Sex After Pregnancy
Having a baby changes everything: your body, your mental and emotional state, your daily routine, and your relationships. Sex is one of so many factors couples must reconsider during this complicated life change.
Some simple guidelines to help you figure out how soon it’s safe to return to regular intercourse might be a good start.
Your individual timeline for sex
Although the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says there is no set time for when a woman can start having sex after having a baby, there are several factors to consider.
Most doctors recommend women wait four to six weeks following vaginal delivery. But it’s a good idea to first get clearance from your practitioner, whom you’ll most likely be seeing for a postpartum appointment within six weeks after giving birth.
Post-delivery hormonal changes may make vaginal tissue thinner and more sensitive. Your vagina, uterus, and cervix have to return to normal size, too. And, if you’re breastfeeding, that can lower libido as well. Breastfeeding can also contribute to vaginal dryness and thinning, causing pain with intercourse.
In short, your body needs some time off after delivery. You may also need to wait longer if you have a perineal tear or episiotomy. An episiotomy is a surgical cut made to widen the vaginal canal during the birth process. Returning to sex too soon may increase your risk of complications, such as postpartum hemorrhage and uterine infection.
Even after your doctor has given you the all-clear to resume sexual activities, you may still need to take things slowly. Remember: In addition to physical recovery, you’ll also be adjusting to a new family member, less sleep and changes in your regular routine.
Not yet ready for sex?
If you aren’t ready for sex, but your partner is, reassure them that you’re not pushing them away. You just need time while you get your head around the demands of a small human and let your body recover from the birth.
Interestingly, nursing releases oxytocin, a hormone that triggers good feelings toward the baby but also suppresses your libido. From an evolutionary and anthropological point of view, keeping your sex drive low is your body’s way of preventing another pregnancy too soon. You should remember this and feel relieved to find out there’s a reason if you’re not as interested in sex during the first few months after delivery. If you don’t want to get pregnant again, make sure you look into your options for reliable methods of contraception and discuss them with your doctor, midwife or clinician.
Remember, too, that there’s more to intimacy than sex, especially when you’re adjusting to life with a new baby. If you’re not feeling sexy or you’re afraid sex will hurt, talk to your partner. It might sound like a cliché, but communication and a mutual understanding of each other’s needs can help keep a loving relationship alive.
You might also want to remind your partner that your focus on your baby doesn’t take away from your love for them. Until you’re ready to have sex, maintain intimacy in other ways. Spend time together without the baby, even if it’s just a few minutes in the morning and after the baby goes to sleep. Look for other ways to express affection.
If you find yourself still struggling, be alert for signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, such as severe mood swings, loss of appetite, overwhelming fatigue and lack of joy in life. Prompt treatment can speed recovery, so if you think you might have postpartum depression, contact your healthcare provider.
Remember, taking good care of yourself can go a long way toward keeping passion alive.