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Expectant and new parents have many concerns regarding the relationship between sexuality and breastfeeding. How is a new mother's libido affected by breastfeeding?
Why do some women get sexually excited when breastfeeding? Is this frequent or normal? How does the partner feel about breasts full of milk? Why do breasts leak during a woman's orgasm? Perinatal educators are in a privileged position to reassure these parents about this relationship while promoting the breastfeeding bond between the mother and child and the intimacy bond between the parents.
The goal of this continuing education module is to encourage programs of perinatal education to expand their content to include demystifying the subject of sex and breastfeeding since it is still considered taboo by many to think of the two together.
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The issues are based on common concerns and worries expressed by expectant and new parents attending perinatal education classes. Thus, the subject should be addressed in our perinatal education programs. The mother must be well informed if she is to use breastfeeding as a method of contraception Hennel, ; Lethbridge, Physiologically, the uterus of the breastfeeding mother returns to its original size faster after both a vaginal and Cesarean birth because this organ contracts during breastfeeding due to the increased presence of oxytocin.
The return of the menses is usually delayed in the exclusively breastfeeding mother although ovulation may not be necessarily suppressed. Moreover, a multipara may have increased after-pains if she is breastfeeding. When a woman is lactating, there is little or no vaginal lubrication when she becomes sexually excited. When a woman is lactating, she may have a milk ejection reflex when she experiences orgasm.
This response depends on the timing of the sexual encounter, the mother's breastfeeding experience, and the age of the baby. The nipples of a lactating woman may be sensitive during the act of breastfeeding, yet touching or stimulating the breasts by her partner may not necessarily evoke the usual sexual desire or In seek of massage and breast play from attractive male sexual response.
Thus, during lactation, the breasts may not be a primary site of sexual response. After birth, estrogen and progesterone levels decrease while prolactin and oxytocin levels increase Brewster, Prolactin, which is secreted by the anterior pituitary, stimulates the breasts to produce milk. The prolactin level is very high in the early postpartum period in order to stimulate initial milk production.
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Psychologically, prolactin induces maternal behavior: A lactating mother experiences a form of psychological tension, which can best be described as a feeling or need of always wanting to see and hold her baby Brewster, Oxytocin, which is secreted by the posterior pituitary, has two major functions in relation to breastfeeding: a a new mother feels her uterus contract during breastfeeding, and b it is responsible for the milk ejection reflex during breastfeeding and orgasm. Oxytocin has the opposite psychological impact as prolactin does: It calms the physiological tension induced by prolactin.
Consequently, while breastfeeding, the mother will experience a sense of well-being and contentment. The consequences of these hormones are that each time a woman breastfeeds, she derives great pleasure from the experience and contact with her baby Brewster, As a result, all or a very great part of her needs for affection are met through breastfeeding even if she is only partially breastfeeding. This is healthy and normal. However, one result is that the breastfeeding woman will likely have a decreased need to seek out her partner for pleasure and affection.
Ganem describes this as a type of affection anesthesia. The breastfeeding mother should be aware of the effects of these hormones, so she can be helped to simultaneously maintain her bond of affection with her partner while bonding with her baby. Otherwise, the primary partner may feel excluded to the point of seeking another partner Ganem, Another important consequence of lactation is the lack of vaginal lubrication when the breastfeeding mother becomes sexually excited. Vaginal dryness may cause pain when sexual intercourse is attempted.
This situation is easily resolved by using a sterile water-based lubricating gel like K-Y Jelly.
This is spread on the vulva and into the vagina. The partner can also spread some on his genital area before penetration. This facilitates not only sexual penetration but also mutual caressing. If couples use saliva and vaginal secretions for this purpose, quantities may not be sufficient and lubrication not effective, resulting in pain. This is a normal phenomenon. Yet, mothers may feel guilty if they have these feelings.
Consequently, some may decide to stop breastfeeding.
