Again, there is no easy answer here. Hormonally there is a lot going on while you breastfeed. Nursing increases two hormones, oxytocin and prolactin. The former is associated with sexual arousal and orgasm, while prolactin suppresses sexual desire and lowers testosterone – the hormone that fuels your libido.
In addition, breastfeeding means you are exhausted most of the time with ongoing nightly wakings and endless daily routines of feeding. Nothing kills a libido faster than exhaustion.
Other breastfeeding moms have a strong desire for sex. There is no right or wrong here. Sexual desire is more than the sum of its parts and each of us is different.
When Sex Stops
Cosmo doesn’t quite cover this territory and it’s certainly not a topic to be discussed over a family dinner. Yet it’s a familiar place for most couples (except Pamela Anderson who was cavorting on a swing above lucky Tommy Lee).
There are times, in every relationship, when sex comes to a dead end. What makes a relationship grow and continue is the ability to work through these problems. There will be many times like this, but one of the largest and most challenging shifts in your sexual relationship comes when you have children. Sex is the last thing on your mind. You are busy, stressed and feel the size of a walrus and about as attractive.
Conservative research studies show that most couples have sex about sixty-one times a year, or slightly more than once a week. This figure is taken as an average across age groups. More internationally accepted averages put it at 2.5 times a week.
When does it become a problem?
As soon as either of you think it is. Relationships can go for months without sex without either of you noticing. Bear in mind that the average is 2.5 times a week.
You are not housemates, nor are you aging aunties. You are young, fit and I am going to put my head on the block and say that if you have gone four months with no sexual contact, you are facing a bit of a problem you need to tackle head on.
Sex is a habit. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of forgetting about it. But it’s also easy to get back into regular sessions.
What is stopping you?
Your sex drive is more than the sum of its parts. It is neither wholly physical nor completely emotional. It’s a complex, chem- ical relationship that merges hormones, fantasy and time with self-esteem, self-confidence and self-respect. You may be one of the lucky few couples who have a chemistry you can’t switch off. But if you are among the rest of the population, you are going to have to make time to rediscover your sex life. There are two basic areas where problems could be affecting your desire : Your body and your mind.
Body - First up, you need to get the physical causes of libido loss sorted out.
You are healing and feel like hell. This is no time you want to climb on top of your husband wearing a cowboy hat and ride the rodeo. Give yourself time to heal and gather strength. No need to put pressure on yourself to perform in the sack when your first priority is to look after yourself and your own recovery.
Check your Pills
A notorious side effect of the ever-popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs, most notably Prozac or Paxil) is a lower libido and impaired orgasm. These are two of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. Speak to your doctor about lowering your dosage.
Other medication that can impact libido are birth control pills, blood pressure lowering drugs and, in some cases, oestrogen replacement. Consult your doctor if you suspect any of these are impacting on your sex life.
Medical complaints can knock your libido. These include thyroid deficiency, pain-causing urogenital problems such as fibroids, endometriosis, candida and bladder infections, vulvodynia or inflammation.
Causes of pain fall into two categories.
Scarring : Perineal scarring heals fast, but women report itchiness and pain, sometimes for years after the event. The first priority here is to heal your wound, so don’t rush into sex. If pain persists during sex after twelve months, check in with your obstetrician.
Penetration pain: This is a pain, or uncomfortable feeling, in the vagina during sex. Often it feels as if your partner’s penis is too deep. The most common cause is early uterine descent. This means your uterus has dropped a few centimeters from its usual resting place and your partner’s penis is hitting against your cervix during penetration. Another reason could be a prolapse of bladder or rectum. This would feel more like fullness in your bladder or rectum during sex.
The first thing to do is to experiment and find a sexual position that eases the pressure.
The missionary, or any position where you are lying on your back with your legs pressed against your body will shorten your vaginal canal and cause additional pain. With you on top, you can control how far you are penetrated, or try a spooning position, which may ease the feeling of depth. See Chapters 2 and 3 for ways to strengthen your uterine muscles and deal with prolapse.
Dry as a bone
Breastfeeding lowers levels of estradial, the hormone responsible for keeping the urogenital tract lubricated and supple. The symptoms will vary. This is temporary. Just stock up on some lubricating creams, oils or gels. Remember to use a water-based lubricant with condoms.
This is a libido killer. Both of you are exhausted and sleep- deprived. Your lives are hectic, and when you fall into bed every night, sex is simply not on the agenda. Mornings are better.
Having a child is stressful, compounded with money concerns, work stress, moving house, restarting work. When you are stressed, your libido is one of the first casualties.
Sure motherhood is stressful. But how long are you going to keep on trying to do everything? Find ways to limit the workload on yourself and reduce your most immediate stress.
Remember, it takes two to tango and two to raise the result of it. Set rules for handling the baby, and make sure your partner shows up for his turn, even it’s just handling the bath every day; take that time to walk away from your baby for a while.
Try and relax as a couple. It is easy to spend your precious time alone discussing your baby or just catching up on some sleep. But try and schedule some time to unwind together. Even if it’s a stroll after dinner or a quick back massage before bed. Start to reconnect as a couple in a situation that does not include your baby.
Mind and soul
Yes, we know you just don’t feel like it, but you need to look a bit deeper than that. Sex was part of your relationship before your baby; you need to look at what in you has changed.
Depression will hit your sex life hard, fast and first. Tackle the depression, and then work on getting your libido back.
Perceptions of your Body
A negative self-image can dampen even the most powerful sex drive. Nobody wants to do a striptease with a postpartum body. It would be more suited to a comedy routine. But chances are your husband thinks you are looking glorious and is glowing with love and pride. Try not to make your negative image his reality by suggesting he may find you anything other than a domestic goddess. Rather than feel exposed and uncomfortable, opt for some flattering and flowing lingerie that covers the bits you hate.
Anger : Repressed emotions, such as anger, frustration and resentment, do not create a sizzle at night. Not unless you want to don latex and crack the whip. Chapter 11 deals with ways to clear the anger in your relationship without taking it out on each other.
Serious Mom : Are you trying too hard to be a mommy? Sure you’re a mommy. But you are also a daughter, sister, lover and friend to many people. Don’t get too tied into being old before your time. Have fun with being a parent, for heaven’s sake; don’t make it a chore that swallows the rest of your life.
Laziness : It’s very easy to let your sex life slide into a wasteland. Keeping the spice means hard work. Otherwise be prepared to be nothing more than very good friends.