Breastfeeding and female sexuality
The first week of August celebrates the world week of breastfeeding, and much has been published in networks about its benefits for the mother and the baby, how to overcome the difficulties and, even, the right of women to breastfeed in public has been claimed without involving a crime – until recently it was in many states of the United States, and it still is in many places and countries. However, in this article we do not want to talk about it but about how it affects breastfeeding in female sexuality.
Female sexuality in postpartum is very complex, and her knowledge still presents gaps. It is full of myths and its approach is a challenge for health professionals and for women who are at this stage.
The knowledge of the factors that can influence this stage is essential to understand and respond to possible dysfunctions that may appear in the puerperium, or simply Understand the changes that occur in the weeks following the birth of the baby in terms of sexuality.
Is breastfeeding a factor that influences sexual function?
Today there are few studies that shed some light on the subject, but let's see how breastfeeding can influence female sexuality and women's erotic life:
We know that the postpartum itself is a hormonal roller coaster, and in particular, breastfeeding is characterized by a very particular hormonal state that helps it to be maintained, but that affects women in several spheres; One of them is the sexual one.
Low estrogen levels cause poor vaginal lubrication and, therefore, if lubricant is not used during intercourse, it is painful. On the other hand, it seems that high levels of oxytocin can be related to lower libido in women. In addition, prolactin, which is also elevated, is associated with a low sexual desire.
As we have seen before, this is mainly due to hormonal factors; but nevertheless, It is easily solvable with lubricants. But beware, that not all are worth and lubricate the same. Some, especially those of water-based or mucus, can lubricate at first, but evaporate soon, leaving the same dryness at the beginning, so that the friction that intercourse can cause pain to the woman and even irritation.
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With this word we refer to pain in the sexual act with penetration; Sometimes it is also called coitalgia. It seems that comparing women who breastfeed with those who bottle feed, it is the latter who have a higher score for pain in intercourse, regardless of the type of delivery they have had. And it seems that it lasts for the entire duration of breastfeeding.
Not only is it influenced by hormonal factors, but many of the changes that occur in the postpartum period can affect the desire to have sex in the puerpera woman, as role changes, the constant dependence of the baby on the mother, feelings of insecurity, of being tied to the baby, the lack of spontaneity that characterizes the postpartum period (in which we are at the expense of the little time that the baby leaves us to share moments of intimacy with our partners …).
Although much of the above changes can be extrapolated to women who opt for artificial breastfeeding, the scores on female sexual function indices that value the item of desire are lower, usually in women who breastfeed.
Women who breastfeed may suffer alterations in their own image; for example, larger breasts and larger areolas, with continuous milk secretion or with greater pigmentation. The breasts go from being an erotic object to the power supply of our little one. In addition, for many women they are very sensitive, which makes them uncomfortable.
During breastfeeding many women gain weight, and body fat is distributed in a very peculiar way, predominantly in the hips, so they may not be recognized in the mirror. These changes, which are maintained while breastfeeding lasts, can cause women to not feel sexy, and therefore affect female sexuality.
Due to the multiple awakenings that the mother has to meet the baby's demand for food, it seems that mothers who breastfeed have a higher risk of sleep deprivation than mothers who do not breastfeed, which according to study could directly affect sexual intercourse. Many women need to rest before having intimate encounters with their partners; Obviously, lack of sleep influences sexual intercourse.
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A study published in 2018 concludes that the number of nighttime awakenings to breastfeed the baby would directly and negatively influence a woman's sexual function; while there were no differences in those whose babies woke up little and suckled during the day preferably compared to those who opted for artificial feeding.
Female sexuality is cyclical and very complex, being affected by multiple factors. Knowing them and knowing how they can affect us can help anticipate and respect the changes that can modify the female sexual response at different stages of life, one of them the time of breastfeeding.