10 JunBreastfeeding, Birth Control and Sex

Just because you have a baby does not mean that the romance has to die, granted having a newborn in the house is going to make for some interesting romantic moments. I guarantee as soon as things begin to heat up a baby is going to cry, it is just part of adjusting to life with a newborn. You have to keep your sense of humor when you go back to that phase of your relationship, be a bit more creative if you will. Some couples are just too exhausted at this moment to even think about sex let alone be creative, but I assure you that this too shall pass and before you know it you and your partner will be just as amorous as before. There are a few things you have to consider however when you resume your sexual lifestyle now that you have just recently given birth, and now that you are breastfeeding. I am going to lay it all out for you, consider it advice from the sisterhood.

First things first….there is a reason that your doctor has said no sex for the first 6 weeks after birth. For one, I’m sure having anything remotely close to your nether regions is the furthest thing from your mind right now. There is some physical mending that has to take place. If you had a vaginal birth, you are probably a bit stretched out at the moment, and you have some microscopic abrasions that need to heal. Don’t worry I promise you will go back to your normal vaginal size…(that was my husbands first question to our doctor…really?!?) after all the vagina is a mucus membrane, but it takes some time for that to happen. Secondly, your body is in a sense of transition, and some women are extremely fertile. The lochia you are experiencing (this is the 6 weeks of bleeding that follows after birth) is different then a period meaning you CAN ovulate during this time and you CAN get pregnant.  I can’t tell you how many women go in for their 6 week check-up and find out they’re pregnant again!! So unless you really wanted “Irish Twins”, I would wait a bit longer before hanging the figurative tie on the door handle.

At your 6 week check-up your doctor will discuss with you birth control options. There are many different methods of birth control that work well for the breastfeeding mother. Some women however assume that breastfeeding alone is the perfect fail proof method of birth control. That isn’t necessarily the case, and I always recommend using a barrier method such as condoms, spermicide, etc… in conjunction with breastfeeding. Yes it is true that lactating women will most likely not get their period for several months after the birth of their baby. This is because the lactation hormones suppress ovulation. However for breastfeeding to truly be an effective form of birth control, otherwise known as LAM or Lactational Amenorrhea Method, the mother has to be exclusively breastfeeding, never use a breast pump, and never offer a bottle. The breasts have to be stimulated by a baby 10-12 times in a 24 hour period for it to be successful. The pump stimulates the breast differently then the baby’s mouth providing different hormone responses which is why it can interfere with the LAM method of birth control. A baby will always stimulate a breast, and empty a breast far better then the pump ever will. This isn’t to say however, that if you use a breast pump you will resume menstruation sooner. Most likely, you will still not receive your period, but that does not mean your body can’t ovulate.

Scientific research bases which women can effectively use the LAM method or breastfeeding method of birth control off of three criteria:

1. The woman has not began her menstrual cycle since the birth of per baby (lochia and spotting aside)

2.The mother is feeding her baby on demand, exclusively day and night, without offering any other foods or liquids via bottle, and has not began using a breast pump.

3. Her baby is less then 6 months old. At 6 months the baby will be introduced to solids, thus resulting in less breastfeeding sessions, and less breast stimulation.

Use of LAM method gives you a 2% chance of getting pregnant. However when any one of these criteria changes, then it is strongly recommended to begin using another form of birth control. Some families prefer to use a barrier method such as a condom or diaphragm. Others choose to use spermicides or gels. One of the more effective methods is a Progesterone Only Pill, also known as the mini pill. This is a birth control pill that can be taken safely while the mother is still breastfeeding. It works along with the body’s natural lactation hormones to suppress pregnancy. However once you stop breastfeeding you should resume the regular strength combination pill that contains estrogen as well. It is true that introducing a birth control pill can have a slight effect on your milk supply. At first your supply may drop briefly, but should return to it’s normal volume in a few days with proper stimulation. Regular strength birth control pills can have an effect on the volume and taste of the breast milk which is one reason why it is recommend to use a Progesterone Only Pill while lactating. Discuss your birth control options with your doctor to find the best fit for your family.

There are a few extra things women should know about sex and breastfeeding, that may come as a bit of a surprise, but will certainly play a very vital role in your love making! Staying hydrated is very important to all breastfeeding mothers, as it helps with milk production and all around well being. However, when a woman is lactating, all of her extra fluids go to making milk. Therefore, she will be drier then a desert storm down in her vagina during sex. I recommend using a lubricant such as Astroglide, or KY jelly, or whatever product works best for you. You will be happy, your partner will be happy, but most importantly your “hoo ha” will be very appreciative!!

Oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone” is quite possibly one of the most important hormones in a woman’s body. It is what is released to start contractions in labor, it is also the hormone that is released with nipple stimulation to signal the body’s milk ejection reflex. However, more importantly it is the hormone that is released when a woman experiences an orgasm. The milk ejection reflex is a rather strong reflex. When a woman’s milk lets down, it doesn’t just trickle out from the breast, it sprays out like a shower head! During sex, when a woman has an orgasm or her nipples are stimulated, your milk will let down and may spray in places you weren’t expecting. All this to say, unless you want to give your partner a milk bath, I would wear a bra during intercourse! Just part of the sisterhood saving you from a potentially embarrassing moment in your relationship!

Reviving your sex life is a vital key to sustaining a strong relationship bond with each other. When you two are communicating well, are connected well, you will work more as a team and be better parents as a result. So keep a sense of humor, talk things out with your partner, but more importantly have fun with each other. Parenting can be a difficult journey, but it shouldn’t put a damper on some of the more exciting moments in your life. Enjoy each moment, and take it one happy step at a time!

 

Copyright© 2011 Danielle Gauss,IBCLC – JustBreastFeeding.com. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

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