The recovery after pregnancy can take a good amount of time. Your body has just pushed out another human being! It definitely needs some well-deserved rest and relaxation. It’s likely you have healing wounds and soreness. But even when these reduce, it may not necessarily be completely safe to have sex again. Here’s everything you need to know about sex after childbirth and a few tips that will help make the process easier.
Why You Should Not Have Sex Immediately After Childbirth
1. You Could Have Heavy Bleeding
Often, women are still bleeding heavily soon after delivery because the areas where the placenta was attached to the uterus now are open blood vessels. This bleeding is called lochia and often simply resembles a heavy period. The blood vessels do contract eventually and the bleeding gradually lessens. Experts recommend that it’s best to wait until the vaginal bleeding stops completely.1
2. It Increases The Risk Of Rupturing Healing Stitches
Vaginal tearing may happen naturally as part of the delivery or doctors may choose to do an episiotomy which is a surgical incision that is made between the vagina and the anus. This is in case the delivery needs to happen quickly and the vaginal muscles cannot stretch by themselves. In both of these situations, the wounds need time to heal. Any kind of penetrative sexual activity could rupture the stitches.2
3. It Could Also Raise The Risk Of Uterine Infection
This is a risk even if you gave birth via C-section because your cervix still dilates. This makes it much easier for bacteria to make its way from your vagina up to your uterus and cause dangerous infections.3 And that’s something you definitely want to avoid. In fact, avoid douching or using tampons as well. Any object being inserted vaginally could introduce foreign bacteria into the environment.
When Can You Safely Have Sex After Childbirth?
It would be easier and safer to wait until after your 6-week postpartum checkup. Your OB/GYN can then inspect your wounds and give you a definite green light.
A good early sign that tells you’re on the right path, is less blood in your discharge after childbirth. The “lochia” or discharge will be less bright red, a few days after delivery which means the bleeding is slowing down. This is a sign that your wounds are healing normally. Once you know that your wounds are healing normally, 4–6 weeks after delivery is the recommended time for a woman’s vagina to heal completely.
All of this being said, you as a mother should have sex only when you’re absolutely ready, emotionally, and mentally. This can take even longer than six months and can vary from woman to woman. Some women may take even up to a year to become comfortable with sex and that’s completely fine. Remember to take your time getting comfortable with being sexual again.
What To Expect From Your First Time After Birth
There may be some hiccups along the way when you first try to get into the groove. Knowing what to expect can help you overcome these hurdles and be prepared for any difficult situations along the way.
1. Low Libido
Lower libido is extremely common among new mothers.4 In between feedings, nappy changes, and getting enough sleep yourself, sex is likely to be the last thing on your mind. And even if you’re remotely in the mood, laundry, household chores, and your baby inevitably crying in the middle of it all, are likely to mess up the rhythm of things. Try to get relatives to watch your baby for an hour or two to get some time alone. Or wait until the baby sleeps longer hours.
2. Less Lubrication
Levels of estrogen drop during breastfeeding which can make the vagina feel dry even if you are aroused.5 Go slow and include longer foreplay into your session. If all else fails, copious amounts of water-soluble lubricant can help. Above all, just give your body time to readjust.
3. Possible Pain
This can be because of raw wounds or stitches that may not have healed properly. Or it could simply be soreness. Some women report that their vaginas feel much tighter and having sex after childbirth is comparable to losing their virginity again. Try positions that allow you to control the depth of penetration. If the pain continues to persist even after a few attempts at intercourse, weak muscle tone in the pelvic region may be to blame. If that is the case, talk to a physical therapist. they will recommend exercises like Kegels to help build pelvic muscle strength.
4. Unexpected Milk Letdown
Some women may experience a release of breast milk during orgasm because a lot of the same hormones are released during both.6 This can be an awkward situation for both partners but if you’re ready to laugh it off, it doesn’t have to be. If you’re worried, you can always wear a nursing bra or keep a tank-top on. It’s likely that your breasts will be too swollen and sensitive for stimulation. If you wish, you can breastfeed or pump milk just before sex to prevent it from happening. Just remember that as you get used to nursing, your breasts won’t be as sensitive anymore and you can be open to their involvement in sexual play.
5. Possibility Of Pregnancy
Even if you haven’t had your first period postpartum, it’s possible that you’re ovulating at that time.7 You should, in fact, have your birth control plan in place before you leave the hospital after delivery. Talk to your doctor about the various options and which one might suit you best. Your body is definitely not ready emotionally or physically for another pregnancy so this is one thing you should really take into account.
6. Lower Self Esteem
Some women seem to experience a drop in self-esteem when it comes to their post-pregnancy bodies. The uterus takes a few weeks to contract to its original size and pregnancy weight can take a year to lose. Focusing on changes like their larger feet, stretch marks, and skin discoloration can all make it hard for some women to feel good about themselves. Instead of looking at these changes as flaws, it helps to remind yourself of what your body is capable of. It created life and sustained it long enough to bring another human into the world! Feeling good about your body and its achievement can help you feel sexier in the bedroom.
Other Options To Explore Besides Traditional Sex
Sex doesn’t always have to be penetrative intercourse. If you are not ready for penetrative sex there are still plenty of ways that you both can reconnect and have intimacy. The important thing is to make sure both partners feel appreciated and desirable.
- Couples can engage in foreplay using the hands or engage in oral sex.
- Mutual masturbation can both be pleasurable and fulfilling for both partners.
- Even if you cannot find the time or are not ready to be sexual, take a few minutes to just cuddle and kiss before bedtime. The intimacy and affection remind both parties to reconnect.
At the end of the day, it’s important to keep the spark alive but take your time in getting back into it. Just make sure that as a new mother, you are physically and more importantly, emotionally ready to be sexual with your partner again.
|↑1||Resuming intercourse after childbirth — How long do we need to wait? Columbia University.|
|↑2, ↑3, ↑5||Jones, Claire, Crystal Chan, and Dan Farine. “Sex in pregnancy.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 183, no. 7 (2011): 815-818.|
|↑4||Resuming Sexual Intimacy. University Of Rochester.|
|↑6||Polomeno, Viola. “Sex and breastfeeding: An educational perspective.” The Journal of perinatal education 8, no. 1 (1999): 30.|
|↑7||Family Planning Module: 11. Postpartum and Post-Abortion Family Planning. The Open University.|