Postpartum Sex: What You Need to Know About Sex After Giving Birth

Learn how to navigate postpartum sex with confidence and comfort. Our guide offers valuable insights and tips for embracing intimacy after giving birth

Sex after giving birth is a tricky topic. It’s hard enough to get in the mood for sex when you’re pregnant but postpartum? The last thing you want to do when you’re tired and taking care of a newborn is to have sex.

But it’s essential! And it can be great! So, if you are currently heavily pregnant or have just had your baby, arm yourself with the information in this article to ease yourself back into postpartum sex as smoothly as possible.

Sex After Giving Birth

Postpartum sex is the act of having sex with your partner after you have given birth. Postpartum sex can be a difficult thing to talk about, and it’s not always easy to know what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to postpartum sex.

One of the essential things about sex after giving birth is that it’s different for everyone. Some women experience little or no physical changes after giving birth, while others might experience pain or discomfort. Your body will also change over time, so what feels right one day may not feel right on another day.

It’s important to talk with your partner about how they feel about postpartum sex before trying it out together. If you’re feeling uncomfortable and unsure about getting intimate with your partner again so soon after giving birth, you have to let him know and be on the same page. 

Don’t feel pressured into doing anything that makes you uncomfortable! It’s okay if that means waiting until things feel more natural between the two of you again.

Postpartum Changes That Can Affect Your Sex Life

Image Source: iStock

Bringing a beautiful life into this world is a truly remarkable experience. However, it’s essential to acknowledge that pregnancy and childbirth can bring about significant changes, both physically and emotionally. These changes may also impact your sex life. Let’s explore five ways that pregnancy can affect your postpartum journey between the sheets.

  • Hormonal Rollercoaster

After giving birth, your body experiences a hormonal rollercoaster ride. Hormone levels fluctuate, and this can affect your mood, energy levels, and even your desire for intimacy. Postpartum hormonal changes are perfectly normal, but it’s important to communicate openly with your partner about how you’re feeling.

  • Vaginal Changes

During childbirth, the vaginal area undergoes significant stretching and sometimes tearing. It takes time for the tissues to heal and return to their pre-pregnancy state. This healing process might lead to discomfort or even pain during sex. Don’t fret; with patience, proper lubrication, and gradual re-engagement, intimacy can become enjoyable again.

  • Fatigue and Sleep Deprivation

Parenthood comes with sleepless nights and round-the-clock care for your little one. The exhaustion and sleep deprivation can take a toll on your energy levels and libido. Remember, it’s okay to prioritise rest and recovery during this phase. Communicate with your partner, find moments to recharge, and gradually ease back into physical intimacy when you feel ready.

  • Body Image Concerns

Pregnancy and childbirth can bring about changes in your body shape and size. It’s common for women to feel self-conscious about these changes, impacting their confidence and comfort during intimate moments. Openly discussing your feelings and embracing self-love and acceptance are key to rediscovering your body and reclaiming your sexual confidence.

  • Breastfeeding and Sensitivity

Breastfeeding releases a hormone called prolactin, which can inhibit sexual desire and arousal for some women. Additionally, sensitive breasts due to breastfeeding may require adjustments in sexual positions or finding alternative ways to explore intimacy that provide comfort for both partners.

When Can I Have Sex After Giving Birth

Regardless of whether you give birth vaginally or by C-section, your body needs time to heal.

Your cervix needs to close, any lacerations need to heal and postpartum bleeding (lochia) should stop. It’s especially important to wait until postpartum bleeding stops to allow the wound left in your womb by your placenta coming out to heal completely.

According to medical experts, having sex before the bleeding stops involves the risk of infection. Most health practitioners recommend that you wait four to six weeks after birth before having sex again.

But more important than this medically recommended timeline is your own.

Some women will feel ready to resume sex within a few weeks after giving birth; others may take much longer — even months. What’s important is that you listen to your body about when the time is right.

Go slow… there’s no need to rush.

Is Sex After Birth Painful

You may find that hormonal changes leave your vagina dry and tender, especially if you are breastfeeding. Also, if you are healing from an episiotomy or tears, you might experience pain.

As suggested by Mayo Clinic, taking it slow is the best way to help ease the pain the first few times you have sex after having your baby. Start with lots of foreplay — cuddling, kissing and massage. Gradually build up in intensity.

If you are experiencing vaginal dryness, use a lubricant. Most importantly, don’t put pressure on yourself to perform as you did before getting pregnant.

If having sex after giving birth is painful or uncomfortable, go for alternatives like oral sex until you are healed. You should also tell your partner what feels good and what doesn’t and tell him to stop if needed.

