Many studies have had conflicting results when it comes to whether or not breastfeeding women experience a decreased libido. The correct answer is A, and B. It depends. While some women may experience a reduced desire for sex, other women experience just the opposite!
Breastfeeding mothers do have lower levels of estrogen. This results in less vaginal lubrication which, for some women, can make arousal more difficult. Breastfeeding also increases the levels of oxytocin in a woman’s body. Oxytocin (also known as the love hormone) is responsible for orgasm, uterine contractions, and improves sexual function.
I feel the real reason why there is so much variation has more to do with adjustments women have as new mothers opposed to breastfeeding itself. Women are different. Feelings about their changed body and adjusting to the new role of mother can largely determine her sexual desire after childbirth, as well as while breastfeeding. Some women feel empowered after birth and breastfeeding. They have a new sense of what their body can do, and this can often lead to heightened sexual desire. Some women are happy with the physical changes after birth. Their bodies may be curvier and their breast larger. Other women may have a very hard time coming to terms with their new postpartum bodies. They may feel mutilated with changes from a C-section, episiotomy, vaginal tearing, large breasts, or weight gain. If I had a dollar for every mother I consulted that was mortified with her increased breast size and wanted to know what size her breast would be after lactating, well I wouldn’t need a day job. Taking care of a new baby is tough around-the-clock work. This can leave mothers and fathers exhausted, preoccupied with baby, and disinterested in sex. A woman experiencing postpartum depression is also not likely to be interested in sex or other activities that she usually enjoys. There is also the phenomena of being “touched out.” Breastfeeding requires closeness and physical touch. The breastfeeding relationship is a beautiful thing and it can be constant with newborns. Sometimes women need a moment to themselves without being physically touched by another person, leaving less room for sex.
Sometimes it is hard for couples to see women as both sexual beings and mothers. New parents need to take time to talk to each other and discover balance with their new roles as parent and sexual beings. For some it is harder to rectify than others, but with open communication and time couples can navigate this adjustment period smoothly.