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Background:

New mothers and clinicians would benefit from an understanding of typical sexual behavior during breastfeeding. Unfortunately, little information is available about both the typical length of time to resumption of coitus and the frequency of sexual relations during breastfeeding. This paper describes the commencement and frequency of coitus among breastfeeding women in a variety of settings.

Methods:

The analysis draws on data from two separate research studies. The first was undertaken in three sites (Birmingham, United Kingdom; Montreal, Canada; Sydney, Australia), the purpose of which was to correlate natural observations of fertility with the underlying hormonal profile among breastfeeding women using the sympto-thermal method of natural family planning. The second was a clinical trial of the lactational amenorrhea method of family planning conducted in Manila, the Philippines.

Results:

Coital frequency reported by these populations of breastfeeding women appears to be lower than that reported in other studies for married women in general. As other research demonstrated, we found coital frequency and postpartum resumption of coitus to be associated with age, but not with the number of children in the household.

Conclusions:

A better understanding of the level of sexual activity among breastfeeding women could inform and improve programs that offer postpartum support and counseling about family planning. (BIRTH 24:4, December 1997)