Imagine having sex… the holy grail of human pleasure… and feeling nothing.
Millions of postpartum women don’t have to imagine. They live it. It’s one of the many side-effects to a condition many women face after pregnancy: postpartum depression.
And it’s not just sex that loses pleasure. It’s everything. It’s the inability to enjoy the most basic of life’s pleasures.
Things that used to be exhilarating are now bland. A fun, bonding night out turns into a numb, pointless waste of time. A movie that used to bring feelings of contentment, or even evoke tears… is a 90-minute eyesore. Why bother?
As many as one in five women develop symptoms of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, bipolar disorder, sexual dysfunction or a combination. These conditions following a pregnancy amount to what’s called postpartum depression (PPD). Some cases are mild and take care of themselves without any form of treatment.
Yet some sufferers are plagued by the condition for years. To make matters worse, predicting who is likely to develop PPD is difficult, if not impossible. Some women develop the condition without ever showing signs of predisposition. Worse still, some PPD problems persist after all others disappear.
For many men and women, sexual issues are a persistent and troubling problem that comes along with PPD, sometimes sticking around long after the major symptoms are gone—and sex toys may be a big step towards fixing that.
Sex Toys: An Unlikely Solution to Postpartum Depression?
PPD sufferers feel that there doesn’t seem to be any way out of the sexual rut PPD causes. It eats away at its victims, not with pain but with, simply, time. If one goes long enough without the satisfaction they once had, the memory of ever having it fades away. Nothing feels lost. It was just never there
… which is precisely why, for some, it can be fixed.
Imagine the satisfaction that could be achieved by someone who doesn’t remember what satisfaction feels like? It wouldn’t be a ‘breath of fresh air.’ A more accurate description would be, ‘taking a breath for the first time.’
PPD is categorized as a separate form of depression because it occurs so frequently following a pregnancy, and for different reasons than regular depression. If it were just normal depression, there would be no need to categorize it. Post-meal anxiety isn’t an issue with anyone, is it? It’s just called anxiety. The sandwich was coincidental.
The pregnancy is what sets PPD apart. The body of a pregnant woman releases a large number of powerful hormones; FSH, LH, hCG, estrogen, progesterone, relaxin, placental growth factor, HPL, oxytocin and prolactin. These hormones are most notable due to the effect they have on the physical body, but the impact they have on the mind is just as great.
Oxytocin, for example, causes labor contractions and yet it’s present throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy. This wasn’t a mistake of nature. If a mother decides not to breastfeed, the creation and production of milk doesn’t suddenly become an “oops!” moment just because it isn’t being consumed.
Oxytocin and Pregnancy: Love, Loss, and Never Loving at All
In a similar way, oxytocin has a reason for sticking around those nine months; it’s the love hormone. No, seriously. This isn’t some scam where the salesman tells you that his new- fandangled radio can pick up alien frequencies—it really is the love hormone. During pregnancy, the female brain pumps out a larger than normal amount of the stuff.
Progesterone is involved in the menstrual cycle, but it’s also a sex hormone responsible for the regulation of the next hormone in this list. Estrogen is probably the most prominent and well- known sex hormone, and for good reason.
The amount of physical, metabolic, psychiatric and sexual mechanisms this one hormone begets is staggering. It accelerates the metabolism, increases the storage of fat, maintains vessels and skin, increases fat storage in specific areas (you know what I’m talking about), increases salt and water retention, reduces bowel movements (sometimes leading to constipation during pregnancy), promotes lung function, and the list goes on
… and on and on and on.
The most important function for the purposes of this article is the promotion of sexual receptivity. In non-nerd speak: Estrogen gets you goin’. It turns you on. It’s those birds and bees your parents warned you about—and it’s being pumped into the pregnant woman’s brain like she’s never experienced before.
For men, similar but different hormones are released, a recent study suggests. The effect is more psychological than physical, but the impact can be just as great. Erectile dysfunction, weight gain and decreased libido are just a few of the many possible detriments that may come. But the business of baby having and baby making will always have an impact on the sexual life of the parents. Male or female, the human body changes.
