Disclaimer: This article about sex after pregnancy is meant to provide valuable information for the reader; however, it is not a substitute for direct expert assistance. Consult your healthcare provider for further information, especially for women who are currently in their postpartum period.
Childbirth is a transformative and exhausting process a woman goes through. From nurturing life to bringing it to the world, it tests both your physical and emotional state. Then the moment your ears hear your baby’s first cries, all the pain and struggle from labor and delivery fade away. All that matters is finally having your baby in your arms, safe and sound.
As much as that period is magical, the time after (postpartum) remains a huge challenge. And if you have sexual needs? You’re going to have to wait before you can act on them.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to navigate having sex after pregnancy, alongside the numerous changes our bodies can undergo after such a delicate period.
Okay, so when is it safe to have sex after pregnancy?
Healthline shares that most doctors recommend women to wait for 4-6 weeks after a vaginal delivery to have sex again. This also applies to those who had a cesarean delivery.
Your body needs time to recover from the overall exhaustion of bringing life, from the contractions of labor and pushing through delivery. There are also other birth-related issues that can occur. Having tears in your perineum is possible, ranging from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degrees. But you may have a planned tear through an episiotomy. These two scenarios must be stitched up after the birth to avoid infection. And also, once that epidural wears off, it’ll be painful, so rest is needed.
Your cervix will also close after expanding for childbirth, and the overall bleeding will slow down.
There’s also a lot of emotions involved. You just welcomed a baby while balancing fatigue and joy. On top of that, there are more things going on, from the doctor checking on your and your baby’s health statuses to cleaning and patching you up. It can get overwhelming, especially when you get to know your baby more.
As much as doctors have indicated a safe period to do the deed again, it’s all up to the new mother when she wants to have sex again after pregnancy. Everyone has a different experience of pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. So as much as possible, it’s best to listen to your body and do what feels right at the moment without any pressure.
Postpartum Physical Changes
Keep browsing through this packed section to learn about the various changes our physical body can experience after pregnancy.
They are all over the place! From the moment your baby is born, Parents highlight that you get the rush of endorphins even if it’s late at night. But expect a decrease in estrogen and progesterone too. There’s also oxytocin to make up for such a decrease, surging and strengthening your parental instinct. Prolactin makes a strong presence through the production of breast milk.
This method is necessary for a baby to live longer. Feeding can be either by a bottle or breastfeeding. For the latter, it can be uncomfortable and even painful during the first few times. There can even be times when you’re not producing enough milk, which can be frustrating. You can even leak milk from your nipples if you’re not wearing the right bra. So if you’re eager to have sex when everything is okay, be extra careful if you’re breastfeeding so no milk gets released unexpectedly.
3 Postpartum Recovery
Your body went through a lot to bring your bundle of joy to the world. It can even cause you fatigue. If you have any stitches around your vulva area or abdomen, or maybe had an overall challenging birth experience, you’ll need extra time to rest.
4 Body Issues
You nourished a baby up to 40 weeks/9 months, wherein as they grow inside you, your body grows along too. Especially your womb where the baby was once nestled in, stretch marks, extra baby weight, and linea negra parade it. Your breasts will be fuller due to milk production for breastfeeding, and your legs may hold onto some extra weight. These factors can impact how you look, wondering if you’ll ever “bounce back” to your old body.
5 Vaginal Dryness
American Pregnancy Association shares that your body has less estrogen levels 4-6 weeks postpartum, thus leading to vaginal dryness. It can continue to increase if you breastfeed your baby, making it thinner and drier as well.
After giving birth, you’ll experience heavy bleeding. You’ll even have to wear the necessary pads for it. That’s because your uterus and vagina needs time to heal. Thus, if you have sex too early, you’ll be more prone to bleeding.
7 Managing sleep deprivation and fatigue.
Sleepless nights are a given when having a baby, having fussy fits and cries, especially late at night. New parents will find this extra challenging, yet experienced parents can struggle to find the right time to sneak in a nap. As for fatigue, it’s evident as you learn how to take care of your baby while trying to recover from childbirth.
Postpartum Emotional Changes
Let’s balance things out by discussing the emotional changes you can go through after having a baby.
1 Postpartum Baby Blues and Depression
John Hopkins Medicine defines postpartum baby blues as “hormonal changes that can cause anxiety, crying and restlessness that goes away within the first two weeks after giving birth”. This is common and normal in many new moms (85%). It’s also a temporary period of their lives as hormones need to level out. It can be classified as a mild type of depression. New moms can be happy as they care for their baby, then start crying out of nowhere.
From the same source, postpartum depression is a medical condition that surpasses the 2-week mark of baby blues. March of Dimes highlights that “the feelings of sadness, anxiety (worry) and tiredness” are stronger and last long after delivery. It’s serious, and it can harm your lifestyle and the bond you have with your baby.
Thus, seeing a medical professional as soon as possible is important to get the necessary treatment.
2 You prioritize the baby more than yourself.
Your baby has a lot to learn and figure out in this world, and you and your partner are responsible for ensuring they grow up well. With that, it can often come at a price of sacrificing your well-being to adjust to their tiny body clock.