Will Sex Feel Different?

It may, at least temporarily, because if you have had a normal birth, “decreased muscle tone in the vagina might reduce pleasurable friction during sex — which can influence arousal”, according to Mayo Clinic.

Doing Kegel exercises is the best way to tone and strengthen your pelvic muscles. All you need to do is tighten your pelvic muscles like you are trying to stop peeing. Aim to keep the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between ‘squeezes’.

Try to do at least three sets of Kegels throughout your day.

How Soon Can You Have an Orgasm After Giving Birth

Some new mothers say their orgasms have changed since they had a baby. Some find themselves more responsive than before, while others report that their orgasms are less intense or less frequent than they used to be.

If you’re feeling anxious about your ability to have an orgasm after childbirth, take heart: most women experience some degree of change when they become mothers. 

The first few times you have sex after delivery may not be the best you’ve ever had in terms of orgasms. Some women report that they don’t experience an orgasm for weeks—even if they were highly orgasmic before having their baby. 

Be patient with yourself and your body, and spend quality time alone with your partner regularly, even for only 15 minutes.

How Is Sex After Delivery With Stitches

Here’s what you need to know about sex after delivery with stitches.

First, you must check with your doctor before having sex if you’ve had a caesarean section. While some women will be able to resume their normal activities after just a few days, others may need more time (up to 6 weeks).

If you had stitches placed at the time of delivery, they should dissolve on their own within 2 to 4 weeks.

If you need medical attention for your stitches, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or midwife immediately. They’ll be able to advise you on what steps you should take next and how long it might take for them to dissolve completely. It is so that intercourse can occur safely again without causing further damage.

Bleeding After Postpartum Sex

You’ve waited a long time for the postpartum bleeding to stop so you can have sex, only for them to happen again after doing the deed. What is up with that? Here are two reasons why this could happen.

  • Irritated cervix –  Your cervix has been through a lot during the past nine months, and it’s feeling sensitive up to now, so expect that some action will cause light bleeding. 
  • Uterine contraction – Remember how having an orgasm causes your uterus to contract? That’s likely to cause some light bleeding. 

Light postpartum bleeding after sexual intercourse is normal, but if after the deed you are feeling severe pain, or if the flow gets too heavy that you need to change your pad every couple of hours, then do not hesitate to contact your doctor. 

Sex After Delivery Precautions 

Postpartum sex can be a little tricky. It’s not impossible, but you should take precautions to ensure that you and your partner are safe.

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to sex after giving birth:

  • Have a checkup with your doctor before having sex.

While most doctors will give their patients the OK to have sex six weeks after giving birth, they may recommend waiting until eight weeks. That or even longer if there are any complications. Also, if other issues can impact your ability to have sex.

  • Ask your partner if they would like to have sex right away or if they’d rather wait for a bit more time.

Suppose they say yes, then great! But if they say no, respect their wishes and don’t pressure them into anything—they might just need some more time!

  • Use lubricant during intercourse if necessary.

It can help reduce friction and increase comfort for both partners during the act itself; plus, it reduces the risk of tearing or other damage that could occur from too much friction (especially if either partner has stitches).

Sex may feel different – but your partner can make it amazing for you. Talk to him about what works and what doesn’t work for you… he will understand.

When Can You Get Pregnant After Giving Birth?

You CAN get pregnant if you have already started ovulating 6 weeks after giving birth. However, some women who are breastfeeding their babies exclusively are less likely to ovulate during this time (and for the first six months) than women who do not breastfeed exclusively. This is called lactation amenorrhea. 

Remember that getting pregnant again too soon after giving birth can increase the risk of adverse outcomes for both you and your unborn baby, so if you are keen on getting on with your sex life, make sure you have a birth control method in place. 

When Can You Use Birth Control After Giving Birth?

After giving birth, it’s natural to start thinking about birth control to plan your future pregnancies. The timing for using birth control after childbirth can vary depending on various factors such as your overall health, breastfeeding status, and the type of birth control you choose.

Generally, it’s advisable to have a discussion with your healthcare provider during your postpartum check-up to determine the best option for you. Some methods, like barrier methods and progestin-only birth control pills, can be started immediately after childbirth.

However, if you’re considering combined hormonal methods or an intrauterine device (IUD), it’s often recommended to wait until your six-week postpartum check-up to ensure that your body has had enough time to heal.

Remember, every woman’s situation is unique, so consulting with your healthcare provider is crucial to make an informed decision about birth control postpartum.

