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Sex after giving birth

Sex after giving birth

In the countdown to having your baby and in the immediate aftermath both you and your partner will no doubt be thinking about life after birth and how soon things can return to ‘normal’. Having a baby will mean physical, emotional and practical differences.

Will childbirth affect our sex life?

Everyone is different so there is no absolute answer to this. But the sheer demands of motherhood and the likelihood of disturbed nights (as your baby wakes to feed) may mean you are too exhausted and overwhelmed to even think about sex during these early days. Moreover, you’ll also be experiencing hormonal changes. For example, if you are breastfeeding the hormone prolactin can impact on your libido as can a dip in levels of oestrogen.

Having a baby can also damage the delicate vaginal tissues making you feel a bit too delicate ‘down below’ to want sex until everything has healed up. It’s not at all uncommon for first-time mothers to require stitches following a tear or episiotomy (a small cut) during childbirth. Fortunately, stitches dissolve after 10 days and by two weeks you should be well on the way to healing.

The good news is that a lack of interest in sex won’t last forever. Moreover, not all women report a dip in libido so there are no hard and fast rules.

How soon can you resume having sex?

In general a woman should wait until after her postnatal check-up before resuming full sex (intercourse). This examination usually takes place about six weeks after the birth. Even then, she may not feel ready especially if she is sore from stitches or recovering from a caesarean.

When do most women resume sex after childbirth?

In a recent study in an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology some 41% of first-time mothers reported having vaginal sex six weeks post the birth of their child. Within 8 weeks 65% of women had resumed sex, increasing to 78% by 12 weeks and 94% by six months. Women were more likely to have resumed sex by six weeks if they had delivered their child vaginally. Those recovering from a caesarean took longer.

Can you perform other sexual activity before resuming intercourse?

This is a great idea as frustration can kick in for both of you. Mutual masturbation and oral sex are safe a few days after childbirth and can be a good way to resume intimacy.

However, avoid touching stitches, stick to the area around the clitoris and away from the vagina and the perineum to avoid passing bacteria from your mouth and increasing your partner’s risk of infection.Hugging, massages, kissing and others ways of resuming intimacy will be particularly important during this new exciting phase of your lives.

What do you do when you want to resume sexual intercourse?

When you are both ready you should begin gently. Hormonal changes after childbirth can cause vaginal dryness for the first three months after giving birth, so it’s a good idea to use a lubricating jelly which you can buy over-the-counter from your pharmacist.

Some people feel worried about putting pressure on their scar following a caesarean but this should be well healed by the time your stitches have come out and you can always stick to positions that do not put pressure on the scar.

Even if you have not had stitches or any tears, you may still feel bruised so it’s a good idea to proceed gently.

If you are breast feeding you may find your breasts are too tender or sensitive to be touched or if your partner sucks on your nipples you may release milk which may take him by surprise (not necessarily in a good way). The hormone oxytocin - responsible for making milk flow - also gets released during sex so you may spurt milk when you orgasm. It’s worth alerting your partner to these changes. You can also try feeding your baby prior to sex so that your breasts aren’t full.

If you experience pain two months or so after the birth you should speak to your GP.

Remember to use contraception. You can get pregnant as little as three weeks after the birth of your baby. Contrary to popular belief, this applies even if you are breastfeeding and if your periods haven’t resumed.

What happens if the woman doesn’t regain her interest in sex?

A lack of interest in sex could be a sign of postnatal depression. If this is the case you should consult your GP who may recommend counselling and/or anti-depressants. General depression can also cause a lack of sex drive as can relationship problems. If the woman does not regain her interest in sex then it’s a good idea to seek help as a couple. In such cases, psychosexual counselling may be recommended (either arranged privately, through an organisation such as Relate, or via your GP). The counsellor will allow you and your partner to discuss any sexual or emotional issues that may be contributing to the problem.