You may be stressed from trying to soothe your fussy baby while exhausted from the lack of sleep. Or even if you put them down so you can pee, they can throw a fit, and you gotta calm them down. Such feelings of agitation and stress are at an all-time high, making you forget to give self-care for yourself.
3 Parenting Guilt
Choosing Therapy states parenting guilt happens when “parents are conflicted over responsibilities, question their parenting methods, and experience feelings of failure due to their shortcomings”. It’s an internal conflict on whether or not they’re being the best or “perfect” parent for this child.
This guilt can apply to new or experienced parents who welcomed a new baby. They stress about whether they’re caring and providing enough for their baby. And when they try to rest, they feel guilty about prioritizing themselves momentarily. They also worry about making mistakes or lacking knowledge on handling certain scenarios that can potentially harm their baby.
4 Sex isn’t the equation at all.
Having sex after pregnancy would be the last thing on your mind for a bunch of reasons. First, you don’t want to get pregnant again soon enough. Another would be afraid of hurting yourself since childbirth is a strenuous process or you don’t want to be touched intimately yet.
5 Rekindling intimacy with your partner feels like an endless struggle.
You have a baby who can unintentionally interfere with any alone time you get with your partner. Hence, reconnecting with one another is like a rare gift.
Sex After Pregnancy and Libido: How Are They Connected?
Changes in your libido after childbirth are actually due to the various changes in our physical and emotional states. Even if you get cleared by your doctor to have sex, your decision can still vary.
Specifically, some of those changes are:
- Breastfeeding – Keeps your estrogen levels low, seeing your breasts as a source of nourishment rather than something sensual and erotic
- Hormone Changes (aside from breastfeeding)
- Postpartum Depression
- Childbirth Trauma
- Vulvar/Vaginal Pain
- Body image
How do my relationship dynamics with my partner affect sex after pregnancy?
From focusing only on you and your partner’s bond, it shifted to focusing on your baby and sustaining them. That takes up a lot of time and energy as they are new to the world they’re in, having a lot of demands that need to be met. You’re constantly on parent mode to ensure their health, wherein sex is on the backburner.
Sleep will always be tested, especially in the earlier weeks, as your baby still isn’t used to sleeping for long periods of time, crying a lot at random times of the day. Hence, expect a lot of sleepless nights during the early days with the baby.
As mentioned previously, you may also have the baby blues, wanting what’s best for the baby and getting irritated easily. It can affect both moms and dads, and it’s something worth seeking professional help for so you can take care of yourselves better. And by caring for yourselves, you can provide for and attend to your baby in a much better state of mind and body.
You may also fear that sex may be painful due to the physical trauma from delivery, thus not wanting to take that risk.
So are you ready to have sex after pregnancy?
Pondering on this question is a big step after entering motherhood.
Here are some factors from Dr. Sheryl Kingsberg, Ph.D., chief of the OB/GYN Division of Behavioral Health at University Hospitals, to consider further. She also calls it the factors of Postpartum Sexuality, wherein it’s more than just the act of sex and the physical recovery after giving it.
Those factors are:
- Sex drive
- Overall state of health and quality of life
- Emotional readiness to bring back sexual intimacy
- Adaptation of maternal role and balancing it along with her identity as simply a woman with sexual needs
- Relationship with Partner
Safety Tips Before Having Sex Again After Pregnancy
Navigating your journey back to sex after pregnancy is a slow yet learning process, reconnecting a part of yourself before the baby arrived in your life. With that in mind, we have a list of safety tips to remember and consider before reigniting your and your partner’s intimacy in the bedroom.
1 Visit your doctor.
As mentioned earlier, you must wait for 4-6 weeks before having sex after pregnancy. But before that, you should have a check-up within those weeks. Most preferably on the 6th week post-delivery. By then, you can address any concerns you may have related to your baby and your body. And when you’re ready, you can transition into asking for a green light to have sex after pregnancy. Engaging in such is a huge step, so ensure your doctor grants you that green light alongside their own medical advice so you have an enjoyable experience.
2 Stock up on birth control.
You can get easily pregnant again after having a baby. If you’re not breastfeeding, you can ovulate again when the 6th-week mark rolls in. Breastfeeding in itself is like a form of birth control, as stated by Healthline, if you’re a part of the following standards:
- 6 months postpartum
- Exclusively breastfeed your baby
- No menstrual cycle yet
But if you aren’t, there are other birth control methods you can use when you’re ready to have sex after pregnancy. Barrier methods such as condoms are common, especially when they can also protect you from STDs. There’s also the Copper IUD, although you must consult with your doctor on this to avoid any health risks. Natural family planning methods, such as the Calendar Method, can help predict your menstrual history and fertile days.
3 Discuss with your partner.
It will be a challenge to have sex after pregnancy with a new baby around! It’s also a given that sex will be different, but it’s not going to be bad. It’s a learning experience for you both, a new chapter like having your baby in your lives now.
Have an open conversation about it when the time is right and set realistic expectations. Tell them what would feel good for you at the moment and what shouldn’t be done for a while. Getting mutual consent is also crucial and important here.
