Pregnancy and delivery bring so many changes to your body. There’s a laundry list of things you can’t eat or do – besides getting to meet their baby, there are many reasons pregnant people are ready to be done with pregnancy. Then there’s sex — you’ll likely wonder how long after you birth you can have sex, how it might feel, and more.
For some moms, pregnancy is a time of increased sex drive, but others experience low libido. Whatever your pregnancy sexual experience, it’s normal to be curious about what sex after childbirth will look like. There are physical questions like how soon after pregnancy you’re safely able to have sex, if some bleeding is normal, or if sex will fill different after all the changes your body has been through. There are also emotional considerations. Are you ready for sex after pregnancy? When can you have sex after childbirth? Is the answer different if you had a vaginal birth versus a C-section? What if you’re too exhausted from mothering? How do you explain to your partner your new feelings about sex?
These are all common questions people ask about postpartum sex. Most people have heard or been told to wait until six weeks postpartum to have sex, and while that is the general benchmark, it turns out the answer is a bit more nuanced than that simple timeline suggests, from a medical standpoint.
When can you have sex after a vaginal birth?
There’s actually no “official” six-week waiting requirement, says Dr. Laura Purdy, a family medicine physician. It’s just the time frame when most people are physically recovered enough and a really great guideline, but there’s nothing magical about that six-week mark. All bodies heal differently. ”Your doctor may recommend waiting to have sex until four to six weeks after delivery, regardless of the delivery method. Mothers who have had vaginal tears as a result of vaginal delivery often need to wait longer to ensure it has healed before having sex again.” A conversation with your doctor as well as an honest look at how your body actually feels will help you decide.
When can you have sex after a C-section?
For those who have had a C-section, Dr. Purdy she says a healthy and healing incision is the key to the sexy green light. “Most people can begin having sex after their six-week check-up post-delivery, to ensure the surgical incisions to the abdomen heal correctly.” If your incision is irritated, red, or oozing, please make an appointment with your doctor and wait on sex.
Why does sex after birth hurt?
Aside from the major trauma your body has been through during delivery, Dr. Purdy says there a few reasons sex can hurt after birth. “Low levels of estrogen are normal for around two months post-delivery, which can cause vaginal dryness and lead to discomfort.” A good quality lube will help — make sure to choose one that is free of fragrance and harsh ingredients. The consistent pressure pregnant people experience on their muscles before delivery also affects how sex can feel. Vaginal muscles were stretched or possibly even torn during delivery, too. This can make sex painful for a period of time.
How soon after birth can you get pregnant?
Everyone has heard about “Irish twins,” or siblings born within a year of each other. While not extremely common, this can happen — and it can be really hard on your body. “Regardless of the delivery method, a mother’s body is capable of getting pregnant in as little as three weeks after giving birth. It’s possible to ovulate before having your first postpartum period, and it’s possible to conceive as soon as you ovulate,” says Dr. Purdy. She urges mothers to use alternatives to intercourse before the one-month postpartum mark to prevent pregnancy, given the health risks of back-to-back pregnancies. “The mother’s body might not have fully healed, and there is a change in hormones and nutrients during the first postpartum year.” While kids close in age can be awesome, it’s best for your body to have a healthy gap.
Is bleeding normal?
It can be scary to see blood during or after sex if you’ve just given birth. It can be normal or even expected, says Dr. Purdy, but it’s an important symptom to monitor closely. Episiotomy stitches typically begin to dissolve in two weeks and are fully healed by one month. Irritating these stitches too soon can cause bleeding, so check in with your doctor for clearance from stitches. Dryness, as mentioned above, can also cause bleeding from friction. The muscle contraction that accompanies an orgasm can also cause some slight bleeding after birth. If you’re filling a tampon or pad within two hours, please seek medical attention immediately.
You should stop having sex if…
If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut. If there’s too much bleeding (see above), too much pain, or if you aren’t into it, it’s time to stop. There might not be a concrete medical or physical reason why it’s too soon, but it could be that you are not mentally ready to resume having intercourse. Start slow and listen to your mind and body.
What if you don’t feel ready?
You’ve been given the all-clear, but the thought of sex just doesn’t feel right. That’s more common than you might think, says Dr. Jenn Mann, a relationship and sex therapist who focuses on the emotional aspects of sex. There’s a huge emotional component to postpartum sex. For many moms, their body might be ready for sex but their minds are not. Being emotionally ready is just as important, she says. “Many women feel like their body has been use as a vessel for their child- carrying them, feeding them, etc. and that can make it difficult to feel like giving or even receiving in sexual ways.”
In addition to these feelings, many women struggle with body image or feeling sexy after giving birth. “The dramatic change in a woman’s body hormones can make her body feel unfamiliar to her and trigger self criticism.” Plus, many new moms are just exhausted. Open communication with your partner is key during this phase. Your partner may have heard “six weeks” as a very simple time frame without realizing how complicated things feel for you. “It is crucial to make sure that your partner knows that this is not about them, their attractiveness or your love for them,” says Mann. “It is best to communicate what it is that is holding you back from feeling ready, owning your own stuff. I also recommend using the sandwich technique. Start with the positive and end with the positive. This can make the information more well received.”
Dr, Jenn Mann, relationship and sex psychotherapist