outside of our bodies but we also have the capacity to make tons of our own chemicals that can change our perception or change our health. Sex is a great way to tap into that natural capacity that we have for healthier, happier brain function."
Still, it's okay and completely normal feel overall a little "meh" to sex postpartum.
Without a doubt, pregnancy and childbirth can cause some curveballs in your sex life and your libido. After having a baby, it's completely normal and understandable to be apprehensive about returning to your previous sex life. Breastfeeding and birth can cause some women to feel "touched out." And between hormone and body changes, there's an adjustment period until you're ready to enjoy your sex life again.
After childbirth, pelvic pain is normal but should improve over time. If you're still experiencing pain for over six weeks postpartum, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider. Also, it's recommended to wait until you're cleared for intercourse by your doctor at your six-week check up.
When you're ready to return to sex, it's natural and normal for things to feel different and it's different for everybody depending on your delivery, the size of your baby, and your pelvic floor postpartum. A pelvic floor specialist is a great resource for rehabilitating your pelvic floor muscles. Not to mention, the body is great at naturally healing itself over time. Still, if you do experience pain during intercourse be sure to stop and check in with your healthcare provider.
Health Check: The Big L-Word
Watch our expert panel on what you need to know about your libido below.
Shop OB/GYN-formulated vitamins for the fourth trimester and early motherhood now. Read next—five reasons to have more sex.