At least once or twice a month, a mom finds her way to the Mominatrix in a search for her libido. Sometimes it's the desperate dads who end up here, hoping to find a fix to the lack of sexual desire that so many post partum moms, whether they're in their 2nd trimester or their 14th trimester, complain about.
But this email stood out:
Mominatrix — I'm sure you get this question constantly (and I saw one post on it), but I have a two-year-old son and still struggle with lost libido. He sleeps through the night, I'm no longer breastfeeding, and I feel moderately happy in that I work part time at a job I love and otherwise stay home with the kiddo. I love my boyfriend (our son's father), but I have not had an orgasm since our son was born.
I used to orgasm easily and would often wear HIM out. I have zero desire for sex, and we've tried all kinds of things–reading erotica, watching soft porn, wine, lots of foreplay, vibes, nothing–not even self-stimulation–can get me off. I am beyond frustrated and if I had health insurance I'd have gone to a doctor by now.
While we don't want a second child right now, part of me wants to be pregnant again if only for the pregnancy-horny hormones! We're really struggling. Does anyone else deal with this long-term lack of drive? Is this something I should see a doctor about perhaps? I do take a bit of an antidepressant (Celexa), but I also took it before I was pregnant/had the child, so I don't count it as the main cause of this loss, since it didn't seem to affect my drive before. – M
If you read through her question and then not get envious of the fact that her son sleeps through the night and that she has the energy to go through the list of libido remedies, you'll notice on thing that stands out. And no, not that fact that she is willing to get pregnant again just to get those horny hormones.
It's the antidepressant.
Few women discuss the affect of anti-depressants on their sex drive. And their reasoning is understandable. As one mom noted, "I started Lexapro when I finally admitted I thought I had Post-Partum Depression. Lack of sex drive – at that point, anyway – seemed like one of many, many symptoms and my primary concern wasn't libido. I just wanted to feel 'whole' again."
For these women, and many like them, choosing mental health, wellness, and their own life (and the lives of their family) was more important than sex. And in a way, who can blame them? Desperate times call for desperate measures; very few women, if any, would go into a doctor's office complaining of being depressed and hopeless, and then ask how the medication would affect their sex life.
As Heather Armstrong, the author of Dooce.com wrote: "…so many of us who suffer from depression have to live like this. Like robots. The alternative is living in hell. So we choose robot." After her second daughter was born, her post partum depression hit again and as she described, "…it was back to the sex-killing antidepressant. Prozac this time, and it was just like Zoloft. Meaning, no sex drive. But I didn't want to kill myself. That's the trade-off."
But what about quality of life for these women who might have seen their suicidal thoughts and depression had subside, but still felt a coldness, and that they were desperately missing from their lives. Arguably, one might say "well, at least they're alive." And true, a sex life might be a small sacrifice to make in exchange for their life.
However, it's not just the sex life that can be affected. Mood stabilizers affect the experiences of all emotions, not just sadness.
A mom who recently stopped taking Celexa after six years shared this:
I definitely experienced changes in not just my libido but my whole outlook. I was definitely numb while medicated but never realized it until I stopped.
Another mom described taking an anti-depressant as "some kind of a chemical female castration."
So what about quality of life for these women who might have seen their suicidal thoughts and depression had subside, but still felt numb – like they were desperately missing from their lives?
Well, every single medication affects every single woman differently. And if you're feeling better, but perhaps not at your best, you need to talk to your doctor.
Armstrong told her psychiatrist, "…sometimes not having a sex drive makes me feel like I'm not human." Brave words in a society that often deems sexual women as "whores" and sexual men as "heroes."
Thankfully, Armstrong's psychiatrist prescribed a medication change for her, though she hasn't yet officially followed up on the results.
Some women make the decision to stop their meds altogether.
"…the clouds parted. I suddenly desired again. I had missed being desired (not that I hadn't been, but the idea of it had both infuriated and sickened me), and I certainly missed the intimacy with my husband. He noted too that I was suddenly 'myself' again. Which is odd, considering the Lexapro was supposed to make me a better me, but it took away such a vital part of my womanhood. I've been off of any antidepressants since June of 2010, and although I'm still tired and still have the occasional 'headache', things are 150% better."
Fortunately, this mom had positive results from stopping her meds and appeared to be emotionally ready to do so. However, many other women may still need medication but don't feel as though they can stay on it and still have an active sex life.
But the truth is, sometimes all it takes is a dosage change or a medication switch.
"On Celexa I was never able to orgasm, but on Zoloft, I had my first multiples," explained a mom on Twitter. Others described their libido "going through the roof" – in that case, it was Welbutrin.
There's no denying that women suffer depression in various forms, and medication is a viable solution to improving their life. But it does not necessarily have to come at the cost of your libido, your sex life, and your relationship with your partner.
You wouldn't suffer through taking a medication for a physical ailment if it cured one thing but caused another. So there's no reason to do the same when it comes to depression and your libido.
We’ll be talking about this live at 2pm EST on Naptime Nookie with the Mominatrix. Come listen and chat, or share your thoughts here or on Twitter with the #mominatrix hashtag.