Ganem explicitly explains that some breast- feeding mothers exacerbate the potential for this experience if they cross their legs while they feed their babies. As a result, the labia minora may rub against each other, potentially leading to the stimulation of the clitoris. The mother could experience deep orgasm from clitoral stimulation and uterine contractions from oxytocin. Though Ganem has been very open about this issue, Newton presented the idea when she first wrote about the comparison between breastfeeding behavior and coital orgasm back in Newtondescribes the parallel reactions between breastfeeding and coital orgasm: a uterine contractions are present in both processes; b nipple erection occurs during both suckling and sensual excitement; c breast stroking and nipple stimulation occur during both breastfeeding and sexual foreplay; d emotions aroused by both types of contact involve skin changes; e milk let-down or the milk ejection reflex may be triggered during both, f the emotions experienced during sexual arousal and the emotions experienced during uninhibited, unrestricted breastfeeding may be closely allied, and g an accepting attitude toward sexuality may be related to an accepting attitude toward breastfeeding Newton,pp.
Women need to be reassured that while pelvic sexual arousal is not a common response to breastfeeding, when these feelings occur they are normal.
What happens to a woman's libido during lactation? The woman's libido may be tied in with the symbolism and meaning of breasts for her and her partner. For one woman, breastfeeding may be natural and part of her body. For another, it may be a clash between her biological function and the sexual connotation of her breasts. Some women do not enjoy breastfeeding because they do not like the physical sensation created by the baby sucking at the breasts. For others, it may provoke memories of abuse and incest. Yet other women experience sexual excitement for the first time when they are lactating Price, A towel can be used during lovemaking, and emptying the breasts beforehand can partially resolve the problem.
If, during lactation, the breasts are not an erogenous zone, they can become one with time and patience if the couple so desires. Women have reported to the author that if the partner simply cups the breasts with his hands and gently lifts or sways them, the soft movements may activate a sexual response.
Sex and breastfeeding: an educational perspective
Women have also suggested that the nipples should not be rolled or pulled during the sexual encounter since this can cause discomfort or pain and even deactivate the anticipated sexual response. Some women have preferred delicate oral contact without sucking. This may be important to the women if they wish to re-establish this form of contact as it was before the birth. Some women report that, at least initially, oral contact with sucking was reserved for the baby, while oral contact without sucking was permitted for the partner.
Once the woman felt more comfortable, her partner could proceed to sucking her breasts if he desired. The breastfeeding experience may be simultaneously physical, physiological, emotional, social, psychological, sexual, and sensual. The partner may feel jealous of his baby who is the center of the mother's attention Walker, He may feel excluded from this relationship. For other men, seeing the mother-child dyad enjoying each other may be sexually exciting. Other men may feel that lactating breasts are not an erogenous zone and are to be avoided at all costs.
The mother may agree or this area may be extremely erogenous for the woman. This asynchrony could cause a problem in the couple's sexual relationship. The partner should be aware that the flavor of human milk varies according to the woman's diet. Some men relish the spray from milk letdown on their bodies, and some couples use the milk to rub their bodies against each other, leading to sexual ecstasy.
In summary, there are many responses or combinations of responses of a couple to the addition of lactation to their sexual life. Gamble and Morse studied the impact of breastfeeding on fathers and reported that many fathers experience negative feelings but they manage to find a variety of ways to improve their situation and to support breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a natural biological proc- ess, and through perinatal education, men can learn to gradually change their attitude towards the symbolism of breasts and openly explore their role in the breastfeeding experience.
Men can be encouraged to invest considerable emotional energy into nurturing their partners and their infants. They may find gratification in these activities, which may compensate for alterations in their sexual relationship with their lactating partner May, What can the father do? Quietly and persistently, he should cuddle and hug the lactating mother.
Words of love, gentle teasing, and gentle non-sexual caressing will surround his partner with a net of security, and increase her sense of importance, and worthiness to him. Displaying a sense of humor can also help reduce any tensions or conflicts that arise during this time of transition in their lives.