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Pregnancy, Postpartum and Sexuality

Young Woman Lying in Bed Wearing Lingerie

During pregnancy:

Generally there are no risks to maintaining an active sexual life during pregnancy. Except in specific cases where there is a complication that medically contraindicates penetrative sexual relations or prohibits orgasm, including sexual acts or masturbation.

 

Although there is no direct danger to the fetus, it is important to maintain a responsible sexual life since pregnancy does not eliminate the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

 

In general:

  • There is an increase in libido, or sexual desire, and an easier time reaching orgasm.

  • At a hormonal level, the amount of estrogen and progesterone produced during pregnancy causes erogenous zones such as the external genitalia and breasts  or chest to be much more irrigated and innervated and their size increases, increasing sensitivity.

  • But it is important to note that it is not only hormones that influence sexual desire. Emotional factors, such as stress and anxiety, can also have an effect on libido. This could explain why some people experience a decrease in sexual desire during pregnancy, even though the body is physiologically prepared for the opposite.

Acceptance of the physical changes that your body goes through during pregnancy is important to avoid a negative impact on your sexual life, as well as maintaining open and honest communication as a couple.

 

During postpartum and breastfeeding or chestfeeding:

  • In the postpartum everything changes. Normally, libido drops drastically in most people who have just given birth. In fact, no female mammal goes into heat during lactation; Her suitors sense it by the smell and don't even come close. The only mammalian species that have sexual relations during the breastfeeding or chestfeeding period are humans and kangaroos. In reality, this decrease in sexual interest on the part of the female is an evolutionary advantage, in order to maintain interest in her newly born offspring.

 

The loss of sexual desire has physiological and emotional causes:

 

  • The most important cause is hormonal. If there are astronomical levels of estrogen and progesterone secreted by the placenta, a drastic decrease in these hormones occurs after childbirth. Instead, we secrete prolactin, the hormone responsible for the production of human milk, which in turn is an antagonistic hormone to those that make you have a libido and be fertile: estrogens, progesterone and testosterone.

  • When breastfeeding or chestfeeding, during the first 6 months you are, hormonally, in a situation similar to menopause. That is why common signs appear, such as vaginal dryness and hot flashes.

  • Added to the hormonal factor are others, such as sleep and fatigue that people who are raising a baby usually experience.

  • Sometimes it is very difficult to find a time for sexual relations, and when it appears it is very possible that the baby will interrupt it with his crying.

  • Childbirth has a very great influence on sexuality. Giving birth is a very shocking and intense event, and the experience you have during the process can have a negative impact on your sex life. Sometimes a violent birth is experienced, which leaves emotional consequences.

  • In other cases, interventions such as episiotomy are performed. Episiotomy often causes dyspaurenia (painful intercourse) in the long term.

  • Cesarean births involve a post-surgical recovery process, during which you may feel discomfort and pain. This situation can have an impact on sexual life since it is important to allow complete recovery, both physically and emotionally, after this medical intervention.

On the other hand, those who have had a natural birth, with little intervention and without vaginal trauma, may not have any problems restarting sexual relations, and it is also possible that their libido will not drop as much.

Using lubricants to combat vaginal dryness, having patience, affection, respect and effective communication as a couple are essential during this stage.

  • During breastfeeding or chestfeeding, beyond 6 months, prolactin no longer reaches values as high as in the immediate postpartum, since milk production ceases to be an endocrine phenomenon, but is maintained thanks to frequent suction and emptying of the breast or chest. Basal levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone rise again, and libido also begins to recover.

  • Due to the oxytocin secreted during orgasm, some lactating people may have an ejection reflex with milk release. This situation is completely normal and it is important to talk about it. There is no need to feel ashamed, it is a physiological process that is out of your control.

  • Last but not least, it is important to discuss and manage the emotional part.

 

After birth, an intense bond is created with the baby. Almost all sexual and emotional energy is directed toward the newborn.

  • It is common for breastfeeding or chestfeeding people to reject breast or chest stimulation during sexual intercourse; it is as if they wanted to reserve them only for their baby.

 

This can sometimes be perceived by the couple as emotional rejection. In the postpartum period, love, affection, support and understanding from the couple are needed. To overcome any situation, communication is crucial. Your partner must understand that there are important physical and emotional factors that make you not feel sexual desire, but that you continue to love and need him or her more than ever. At the same time, we must know that our partner may feel alone and excluded, that they want to help and don't know how to do it. This mutual understanding will help you cope and successfully overcome this stage.

 

It is important to emphasize that your partner can hug you and give you affection without expecting sex in return, and very possibly this will lead to improving the relationship, and therefore increasing sexual desire. Although, despite all the changes and possible challenges you may experience, face we want to remind you that your sex life doesn't end when you have a baby.

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