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ABSTRACT

The purpose of this study was to describe various aspects of sexuality for primiparous breastfeeding women. The conceptual framework used for the study was Bernhard's theory of women's integrated sexuality which describes female sexuality as a multidimensional, biopsychosocial phenomenon. The investigators used a descriptive design, analyzing data from the 576 primiparous breastfeeding women who, as part of a larger study, completed the Breastfeeding and Sexuality Tool at the time of complete weaning. The women were from a large, private hospital in urban Minnesota. Subjects completed initial questionnaires during the postpartum hospitalization. Follow-up data were collected by phone at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months postpartum. Those who had not weaned by 12 months were followed every 3 months until complete weaning was reported. Overall, women perceived that breastfeeding had a slightly negative impact on the physiologic aspects of sexuality, but did not greatly affect the woman's sexual relationship with her partner. In addition, breastfeeding mothers perceived their partners' attitudes towards breastfeeding and sexuality as slightly positive, and did not worry that sexual activity would harm their milk supply or their ability to nurse. Overall, breastfeeding had a slightly negative impact on sexuality. However, a wide range of responses were reported by the women. Health care providers should be familiar with the whole range of possible responses to sexuality while breastfeeding in order to appropriately counsel women about what is normal and what to expect during this time.