What Women Should Know About Sex After Birth

If you’ve recently had a baby, you already know you’ve undergone a significant transformation—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Now that a new family member is relying on you to stay alive, you may have less interest in things you used to enjoy and prioritize—including sex.

Since sex after birth can be a challenging topic to navigate, we’re here to offer some insight on when it’s okay to begin having sex after your delivery, ways to relieve pain during sex and answers to the most common questions about having sex after pregnancy.

When Can I Have Sex After Birth?

You can have sex after birth as soon as your postpartum bleeding stops (usually ten days to four weeks after pregnancy). However, most women commonly wait to resume having sex until their six-week appointment with their medical provider. At this point, the wound from the placenta has healed, and your uterus has returned to its standard size.

Unfortunately, up to 25% of women continue to have painful sex up to 18 months after giving birth due to undiagnosed problems, such as tissue trauma or prolapse.

Is It Normal for Sex to Be Painful After Birth?

If you’re experiencing pain, soreness, or bleeding during or after sex, this is usually a sign you’re resuming sex too quickly. If bleeding is accompanied by pain, swelling, or a fever, it’s important to call your provider. Bleeding is your body’s way of telling you to rest after having a baby—including rest from intercourse.

Six weeks is the most common time to resume having sex after giving birth—30-50% of women have little or no discomfort during sex at this point. However, 25% of women need longer to heal (up to 12 weeks) before having sex, and 15-25% of women have persistent problems until they actively seek help from a specialist.

Is It Normal to Have Low Sex Drive During Postpartum Recovery?

It’s common for women to have a low sex drive during postpartum recovery. There are multiple reasons this occurs:

  • Your body is in survival mode and is focused on sleeping, eating, and caring for your baby—sex is not essential for your survival, so it becomes a lesser priority. There is no such thing as a sex “drive”. Sex is not a biological need so it’s easy to see why it would drop down the priority list when body in survival mode.
  • You may experience postpartum depression, childbirth trauma, or body image issues that keep you from wanting to have sex.
  • You may be tired and, therefore, not feel “in the mood” for sex.
  • Your body is experiencing significant hormonal changes, especially if you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding keeps your estrogen levels lower, which reduces libido.

Can You Get Pregnant During Postpartum?

Yes, it’s possible to get pregnant postpartum—you can get pregnant as soon as six weeks after giving birth. These babies are called “Irish Twins” since they are born so close together.

It’s important to note that even if your cycle hasn’t returned or you are breastfeeding, you can still get pregnant. Couples are advised to use contraception postpartum since babies conceived sooner than 12-18 months after a previous pregnancy are at a higher risk for premature birth.

Condoms are the most helpful form of birth control during postpartum recovery. It’s not recommended to place an IUD in your healing uterus, and if you’re breastfeeding, the hormones in the birth control pill may impact your breastmilk. However, talk with your medical provider to determine which postpartum birth control method is best for you and your partner.

Helpful Tips for Having Sex After Birth

Before resuming sex after birth, follow these tips that can help make sex after birth easier, less painful, and more enjoyable for you and your partner:

Set Realistic Expectations

First, it’s important to have realistic expectations about sex after birth. Although the “standard timeline” for sex after childbirth is six weeks, it’s not uncommon for you to need longer to feel ready for sex—especially if you had a traumatic birth or are dealing with health issues postpartum.

You and your partner need to understand it may take 12 weeks and even longer to resume sex after birth. When you have this expectation before giving birth, you’ll be much less likely to be disappointed when sex after delivery takes longer than planned.

Have Open Conversations

Sex after birth will be different—but that doesn’t mean it will be bad.

It’s important to keep an open line of communication between you and your partner about what feels good and what doesn’t, so you can ensure sex is satisfying for both parties and you’re not experiencing any unnecessary pain.

Use Lubricant

It’s not uncommon to need a little extra lubrication as your hormones readjust after birth. It’s important to understand that natural lubrication has little to do with arousal, so there is no shame in using lubrication post-pregnancy, even if you didn’t use it before.

Try using a water or aloe-based lubricant (safe, comfortable and easier to find) since oil-based lube can irritate your sensitive tissues and damage condoms.

Focus on Foreplay

Whatever amount of foreplay you did before giving birth—you should double that when you resume having sex after birth!

Engaging in foreplay puts “less pressure” on penetrative sex, which may be slightly painful or “different” after birth. Even if it feels too soon for sex after giving birth, focus on kissing and being intimate in other ways to keep the romantic spark between you and your partner alive.

Get Community Support

Postpartum depression can be a significant struggle for women after giving birth, and it can affect sex after birth, too. When you have a baby, you learn many new things—like breastfeeding, nursing, safe sleep positions, swaddling, and more. Enrolling in birth classes, getting help from experts, or asking for solicited advice from parents, family, or friends can be a huge source of support during postpartum, which in turn, can improve your mental health.

When you’re feeling mentally and physically supported, you’ll be much more likely to be “in the mood” for sex with your partner.

Invest in Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

Pelvic floor physical therapy can significantly contribute to pain-free sex after pregnancy. It helps your muscles heal more evenly after delivery and can heal inflammation, which can positively impact your sex drive.

Moment of Truth Physical Therapy offers one-on-one patient care and pelvic physical therapy. We even provide sessions for mothers and babies together—mothers can receive postpartum treatment, and the babies can receive treatment to help with lip and tongue ties.

Begin Your Journey to Sex After Birth with a Pelvic Exam from Moment of Truth Physical Therapy

Whether you’re experiencing painful sex after birth and looking for someone who can help, or you want to be proactive about supporting your pelvic floor muscles after pregnancy before resuming sex—we can help!

Moment of Truth Physical Therapy offers pelvic physical therapy to help you break free from pain, trauma, and restrictions so you can live a happy and healthy lifestyle before, during, and after your pregnancy. Contact our helpful team in Peoria, Arizona, to set up your free discovery session!

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