If I were to move on to each of the other hormones on this list, the pattern would stay much the same. Love, sex, sex drive, libido, emotions. Every single one of them has some effect on these things, and every single one of them is put on overdrive inside the mind and body of the pregnant woman.
For nine months, these hormones unleash a nonstop, beautiful assault of emotion and feeling. For nine months, she is both overwhelmed with joy and wishes it would stop. For nine months.
But only for nine months. And then, after a rather excruciating experience involving the birth of a child, all these hormones are suddenly stripped away from the new mother and returned to their normal levels, or sometimes below their normal levels. Now, she doesn’t cry for no reason when she watches commercials. In fact, she doesn’t cry at all anymore. She doesn’t feel sad anymore. She doesn’t feel happy, either. She doesn’t feel anymore.
Unfortunately, this unlucky woman now has postpartum depression.
This should come as no surprise. Going from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows overnight is a predicament that has very few parallels—but there is one. It’s a painful yet numbing experience. For nine months, she was subject to such extreme stimulation that only a drug addict would be familiar with her experience.
Postpartum Depression and Withdrawals
In fact, let’s talk to a drug addict and see if things start to make a little bit of sense. A 21-year- old man, and this writer’s childhood friend, will be referred to as Mike. For five years, Mike was addicted to meth; a drug which releases most of the pleasure chemicals in the brain in huge amounts.
“It didn’t feel like I was addicted,” Mike says. “It just felt like that was what I was supposed to do after a while, so I did it. It felt normal. I could get stuff done—I mean, at one point I was so high I learned how to crochet, but otherwise I would just go about my business. I couldn’t remember my life before that.”
When he was put in prison for driving under the influence, Mike was forced to sober up and insisted that he be given no drugs to smoothen the experience. He went through full-blown withdrawals, something not many have experienced. “I slept for like two days at a time,” he says.
“And it hurt. People talk about withdrawals like it’s just shivering and sweating but it’s not. It hurt. My whole body hurt. Like the pain was coming from just thinking about it. The more I thought about it, the more it hurt.”
But the pain of withdrawal was the easy part for Mike. After being released from prison, something wasn’t quite right. “When they let me out, I thought I’d be happy again. I thought I was feeling bad because I was in a bad place,” Mike explains. “But I was wrong. It wasn’t the place I was in, I just wasn’t me anymore. I went to a psychiatrist and explained the situation, and he said I had manic depression and anxiety.”
The drug had permanently altered his brain chemistry. The psychiatrist gave Mike the medication he needed for the time he needed it. Antidepressants and antianxiety medications. After a year, he didn’t need to take them anymore. The main problem was gone, but another problem persisted. “I couldn’t stay awake or focus after that. Everything felt foggy,” Mike says.
The psychiatrist suggested a small dose of a stimulant, to Mike’s surprise.
I am not a doctor and I do not give medical advice, so I won’t explain what the doctor said. However, the concept here is exactly the same. With pregnancy, the body releases a lot of very potent hormones. Afterward, those chemicals are no longer present in the same abundance. This, in combination with environmental and genetic factors, leads to postpartum depression—I don’t need to be a doctor to tell you that. During and even after PPD, some experience a loss of pleasure during sex, a loss of sex drive, and a loss of sexual desire.
Even if all other factors are considered and cured, the sexual problems brought by PPD may still persist.
The human body can work wonders, but if something is missing, it can only work with what it has. If postpartum depression were completely natural, its sufferers wouldn’t do such unnatural things. They wouldn’t feel such unnatural moods or perform such unnatural actions.
The body and mind are working their hardest to solve the problem, but the tools required to finish the job just aren’t there. Illness of the mind and illness of the body are both very real, but one can’t be seen. This is precisely why such simple solutions are so hard to find.
Those with sickle cell anemia bleed excessively because their body cannot thicken the blood correctly—it doesn’t have the tools. These people were just dealt a bad hand the same way PPD sufferers were. But instead of a physical wound not closing, a mental wound won’t close.
