Let’s talk about something that isn’t talked about enough: intimacy and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is beautiful anyway you look at it, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges along the way.
From decreased sex drive to leaky breasts and vaginal dryness, here are a few changes you might face postpartum when it comes to intimacy, plus tips to help get you back to feeling your normal, sexy self!
While every woman is different, a common complaint among new moms is decreased sex drive. A big cause for this is hormone fluctuations. When you are pregnant and also when you’re breastfeeding, the hormone prolactin increases as a way to stimulate your breasts to produce milk.
At the same time, high prolactin levels push down estrogen levels and as a result, this can put a major damper on your sex drive. It’s also worth noting that testosterone levels are lower in women who are breastfeeding. A lot of people think of testosterone as a ‘male’ hormone, but it’s actually pretty important when it comes to sexual desire in women.
*Workaround* While there’s no quick fix to balancing your hormones, the good news is that as your baby begins to eat more solid foods—around the six month mark—your body will start adjusting and getting back to its normal rhythm pre-pregnancy.
In addition to speaking openly with your partner about your decrease (or increase) in sexual desire, you can also consult a birth doula or sexological bodyworker for advice, empowerment or both.
While we’re on the topic of hormones, let’s discuss vaginal dryness, because any woman who has experienced this (that’s most of us) share the same frustrations. For moms, dryness has the potential to be even more pronounced.
According to a report published in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, breastfeeding moms report more pain during sex than moms who use formula. Since nursing elevates prolactin and lowers estrogen levels, there’s going to be a decrease in blood flow and natural lubrication to the genitals as well. With less lubrication, sex can be uncomfortable at best and painful at worst.
*Workaround* A good lubricant can do wonders for your sex life. We suggest finding a water-based one because these tend to lessen the risk of both irritation and bacterial infections. Lube with fragrances are tempting, but most experts suggest steering clear of those, as they can be a source of irritation.
You should also stay hydrated throughout the day—a good tip regardless—to avoid any dryness. Not sure if you’re hydrated enough (it varies from person to person)? Take a look at your urine. If it’s super yellow, keep hydrating.
Breastfeeding is hard work and it’s absolutely natural that your nipples will be sore, especially in the early days of nursing when you’re trying to navigate this new relationship with your baby.
In most cases, in those early days of breastfeeding, you won’t be having sex with your partner because your body needs some downtime to recover from…you know, bringing a new human into this world. On average, a lot of new moms start having sex again around six weeks postpartum. Your nipples shouldn’t hurt by this point, but if they do, make sure to reach out to a doctor or lactation consultant you trust.
Now, on to leaky breasts. Yes, this might happen and while it may cause some initial embarrassment (note, there is nothing to feel shame about here), it’s actually totally normal. Leaky breasts will happen if/when your breasts are being stimulated by your partner, or if your breasts are full of breastmilk for your baby. It can also happen during orgasm.
*Workaround* If you are trying to avoid leaky breasts while being intimate, one way to do this is to pump or nurse your baby beforehand. This way, your breasts will be empty and there’s less of a chance you’ll leak. You can also wear a bra with nursing pads during sex.
The Bump offers some sex positions that might help ease any discomfort, in the case of sore breasts. The expert they interviewed, Kimberly Ann Johnson, suggests missionary instead of being on all fours. In the missionary position, it’s easy on your breasts in terms of gravity, while being on all four creates a lot of movement for your breasts, making them feel heavy or sore.
We’ll explain. When you’re pregnant and nursing, the hormones that bring about your period are suppressed—a term called ‘lactational amenorrhea’—and because of this, it’s hard to know when you’re ovulating.
When you don’t know when you’re ovulating, you won’t know when you are most fertile; it’s also still possible to get pregnant even without a period. The uncertainty can not only kill the mood, but cause anxiety in new moms that they’ll be pregnant again before they are ready.
*Workaround* Speaking with a midwife or lactation consultant is a good starting point. You might also consider one of several forms of birth control options.
There are several other reasons why your sex drive is affected, ranging from pure exhaustion to poor body image. We want to take this opportunity to remind you that everything is temporary.
Your breasts won’t always be elastic forever and your nipple pain will heal. It’s okay to have fluctuations in your breasts, tummies and tush. It’s okay to have stretch marks. Your body may change but your worth never does. You are beautiful inside and out, mamma!
Lilu is a Women’s Health company building tech-enabled devices to empower new moms. Our first product, the Lilu Massage Bra, mimics compression massage, so you can empty your breasts fully to establish, increase and maintain your milk supply. Pump up to 50% more milk each session, all while going hands-free.
The Lilu Massager + Bra is designed to make pumping moms’ lives easier. It works with your pump so that you can produce up to 50% more milk per pumping session completely hands-free. It enables you to actually get stuff done or simply relax while pumping. Reach your pumping goals, with Lilu.