Lack of sexual intimacy and intercourse after having a baby can have a tremendous impact on a romantic relationship. It has both psychological and physiological consequences that can cause numerous problems like stress, jealousy, anxiety, dissatisfaction and estrangement.
Breastfeeding is strongly encouraged for the health of your newborn. Breastfeeding has innumerable benefits , from reducing the risk of asthma and cancer to boosting overall health, there are many reasons women decide to nurse their babies. Both the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and continuing to a year old. But, there is one particular problem when nursing that often stands out, that is the waning sexual desire.
After delivery, women need to give their body time to recuperate. There isn’t a set period for how long a woman is supposed to wait to have intercourse. Most experts agree waiting 4 to 6 weeks to give the body time to heal is appropriate.
However, even after recovery many women experience difficulty with sexual intercourse and/or a lack of desire. With all the sleepless nights and hectic routines, intercourse is often the last thing on their mind. But, for those who do want to be sexually active and/or have a partner that expresses strong desire, it can be a serious problem. This is particularly true if they are breastfeeding.
So, what does breastfeeding have to do with pleasurable intercourse, and how does it affect a woman’s sex drive?
The Connection Between Breastfeeding and Sexual Function
A woman’s body undergoes a series of changes post-delivery, some of which can be a direct result of breastfeeding. These changes could be connected to their:
- Sex drive
- Physical and emotional needs for intimacy
- Physical difficulties and pain with intercourse
- Body Image
Here, we will discuss these changes, take a closer look at how they affect sexual function, and why that matters.
Breastfeeding can have a direct impact on a woman’s sex drive. According to research, women who breastfeed their children are less likely to be intimate with their partner.
In one study reviewing sexual behavior postpartum, out of the 316 volunteers who participated, 57.3% were still breastfeeding – 92% of which avoided having vaginal intercourse. In other words, almost all the participants in the research who breastfed weren’t having vaginal intercourse.
The likely physiological reason is the low levels of estrogen in their system. Right after delivery, these levels drastically decrease, while oxytocin and prolactin levels increase. When these two hormones are more dominant in the system and estrogen is low it decreases a woman’s sex drive. In women that breastfeed this persists until breastfeeding is stopped.
Physical and Emotional Needs for Intimacy
Women do have a need for intimacy, even when they are breastfeeding. However, for some women, breastfeeding can satisfy that need. It can create a different form of pleasure that can substitute for the physical and emotional needs from their partner .
Physical Difficulties to Have Intercourse
As we discussed above, estrogen levels drop after delivery and will stay low during breastfeeding. Estrogen is necessary to make the vaginal lining more flexible, thick and moist. If there isn’t enough estrogen in the system, vaginal tissues will thin and lose blood flow. This causes the vagina to become inflexible, painful and dry impairing both physical arousal and pleasure during intercourse. Women will often describe extreme pain with penetration and feelings of “sandpaper” or ”broken glass”
Another difficulty women face is exhaustion. Taking care of a newborn and trying to recuperate at the same time will take its toll. Women won’t have time to rest; and their cortisol levels can increase, which can make them increasingly more anxious, stressed, irritated, groggy and impair libido.
Every woman that has given birth will experience physical and drastic body changes. Breasts can grow double in size, bellies can be stretched out, and saggy, stretch marks can be a lot more evident, etc.
Many women may find their new body shape and additional attention to their breasts less attractive. It can make them feel more self-conscious and anxious. This type of transformation is drastic, sudden, and overpowering, which can make them feel less attractive. Breastfeeding exaggerates this preception
Many women find their newfound body shape more tempting and prettier than before. For them, these changes can serve as a reminder of what they had to go through and the beauty of motherhood. This can boost their libido and make them crave more intimacy.
Both feelings are normal for women and will effect intimacy
What to do if you are having issues
Breastfeeding has a very close connection with a woman’s sex drive and ability to have pleasrable intercourse. It can affect them on a physical and emotional level. Of course, nursing is a wonderful and very important process, but experiencing these issues is common. If you are struggling with intimacy after having a baby and with breastfeeding get connected to an Intimate Wellness expert. There are many safe and effective therapies available to help.