Sexual Relations While Breast Feeding
After the six-week postpartum check-up, the patient is usually given the “green light” to resume sexual activity. Many husbands are anxiously awaiting their partner’s answer to the question, “Honey, what did the doctor say?”
However, just because you have the ‘green light’ does not obligate you to put the car into drive! Many women are not ready for sexual activity at 6 weeks. You may be exhausted and sleep deprived. Additionally, there are physical changes in your body due to breast-feeding that may result in diminished desire for sex. For example, estrogen levels are naturally very low while breastfeeding. This is why breastfeeding women usually do not get their periods and why they are less fertile. But it also may lead to diminished or absent libido (sex drive). Furthermore, the low estrogen levels can persist for as long as the woman breastfeeds.
Another consequence of low estrogen levels is vaginal dryness. This condition is also common in women after menopause for the same reason…low estrogen levels. However, it is fully reversible once the patient has weaned. Vaginal dryness may make sex uncomfortable. This can be greatly improved through the use of water-based lubricants such as K-Y liquid or Astro-Glide. Some women may benefit from the use of a low-dose vaginal estrogen cream.
Whether you are breast-feeding or not, and whether you are having any periods or not, you can still conceive. Birth Control will be discussed at your 6-week postpartum visit. If you are breast-feeding, your options include condoms, the diaphragm, the IUD, and the mini-pill (a progesterone-only hormonal contraceptive which is FDA approved for nursing mothers).
One of the best contraceptive methods for breast-feeding women is the Mini-Pill, also called Micronor, which contains a low-dose progesterone derivative. Taken daily, it provides 98% contraception to nursing mothers, and is FDA approved for this situation. The side effects are minimal, including lack of regular periods, possible spotting, and possible mild bloating. This is different than the regular birth control pill as there is no estrogen in the Mini-Pill.
The Copper-T IUD is FDA approved for up to 10 years continual use and the Mirena IUD is effective for 5-years with fewer side effects than the Copper-T. These current IUD’s have NONE of the problems associated long ago with the Dalkon Shield, and they are becoming a popular birth control option.
The above is a partial list of the major options in birth control at this time. There are others not mentioned, and new developments continue to occur, but it is helpful before the visit to have an idea of what is available so that you can be prepared.