DUST OFF YOUR LUST
Physical exercise & libido
A vigorous workout affects hormones, neurotransmitters and autonomic nervous system activity. It also raises and sustains levels of an enzyme in women that increases genital blood flow and arousal. Just 20 minutes of exercise could boost sexual arousal by 169%.
I’m not going to lie: my excuse for not doing exercise the past few years was that I was “running around after the kids and doing the household anyway”. I know, that’s not the physical kind of exercise my body needs.
Physical exercise has some great benefits:
- increased feeling of self-worth due to self-image changes
- decrease stress, which produces cortisol
- general feeling of well-being and thus motivation and satisfaction
- increased blood flow both short- and long-term to your sexual organs (and the rest of your body), and increased lubrication
- release of the adrenaline, endorphins, and testosterone
All these factors help us feel happy, sexy, motivated and more likely to engage in sexy times with our partner (unless you overdo it and are fatigued).
Exercise & me
I’ve never been big on exercising. I once managed to stick to a routine for two months and then ran my first 10 kilometers with Nike Women’s Run in Berlin but that was for my 30th birthday and honestly, a one off.
What doesn’t work for me is having to go somewhere. When I want to exercise I need to be able to put my sports things on and go for it. So what does actually work for me is videos at home.
My plan is to have three sessions of exercise a week (in total): two will be my hobby (tap dance) and the third will be either a run (nothing crazy, 6km will do) or a video at home (I’ve got pretty old exercise videos by a lady I can’t even find online anymore! It’s all along the lines of core training, legs, bum and overall strength!).
Additionally, I’m going to include some stretching at the end of each day. Just simple yoga moves and things I remember from the post-natal classes.
I can’t remember ever having many hobbies. I used to pretend I liked certain things at school like basketball (so I joined the team) or art (so I painted at home) but none of them were really me.
And then, all of a sudden, a few months back in one of my lowest moments, I remembered that I used to tap dance (when I was quite young but nevertheless for over five years!). How could I have forgotten that?
Having a hobby can be really beneficial for our mental health. Hobbies have shown to give us lower stress, better physical health, more sleep, more social connections, improved work performance, and increased happiness. Source: Oregon Counseling.
This one might sound silly, but I’m a big fan of music and dancing. Whilst I’m not going to be winning any awards for it soon, I dance with passion, fervor, love and humor (yes, I have been known to do the robot and the shopping trolley).
Dancing is incredibly good for you!
- improved condition of your heart and lungs
- increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness
- increased aerobic fitness
- improved muscle tone and strength
- weight management
- stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis
- better coordination, agility and flexibility
- improved balance and spatial awareness
- increased physical confidence
- improved mental functioning
- improved general and psychological wellbeing
- greater self-confidence and self-esteem
- better social skills
Due to current pandemic times, a night on the tiles is obviously not in the making. BUT: we have a sound system and we have Spotify. So: cue my kids listening to even more of my music while I groove away the grumps and bad moods or slumps!
Besides exercise I also wanted to review my physical health from a medical point of view.
It’s been five years of pregnancy and breast-feeding for me and although I lost my baby weight, ate healthily and all the rest, I thought it was time to do a big blood and hormone check. Just to be sure.
HORMONES / PREGNANCY / BREASTFEEDING
My first check was hormones. These came back A-OK (I had worried, as I initially put my libido down to hormone fluctuations).
Turns out you actually have a lowered libido when you are breastfeeding.
During pregnancy and breastfeeding, the hormone prolactin cranks in order to stimulate your breasts to produce milk. But high prolactin levels push down estrogen levels, which in turn dampens sexual desire. “Plus, levels of testosterone are also lower in breastfeeding women,” Heather Bartos, MD, an ob-gyn based in Cross Roads, Texas says. Source: The Bump
According to The Bump, these are the main reasons why your libido takes a turn for the worse when you are pregnant and/or breastfeeding (summarized by me):
- Decreased Sex Drive due to hormone fluctuations (particularly testosterone is missing). It will come back gradually when baby starts eating solids.
- Sore and Leaky Breasts: apart from the fact that you’ve birthed a baby recently, the boobs take a massive hit libido-wise but also in the pain and frustration stakes. Sex during breastfeeding can be tricky, painful and sometimes downright hilarious (read my Postpartum Reality story for a fun situation). You can always change position, wear a bra with pads etc.)
- Body image: things aren’t where they’re supposed to be or once were. Be gentle with yourself as your body returns to a new normal.
- Vaginal Dryness: this is one to really look out for. Many new mums think they’re not into their partners anymore or broken in some way. That’s not it. The breastfeeding reduces estrogen levels, which causes dryness and discomfort. There are particular types of lube especially for this. Speak to your OB Gyn (Gynecologist)
- Exhaustion: this was a biggy for me, especially after the birth of our second child. It’s not going to go away any time soon. But you need to weigh out what sex can do for you in reciprocation. Will it give you a surge in energy? Will the intimacy help you bond or give you comfort? For me, I was touched out in all ways. I breastfed while pregnant, I tandem breastfed, I was a stay-at-home mum of two and chronically exhausted. It’s only now, five years later, that I finally feel like I’m getting proper sleep. So again: be gentle.
- Irregular periods: ah, yes, did you forget about those? It will take some time for them to regulate again (I didn’t have mine for seven months after both births) so be aware that mood fluctuations can also stem from that.
OTHER BLOOD WORK (VITAMINS / MINERALS etc.)
The medical system doesn’t cover all tests in Germany so I decided to pay for some tests privately. Many were after a discussion with my GP regarding my exhaustion and low libido. I had tested:
- Vitamin D (helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Also known as the sunshine vitamin and apparently also relevant for the immune system in it’s fight against COVID). More here.
- Vitamin B12 (is a nutrient that helps keep your body’s blood and nerve cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all of your cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent megaloblastic anemia, a blood condition that makes people tired and weak.) More here.
- Iron (is important in making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. A lack of iron can lead to iron deficiency anaemia.) More here.
- Thyroid (makes hormones that help control many vital functions of your body. When your thyroid doesn’t work properly, it can impact your entire body.) More here.
My vitamin D and B12 were lacking slightly but otherwise it was all great! Which was also a relief!
So I have tablets for Vitamin D, C and B12 and additionally I decided to give some hair growth supplements a go. They contain Biotin, zinc and selenium too, which are great for nails as well. I chose these from Orthomol specifically.
Additionally, I had read about Maca root (in powder form). I decided to also give it a shot:
It’s actually a plant native to Peru, and is commonly available in powder form or as a supplement. Maca root has traditionally been used to enhance fertility and sex drive. It’s also claimed to improve energy and stamina. Source: Healthline.
See my topic on food for more information regarding nutritional value and libido.
Always be sure to check with your GP.
Ideally, I would like to also explore:
- Orthopedic measures
But for now, my plate is full! Perhaps I’ll manage to squeeze in a massage in a nice parlor at some point but otherwise these ways of moving my body will have to suffice for now. The point is for it all to lighten my mood and day and not add pressure because I’m doing too much!
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