In the Middle Ages, wealthy families paid a wet nurse to breastfeed a newborn baby, because they considered it impure to have sexual relations with a lactating mother and that semen could contaminate the milk.
Within the framework of World Breastfeeding Week 2021, whose theme this year is: "Protecting breastfeeding: a shared responsibility ", in this article we will dedicate ourselves to telling you some truths about sexuality during the period of breastfeeding to that you prepare and water the voice.
Postpartum and sexuality
Let's start at the beginning of this story!
To talk about sexuality during the postpartum period and breastfeeding, we must start from the fact that many things change in your body at this stage, especially your sexual desire, which goes down to the ground for various reasons.
This is not an exclusive condition of women, no female mammal goes into heat during lactation; the only ones that have sexual relations during the lactation period are humans and kangaroos. This is said to be due to evolutionary advantage, a reaction that nature has developed to preserve the mother's interest in her newborn calf.
Knowing this reality, it is good that we stop blaming ourselves for not having sexual desire during those days, now let's get to know the reasons why these changes occur in our sexuality.
The physical changes that come with the birth of the baby
Childbirth is a very shocking and intense event because:
- It mainly affects the areas of the body involved in a woman's sexuality.
- It involves having strong, intense sensations in the vagina during birth.
- In many cases, it implies having felt significant pain for days or weeks due to the episiotomy or the cesarean section wound.
- Often, episiotomy causes Dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse) in the long term.
- The most important is the hormonal change, we went from having astronomical levels of estrogen and progesterone secreted by the placenta after delivery to staying at zero levels of these hormones.
- We secrete more prolactin , which is an antagonistic hormone of those that make us have libido and be fertile: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
- Due to the oxytocin that the mother secretes during orgasm, some women may have a let-down reflex with milk leakage.
- The woman who breastfeeds, during the first 6 months is hormonally in a situation similar to menopause . That is why common signs appear to it, such as vaginal dryness and hot flashes.
The pleasure of breastfeeding
- It is common for lactating mothers to reject the stimulation of the breasts during sexual intercourse, as if they wanted to reserve them for their baby.
- And other women experience pleasure while breastfeeding their children. Under normal conditions, breastfeeding is a very pleasant experience for both mother and child. Breastfeeding, like pregnancy, is part of the sexual and reproductive cycle of women, and the hormonal development that occurs when the baby suckles on its mother's nipple may well trigger feelings of physical pleasure.
- Some women may also experience more intense sensations and even sexual arousal. Something that is normal not frequent.
This reminds us that, thanks to human nature, all those activities that are essential for the maintenance of life (eating, reproducing, sleeping) are extremely pleasant for us and breastfeeding is no exception.
Emotional changes and in our life routine
- Postpartum becomes a real litmus test for the couple and communication is crucial to overcome it. The couple should know that there are important physical and emotional factors that make the woman not feel sexual desire, but that she continues to love and need him more than ever.
- The sleepiness and tiredness that all women —and also men— tend to have when they are raising a baby.
- A radically new family structure can help with estrangement in a couple's relationship, sudden changes in feelings towards each other and in sexual desire.
- The whole new reality can complicate things at first:
- After childbirth, the mother has created an intense bond with the baby, the endorphins released in abundance during childbirth have created a kind of cloud of love in which only the newborn and the mother enter. Almost all of her sexual and affective energy is directed towards the newborn in a perfect relationship of mutual love.
- In the postpartum period, most mothers need the love, affection and protection of their partner. They want hugs and words of affection, but they don't feel like having sex.
- The father can misinterpret the demand for affection with a demand for sex, and feel bad when being rejected.
- The mother can try to solve it by avoiding physical contact and not demanding more affection.
- The father may react thinking that it is the baby's fault, because since his wife was born she is no longer the same, she has become distant and the baby has totally absorbed her.
How to regain balance in the relationship as a couple while we breastfeed?
If you both feel that the intimacy of the breastfeeding period improved your sex life, make the most of it. But if, like most women, you feel conflicts with your desires, start by thinking that it is a circumstantial stage that will pass and, in the meantime, focus on keeping the lines of communication open with your partner.
- Talk beforehand and keep in mind that for a few weeks it is very difficult to find a moment for sexual relations, and when it appears it is very possible that the baby will interrupt it.
- Those women who have had a natural birth, with little intervention and without vaginal trauma, may not have any problem restarting sexual relations, and it is also possible that their libido does not drop as much.
- If in your case they had to do an episiotomy and this causes dyspareunia (painful intercourse), it is better to postpone penetrative sex:
- You can practice sex without penetration in a very varied way and caresses are especially important at this stage.
- Using a water-based moisturizing intimate gel ( like Zenzsual's ) helps to combat vaginal dryness, having patience, affection and respect is the best.
In any case, even if breastfeeding continues, around 6 months prolactin no longer reaches values as high as in the immediate postpartum period , since milk production is no longer an endocrine phenomenon (controlled by hormones) and is maintained thanks to the suction and frequent emptying of the breasts. Basal levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone rise again, and libido also begins to recover.
In the affective, communication and understanding is key:
- The mother must know that he may feel lonely and excluded from the cloud of love, he wants to help and does not know how to do it.
- The father can hug and give affection without expecting sex in return, and quite possibly this leads to an improvement in the relationship, and therefore increases his wife's sexual desire.
- Kisses , an occasional caress, or pat on the back can communicate those feelings better than more intense physical contact.
- Sincere compliments can mean a lot to a new mother, who may feel more vulnerable and uncomfortable with her postpartum body.
- Such supportive and empowering words can act as a highly effective aphrodisiac for many new moms (if not now, then later) and can enhance your relationship even as they ensure good health for your child.
- Remember that intimacy is not compared to having sex; instead, it is important that they feel close and strengthen the union.
Although couples may feel that their sex life has changed with the birth of the baby, studies have shown that most couples resume sexual relations approximately seven weeks after delivery, although sexual activity among lactating couples tends to decline. resumed more gradually than for couples who feed substitute feeding (infant formula) during the first year.
By viewing this pattern of sexual activity as normal and part of a transition from pregnancy to family life, you may be able to handle it differently, relaxing together enough during this season of your sexual life to focus on enjoying the wonderful changes that come with it. They run in your family.
Let's never forget the remarkable benefits of breastfeeding:
- It is beneficial for the mother on a mental and physical level, because this constant bond helps them develop affective ties with their children.
- Reduces the risk of ovarian or breast cancer.
- Breastfeeding women have a lower incidence of osteoporosis and diabetes throughout their lives.
- It makes you feel safe and more self-confident.
- Reduces postpartum depression.
- Facilitates physical recovery from childbirth.
- The mother learns to interpret more quickly and better the needs of the baby at all times.
- Breastfeeding is the best way of feeding children; for providing the best nutrients and defense means necessary to protect them from future infections.
If you consider that you need professional support to overcome this path of reconciling sexuality, the relationship, maternity and breastfeeding, do not hesitate for a second to seek professional help. In our online store you can find SexCoaching sessions to talk with professionals.
Visit our online store TuSaludIntima to learn more about Zenzsual feminine care products. On our social networks we keep sharing useful tips and join #TeamZenzsual to share this information with your friends, leave us your doubts and comments.
At #TuSaludIntima we continue to focus on fulfilling our purpose of caring for women's health and the sexual well-being of women, and definitely, breastfeeding and maternity is an important moment where we need to stay informed and create our support network, which opens up a space for us of growth.