Be there for each other to fill in the gaps. Whenever you get shy or insecure, let them know because they want to take good care of you in the same way they supported your pregnancy. Support each other through thick and thin.
4 Practice kegel exercises.
Medical News Today shares how Kegel exercises target your pelvic muscles to strengthen and stabilize them. Your vaginal area is included here too, which is vital post-childbirth. In order to find those muscles, try halting the flow of urine when you go to the restroom. Wherever you feel the strain, those are your pelvic floor muscles.
Kegel exercises involve squeezing and holding those pelvic muscles for 5-10 seconds each. The rest of your body must be relaxed. There are also tools called Kegel Balls that you can use while engaging in those exercises here.
5 Engage also in light exercise.
Light exercise, such as walking or jogging, for a few minutes outside a day, can help with your recovery from having sex after pregnancy. Preferably during the day to get that Vitamin D. If you’re doing the former, bring your baby too in a stroller so you can watch over them too and introduce more to the outside world. A win-win situation!
6 Seek pain relief methods.
Before having sex after pregnancy, empty your bladder and take OTC medication centered on relieving pain. You can also have a warm bath or shower to prepare yourself for the sex ahead and alleviate any body aches.
7 Schedule sex!
Scheduling aspects of your life makes everything more organized and smoother. That most definitely applies to sex, even if there are people who think that scheduling such an intimate deed feels boring and strict. But with sex after pregnancy, scheduling sex is extra crucial when you’re also trying to keep up with your baby’s schedule. They can be unpredictable at times, meaning you must be extra observant of their patterns and eventually construct a routine surrounding their needs.
And once you have that covered, sex after pregnancy would be possible to schedule in. Maybe you can sneak in a quickie or something a bit longer during their naptimes, depending on how long they sleep or until they start whimpering from the baby monitor. Keep down any moans and groans as well for a smoother nap from the baby and to prolong your sexy time together!
8 Take your time.
You may feel shy to remove your clothes as you get in the mood with your partner, aware of the physical changes your body went through. From stretch marks, extra weight, and bigger breasts, you may feel like an alien in your own body. Thus, it’s important to be patient with yourself here. Remember that you literally brought life into the world, a miracle you successfully managed to do with your own body.
If you’re not ready to take your top off, it’s okay.
You need to take care of yourself before taking care of anyone else.
9 Maximize foreplay.
Allow yourself more time to produce natural vaginal lubrication. Set the mood between you two right and maximize foreplay, from kissing, a sensual massage, gentle outercourse, acting flirty to one another, and mutual masturbation.
10 Use lube.
Tommy’s shares how sex after pregnancy can be painful and uncomfortable during the first few times due to vaginal dryness. It’s because you have lower levels of estrogen, most especially if you’re breastfeeding your baby. Thus, when you’re easing into having sex after pregnancy, using water-based lube is highly recommended to avoid any pain and discomfort. It’s extra effective when a latex condom is used by your partner during the deed.
Use lube on top of foreplay!
11 Engage in the appropriate sex positions.
As long you get the doctor’s go signal, sex after pregnancy can be thrilling and a learning experience. It should also be safe and comfortable to avoid any more injuries and pain for whoever gave birth. Missionary, spooning, and cowgirl are a few classic sex positions that you can try as you ease yourselves back into sex.
12 Seek professional help.
Your mind and body can go through a lot after having a baby. From feelings of elation when they were born to negativity as you start to wonder if you’re caring for them well, it’s a lot to take in. Rather than bottling them up and leaving them untreated, consulting and talking about what you’re going through to a medical professional is encouraged. Especially when there may be a possibility of you having postpartum depression.
This goes whether or not you’ve discussed with your partner isn’t sufficient. From there, they can diagnose you and provide you with the needed prescriptions and instructions so you can return to a place of positivity and balance as yourself and as a mother.
With all of this in mind, what if I’m still not ready to have sex after pregnancy yet?
Just because you’re not ready or still scared for such a big step, that doesn’t mean that increasing the intimacy and bond between your partner ends there. Thus, it’s ideal to do these two things: rest as much as possible and invest in non-sexual forms of intimacy, especially during this time.
Some examples of intimacy you can have with your partner include:
- Having a dinner date from home while your baby sleeps or plays with their toys
- Going for a walk while a close family member or friend looks after your baby momentarily
- Cuddling in bed or on the couch
- Giving each other short pecks or kisses
- Having a shared bath together
- Doing household tasks together
- Opening up to one another emotionally about being parents (new or again).
You need to carve out time to bond with each other so you can reconnect and ensure care and comfort are equally provided.
As mentioned earlier, go at your own pace regarding postpartum sex.
Having sex after pregnancy takes time to prepare physically and mentally. Visiting a doctor at least 6 weeks after delivery is always recommended to get checked up and ask questions about sex. And once you get that green light, you can resume the deed. But at the same time, there’s no rush to having sex after having a baby. Only when you feel ready and balanced out as a new parent and yourself can you recommit to having sex with your partner. Just make sure it’s at a time when your bundle of joy won’t suddenly interrupt you two by crying.