Sex after childbirth. It’s a topic that isn’t often discussed in much detail…and a topic that some new mamas might not want to discuss at all. But the fact of the matter is, you and your partner will resume intimacy at some point after childbirth, when you’re both feeling ready. Here are a few things to know about having sex after pregnancy and how to make it as comfortable as possible when the time is right.
Wait Until Your Provider Gives You the OK
The risk of having a complication after delivering your little one is highest within the first two weeks postpartum. However, many providers recommend waiting to have sex until several weeks later. The reason? As your uterus heals, especially where the placenta was attached, it’s vulnerable to infection. And anything placed inside the vagina—either during intercourse or feminine products such as tampons—could potentially introduce bacteria.
New mamas typically visit their provider for a postpartum checkup between four and six weeks after delivery, during which time you and your provider will discuss how you’re healing (whether from a vaginal or C-section birth), if you’re still bleeding, and if you have any concerns. If you had any stitches from an episiotomy or a tear, your provider will also examine them to ensure you’re healed enough for sex to be safe and as comfortable as possible.
Sex Might Feel Uncomfortable
Your body has been through a LOT by the time you’re six weeks postpartum. Your vagina is healing, your breasts might be leaky, swollen and tender, or you might be recovering from a major C-section surgery. And any (or all) of these things can lead to intercourse feeling more uncomfortable than pleasurable. So while you might be excited to start having sex again, remember that you’re testing the waters—and the reality of your first few times getting intimate might not quite meet your expectations.
Another reason sex might feel uncomfortable? Hormones. After childbirth your estrogen levels are low, and prolactin levels are high for breastfeeding moms. These fluctuating hormones can play a part in causing vaginal dryness when attempting to have sex. Our best advice? Don’t skip foreplay, and keep lubricant on hand in order to provide moisture and keep friction at bay. If you’ve tried to have sex and it’s simply too much or too painful, tell your partner that you need a break, or that you need some more time before you’re ready.
You Might Not Be In the Mood
While you may miss the romantic and intimate moments you shared with your partner before baby arrived, you still might not want to have sex—which is totally understandable. Adjusting to life with a new baby (and a new postpartum body) can mean that sex is one of the last things on your mind.
Other factors at play? You’re likely dealing with sleep deprivation, you might feel “touched out” by the end of a long day of holding your little one, and if you're breastfeeding, another physical demand on your body simply might feel overwhelming. Be honest with your partner about how you’re feeling so they can understand why you’re not gung-ho to get busy.
Take It Slow
For many couples, sex after childbirth doesn’t just snap right back to how it was before your baby arrived. And that’s ok. While there are physical dynamics to adjust to postpartum, there are also emotional dynamics. You’ve just added an entirely new (and demanding) family member to your household, and stepped into new roles as “mom” and “dad” which can take some adjustment in and of itself.
Finding yourselves on different pages can be frustrating for both you and your partner when it comes to resuming your sex life. But the reality is, your partner simply can’t understand all of the huge changes you’ve gone through in such a short time—particularly since they haven’t dealt with any physical changes at all.
Before you jump right in to attempting to have sex, it can be helpful to find other ways to be intimate in the weeks after your baby arrives. Make sure you spend some alone time together while baby sleeps, take time to cuddle and kiss, then work your way up to sex when you’re feeling ready. Making the commitment to spend time together (both in and out of the bedroom) can help you both focus on your relationship and love for each other—and eventually can help bring back your sexual desire, too.
Chat With Your Provider
If you and your partner have tried to have intercourse and you’re continuing to experience any pain or other symptoms, schedule some time with your provider. They can do an exam to ensure there aren’t any problems with your healing, recommend ways to help with your discomfort, and explore other potential problems.
Another thing to speak with your provider about? Birth control. Even when you’ve just had a baby, it’s always possible to get pregnant again very soon after giving birth. And while breastfeeding can reduce the chances of getting pregnant, you still need backup birth control to ensure you don’t get pregnant again too quickly. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises against getting pregnant within six months of giving birth.
We know it can feel daunting to have sex again after delivering your baby. Go at your own pace, let your partner know when you feel ready, and be patient with each other. You’ll get back into the swing of things soon enough.