Should You Be Using Condoms After Giving Birth 

There are several reasons why you should still be using condoms after giving birth:

  • Condoms protect against STIs like HIV/AIDS and chlamydia;
  • It also protects against pregnancy until you’re ready for another baby;
  • Condoms are non-hormonal—meaning they won’t interfere with breastfeeding or breast milk production;
  • The risks associated with having unprotected sex will increase if you have another child soon (since this increases your risk of contracting an infection).

Postpartum Sex Positions

  • Missionary

This is a good position to test your level of pain or comfort while having sex for the first time after baby. But pelvic floor physiotherapist Julia Di Paolo cautions that C-section mums should probably avoid this position as it can put pressure on the stitches.

Also, hubby’s weight may put too much pressure on the clitoris and/or perineum, which may cause discomfort.

  • Spooning

This position is excellent for C-section mums as it protects your tummy during sex.

  • Woman on top

Since you get control of the entry speed and penetration level, this is a good ‘first-time’ position, as it also puts less physical pressure on your body.

  • Doggy-pillow style

This position involving a slight variation of the doggy style is another good one for C-section mums. Just stack a pile of soft pillows as support, and for comfort, under your tummy.

  • Bed edge

This is an excellent position for keeping pressure off the top half of your body. Just scoot the bottom half of your body to the edge of your bed. This way, your partner can stand or kneel while avoiding putting pressure on your body.

Image Source: Stock

Low Sex Drive After Giving Birth

After giving birth, many women experience changes in their sex drive. Several factors contribute to this decline in libido. Understanding the causes can help women navigate this postpartum phase. Here are some common factors that can cause low sex drive after giving birth:

  1. Hormonal Changes: Pregnancy and childbirth cause a significant hormonal shift in a woman’s body. The sudden drop in estrogen levels postpartum can lead to a decrease in sex drive and vaginal dryness, making intercourse uncomfortable.

  2. Physical Discomfort: The body undergoes significant changes during childbirth, and recovery takes time. Many women experience physical pain, perineal tears, or cesarean section scars, which can affect sexual desire and make sexual activity uncomfortable or painful.

  3. Exhaustion and Sleep Deprivation: Caring for a newborn is demanding and exhausting. Sleep deprivation and the general fatigue associated with newborn care can leave little energy or desire for sexual intimacy.

  4. Emotional and Psychological Factors: Adjusting to the demands of motherhood, the change in identity, and the stress of caring for a newborn can impact a woman’s mental and emotional well-being. These factors can contribute to a decrease in sex drive.

  5. Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding stimulates the release of hormones like oxytocin and prolactin, which can decrease sexual desire. The hormonal changes associated with breastfeeding, coupled with the demands of nursing, can affect libido.

  6. Relationship Dynamics: The arrival of a baby often shifts the dynamics of a couple’s relationship. Adjusting to new roles and responsibilities, combined with the stress of parenting, can affect both partners’ libido.

Remember, every woman’s experience is unique, and the recovery process varies. It’s essential to communicate openly with your partner and healthcare provider about any concerns regarding low sex drive after giving birth.

A Special Word to the Hubbies

Yes, you might be yearning to reconnect with your beautiful wife more than ever now. But when you’re having sex with her for the first time after she had your baby, please remember these things.

She’s very, very tired most of the time. Do your best to relax her and soothe her mind — weave this into foreplay. Give her a gentle massage — her shoulders and arms are especially weary from carrying and cuddling your little one.

Remember, she is probably still quite sore down there if she has had a normal birth and feeling dry. Be extra gentle with her. Ask her if she’s okay, if it hurts, if it feels good and what you can do to make her feel good.

Remember that she may struggle with body image issues and be self-conscious about her new body. You might not even notice her stretchmarks and tummy, but they might be painfully obvious to her. She might even think that you don’t find her attractive anymore.

Do your best to reassure her that you love her as she is now, as much and more than you did before she had the baby.

If she has had a C-section, be mindful of her scar. If she is anxious, know that the area around her cut on her tummy will tense up too, causing discomfort. This is another reason why you need to help her relax.

Don’t put pressure on her tummy — use soft pillows to cushion her tummy from your weight and try out positions that don’t involve your full body weight on her.

And if she is breastfeeding, stay away from those beautifully full breasts. Yes, she may look like a lingerie model, but her breasts are sensitive and may even be painful if you touch them. Resistance, dear hubby, in this case, will serve you well.

Finally, please understand if she puts off having sex for some time. It may be weeks. It may be months. This doesn’t mean you have lost your wife. It just means your child has gained a mother who will be physically back with you as soon as she is ready.

Emotionally, she is with you — always has been, always will be.

Image Source: iStock

Updated by Pheona Ilagan

Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.

Written by

Nalika Unantenne