For Postpartum Depression Sufferers, Sex Toys Are More Than Just a Novelty
Like Mike, people with this problem may just need a little bit of a different kind of stimulation. (Not drugs. Mike should be a warning. Do not take drugs. Stay in school.) This is where alternative, non-medication modes of sexual enhancement come in. Think for a moment; why do sex toys have such odd attachments, modes, looks, textures, settings and switches?
For the same reason the wheel was invented when we already had legs; because the real thing wasn’t fast enough and we had the ability to make them. “That’s where you’re wrong,” someone from the year before the car was invented might say. “Our legs and the legs of our horses get us where we need to go exactly as fast as we need to get there. No quicker, no slower. Some machine or assistance is a novelty at most and useless in fact. Our bodies are all that we need.”
Right, good point, hypothetical old timey person. But what if a man has no legs? Should that man be forced to proceed at the pace his body allows, one grueling pull at a time, while people strut past him with their fancy legs?! The answer is, no. He must get himself a wheelchair just so he can keep up, and no one would fault him for doing so.
Those in need of assistance, if they can manage it, must seek assistance.
The wheel was invented as a luxury, even a novelty, for people with legs. But that same wheel turned into a necessity for people without legs. (And I’m sure the wheel looked awfully funny at first, too. “What are the spokes for? How strange!” is the same thing as, “What are those rotating ball-bearings inside the shaft for? How strange!”)
Those who cannot feel the pleasure they once took for granted should not be ashamed of their body if it cannot get the job done. They should not be forced to listen to the hypothetical man in the above paragraph. Their bodies are working as best they can with what they have, yet that same body is telling them it isn’t enough.
Which of these two parties is wrong? Is the PPD sufferer misguided when he or she gives up their sex life for good? Or is the body misguided when it says it requires something more—a human invention that it does not know about? Considering the sufferer does not know how to split cells, create chemicals and regulate body temperature, it stands to reason that the body knows what’s best for the body. The PPD sufferer just has to find it.
The enhanced stimulation brought by toys was for people who could already feel all the pleasure they needed. They just wanted more. Sufferers of PPD do not want to feel more or greater, they just want to feel. If this were possible, if there were even a tiny chance that it may be possible, wouldn’t it be worth a try?
Real Postpartum Depression Sufferers, Real Results
Well, it just so happens that there is a chance! This is not a late-night infomercial. Nevertheless, testimonials of actual customers are aired on them for a reason; they work. That person to person connection is more of a validation than any amount of simile, metaphor or story you’ll find someplace else. An extremely satisfied customer had this to say after purchasing from Lyps:
After the baby, things just [weren’t] the same, sex just wasn’t as pleasurable as it was. It didn’t hurt, but it was as good as it was. It really bothered my wife, she wanted things to be like they were before. It got better with time, but it still wasn’t what it could be, what it should be. I wanted to provide for her, to bring that part of her life back. In my reading about postpartum sexual issues, many said vibrators helped. It overcame over sensitivity in the wrong areas and stimulated the right areas much better than manual stimulation. So, I purchased this little baby. WOW. The first time was amazing, my wife had not been so pleased since our first years together. She actually cried tears of joy. We’ve used this vibrator about 6 times so far and every time has been life changing. It has been wonderful, I am grateful to give a joy to my wife that she has always giving to me.
If you do not listen to me, whose wife was fortunate enough to skip PPD, listen to that reviewer. His words on what it’s like to see his wife go through this horrible condition and its fallout are more solid evidence than the ramblings of a man who knows a lot about estrogen and has a friend named ‘Mike.’
Sometimes, “spice up your sex life” really is the answer. It sounds too simple, unnecessary and a bit strange, but so did the wheel at first—until someone lost their legs.
Thanks for visiting. If you know someone with PPD whom this article might help, or if you just liked the read, please share it. If enough people do, we might just get a few more testimonials like the one above. Those are what matter.