How Long Real People Wait to Have Sex After Giving Birth
There's no doubt that childbirth puts a woman's body through the wringer. Regardless of how a baby is born (C-section or vaginal birth), it's a strenuous—and often traumatic—medical event that doesn't just magically heal as soon as the baby is placed in the mother's arms.
In fact, many women experience vaginal tearing that requires sutures to heal, as well as normal postnatal bleeding. Not to mention the pain and discomfort of abdominal surgery, which can tack on weeks to the recovery process for women who undergo a cesarean.
All of these factors can make "getting sexy" post-baby a little hard to swallow. And that doesn't even begin to account for the additional stressors of sleepless nights and caring for a new baby, and the sometimes-present feeling of self-consciousness due to a new, postpartum body. Really, it's no wonder many women aren't ready to get busy with their partners in the early weeks following childbirth.
What do doctors recommend?
Contrary to popular belief, the often touted "wait four to six weeks to have sex" after giving birth isn't actually required. Most doctors will give you a general timeframe and some advice for postpartum sex, but the exact moment is really up to the individual and their specific circumstance.
Your doctor will likely advise that when you are ready, you use lube—a lot of lube. Particularly if you are breastfeeding, lubricant will be a major help in combating vaginal dryness and making things as comfortable as possible.
Another key thing to keep in mind is contraception. Though most nonlactating women won't ovulate until 6 weeks after giving birth, a small number ovulate as early as 25 days. Exclusively breastfeeding has you pretty well covered for the first 12 weeks, but after that, it gets dicey.
Lubricant will be a major help in combating vaginal dryness and making things as comfortable as possible.
"There is no set 'waiting period' before a woman can have sex again after giving birth," states the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). "The chances of a problem occurring, like bleeding or infection, are small after about two weeks following birth."
Although, the organization does clarify that due to specific medical interventions during birth (like an episiotomy or severe tear), women might be advised on a case-by-case basis to refrain from sex until the area has healed and any sutures have dissolved.
So, if four to six weeks isn't technically required, when can it be considered safe—or, possibly more to the point, advisable to jump back into the sack? The answer to that question is highly variable and very personal.
Real women share their experiences
Most women I spoke with concur—it's not about the "four to six weeks," it's about feeling physically and emotionally ready. And not only is that different for every woman, it can vary from birth to birth as well. So just because someone "feels ready" three months after their first baby is born, that doesn't mean the timeline will be the same after their second or third child.
The reality is, it's up to each individual woman to know when she feels ready to "go there" again. For some, it's a lot sooner than the four- to six-week suggestion; for others, it's much longer. To highlight the vast differences in experience, five women (including myself) share their stories below.
I'll be honest—I "ripped off that Band-Aid" very soon after my medically necessary, scheduled C-section. In fact, my husband and I started having sex again just eight days after my son was born.
Sex had been a cornerstone of our relationship pre-baby, so it was important to both of us to enjoy our physical closeness soon after his birth. And, because I didn't have any vaginal tearing to heal from and my C-section stitches had been removed already, I felt ready to give it a try.
Was it the world's best sex? No. Was it uncomfortable? Yes. Mainly because it jostled my C-section site. But do I regret going there so soon after birth? Absolutely not. It was nice to be intimate with my husband. That said, had I had a vaginal birth or a more difficult recovery? Our timeline would have been different.
4 weeks after C-section
"I had a cesarean section and waited four weeks postpartum to resume sexual activity. My doctor recommended waiting six weeks, but I didn't consult with him prior to resuming normal activity. The first few times weren't pleasant. Even after a C-section, my vagina was in a lot of pain and discomfort. It took us about three months for me to be completely able to resume our regular sexual activities." —Nahyun Barbuto, Lifting Motherhood
10 weeks after vaginal delivery
"After my first baby, I chose to wait a little longer than the six weeks recommended after a vaginal birth. It was probably closer to 10 weeks before we had sex. To be honest, at six weeks postpartum, my body didn't feel like a sexual entity. My breasts were sore and full of milk, I had barely stopped bleeding, and what was once a cute baby bump was now just a soft, flabby belly. The experience was about as good as it gets for postpartum sex. It was nice to get back to an intimate place with my husband, but felt more like an awkward first time. I was afraid of what it would feel like for me and for him. It was good to get the first time behind us." —Alexandra Mullins, Coffee and Coos
Success at 12 weeks
"We tried at seven weeks postpartum, but it hurt too much to get full penetration. Again at 10 weeks—better, but still hurt. Again at 12 weeks—inside-wise felt great, just a little tight where my stitches healed. The first try wasn't good and made me anxious to try again later, but I knew we needed to, so we waited to heal a few more weeks before trying again. I've only wanted to have sex a few times since giving birth. My libido is still way down." —@HammelFamily, WhattoExpect Community
13 weeks after a traumatic birth
"I suffered a lot of complications after birth. Something quite rare called uterine inversion, where literally my whole uterus was outside of my body and had to be pushed back in multiple times, resulting in me losing 2.5 liters of blood and having to go into theatre (operation). I was petrified to have sex again, as I'm definitely suffering PTSD. My baby is 13 weeks now and we only just tried for the first time this week. It was nowhere near as painful as I expected, but it felt very strange. In the U.K., it's standard advice to wait six weeks, and at my six-week check, I was cleared. I was meant to have a debrief from the hospital consultants to clear me, but I still haven't heard from them." —Christine1875, WhattoExpect Community
Lots of moms just aren't ready yet four, five or even six months postpartum—and that's okay. Any mom who's feeling this way needs to know they're not alone. When I posted this question in the WhattoExpect Community forums, a number of new moms shared they were "too touched out" to be ready for sex, and simply didn't have the energy.
And you know what? They were relieved to hear they weren't alone. Just because the doctors may clear you at four to six weeks (regardless of whether that's a necessary timeline or not), that doesn't mean it's the right time.
So when it comes to deciding on a postpartum return to sexual activity, you should talk to your doctors, listen to your body, and only start having sex when you feel ready. Keep the lines of communication open with your partner so they know where you're at physically and emotionally and can support you in that process. Don't feel like there's a timeline you need to adhere to, because at the end of the day, only you know what you're ready for and when.