Stress can also have a significant impact on a woman’s reproductive plans; it can impact a woman’s ability to conceive, the health of her pregnancy, and her postpartum adjustment. Oftentimes during postpartum, women have low self-esteem due to the many changes that are happening to their bodies, lives, and hormones. Excess stress also increases the likelihood of developing depression and anxiety during this time. Depression is the leading complication of pregnancy and postpartum adjustment. Maternal stress can also negatively impact fetal and ongoing childhood development and disrupt bonding with the baby in the weeks and months following delivery.
Men’s responses and causes of stress are very different from women. For millions of men, erectile dysfunction is nothing more than a stress response that triggers a classic mind-body phenomenon. Sexual activity is under the control of the autonomic or involuntary nervous system, which is why we have no conscious control over it. Whenever a man becomes aroused, nerve impulses cause blood vessels in the penis to dilate, allowing a steady flow of blood pressure into the spongy tissue. At the same time, a circular muscle called a sphincter constricts to prevent blood from flowing back. During a bout of stress, blood vessels don’t dilate fully and the sphincter fails to constrict, both contributing to erectile dysfunction. Negative events create a spontaneous stress response that intensifies the more ingrained it becomes. And because physiological actions such as erection are controlled by the autonomic nervous system, the conditioning process is more easily developed and much harder to break.
How to improve your sex drive
Lead a healthy lifestyle: It's hard to feel good about having sex if you don't feel good about yourself. Practicing self-care means eating a healthy diet, exercising, getting good sleep, practicing stress management techniques, pampering yourself, and enjoying time for self-reflection. It's always best to try and minimize or quit bad habits like smoking and drinking excessive alcohol (which could dampen your sexual function). All of these things are detrimental to your holistic well-being in the long-term.
Self-Care: Taking time for self-care means you're taking time to build confidence and love your body, helping you to feel more energetic, sexy, and in control of your body. Remember sex is for you too, not just your partner.
Communication: Stress and low libido can affect your relationship, so it's important to talk about it whenever it arises. When talking to your partner about low libido, take extra care to avoid directing blame at yourself or your partner.
The best approach is one that neither assigns low libido as their issue or your issue but rather a problem you both will overcome together. This will require open and honest communication about the possible causes of your stress as well as the physical and emotional symptoms of low libido. You never know, a conversation could lead to more intimacy and better sex with your partner.
Increase your libido
There are a variety of things you can do in your everyday life that can help to boost your libido and enhance your sex life. Certain foods including herbs have been shown to better sexual health in a handful of studies.
People often assume that in order to increase libido you must increase testosterone. While testosterone level does play a role in libido, it is not the only factor. Take for instance the herb maca (Lepidium meyenii), which can affect your libido yet have no effect on testosterone levels. Vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc can help support healthy testosterone levels, but do not necessarily boost them if intake is already sufficient.
Maca and cocoa extract are two of the more well-researched libido-enhancing supplements. Both require at least a week of supplementation to provide benefits. Maca specifically may not reach full potency until two months of consistent supplementation. Research into Maca has also shown promise for postmenopausal women, an often-overlooked population when it comes to libido enhancement. The effects of cocoa extracts on libido are more indirect. Low nitric oxide (NO) levels can lead to poor circulation, which can contribute to erectile dysfunction. Flavonoids in cocoa can help bolster NO levels, improving blood flow and possibly alleviating erectile dysfunction. Rose essential oil, used in aromatherapy, and chocolate may both have mild relaxing properties, notably for women. These effects might contribute to libido enhancement indirectly, via stress reduction.