Intimacy After Childbirth - When Can We Have Sex Again?
You and your partner have just had a beautiful baby, but you are still wondering when you can engage in sexual activities again. Many new parents share this concern as intimacy is vital to a strong relationship. Most medical physicians advise couples to wait between three to six weeks before resuming coitus, depending on various situations. After giving birth, make sure to ask your doctor how long you should wait before engaging in penetrative sexual activity.
The most important factor in determining when sexual activity is appropriate post-birth is you and your partner’s reciprocal physical and emotional readiness. Having the "okay" from your doctor does not necessarily mean that you and your partner will want to resume sexual activities immediately. The decision to begin sexual intercourse after childbirth should be a mutual decision. It is important for both partners to be patient with each other and to remember that communication is key. While some couples may be itching to resume sex, others may not want to begin as quickly. Changes in hormone levels after childbirth and during breastfeeding may lower a woman’s libido, which can decrease her sexual desire.
Recovery time varies among women, and despite the doctor’s “okay,” penetration may still be uncomfortable and painful for the birth-giver. When beginning to resume sexual activities, be sure to move slowly and gently to avoid pain. If penetrative sexual activities are too painful, other activities such as manual stimulation and oral sex may be a better place to begin. Talk to your partner about what you are both comfortable with. Think about taking baths together or participating in a massage class. Be sure to make time to relax together. These activities help to increase intimacy as well as sexual desire.
Common Worries and Concerns
Both men and women have worries that may affect sex after childbirth. Some common fears include becoming pregnant again, feeling less attractive, and inflicting or receiving pain. Many new parents are fatigued and exhausted from taking care of the baby and may not want to have sex.
Many women worry about their vaginal diameter. While the vagina does stretch out after childbirth, it will start to shrink and regain muscle tone within a week or so of delivery. While it will shrink, it may or may not return to its original size; this is based on many factors such as genetics, number of children the woman has had, size of the baby, and if kegel exercises are done regularly.1 Some women worry that their bodies are no longer attractive after giving birth, which can hinder any efforts to be intimate.
One very common concern that could affect sex life is the possibility of another pregnancy. Discuss with your partner and your doctor about proper forms of birth control after giving birth. Many people believe that breastfeeding is an effective birth control method; while breastfeeding does tend to stop ovulation, it is not a reliable form of birth control. If you are breastfeeding, hormonal birth control methods such as combination birth control pills, a vaginal ring, or monthly shots should not be used as the hormones would be ingested by the baby. If breastfeeding, some acceptable forms of birth control include condoms, spermicidal creams, IUDs, diaphragms, cervical caps, progesterone-only birth control pills, and shots of progesterone. Please take a look at the contraception portion of our website for a description of the different methods of birth control. It is always best to speak to your doctor before choosing a reliable and safe method of birth control.
These are only a few of the many concerns partners may have. The best way to deal with these worries is COMMUNICATION between partners. Be sure to talk to your partner about your feelings and any discomforts you may have. This will improve not only your sex life but will also uncover any newly discovered anxieties about having a baby and how life may change.
Benefits of Sex After Childbirth
There are hormones released during sex that have been shown to help the uterus return back to its normal shape.2 As long as you and your partner are physically and emotionally ready, it is highly encouraged to have sex after childbirth. Not only does having sex keep the romance alive, but it also helps with intimacy in all aspects of the relationship.
· Use a water-based lubricant. Changes in hormone levels after childbirth often decrease vaginal lubrication, so using a lubricant can help.
· Find time to be alone for sex! If possible, plan to have sex during your baby's naptime or arrange to leave your baby with a family member or babysitter for a couple hours. You and your partner can work around your baby's schedule in order to have private time together without interruptions.
· Pelvic (Kegel) exercises are important for regaining strength in the vagina. If you are worried about the function and size of your reproductive track after childbirth, pelvic exercises can help keep your sexual organs in shape.
· Stay intimate. Take a bath together or hire a babysitter for a night and go out to dinner. Spending time alone together (even if not planning on engaging in sexual activities) is extremely important for a healthy relationship. Intimacy is something many couples tend to lose after childbirth, but can be easily fixed with communication and time spent together.
· Talk to your partner during sex. It is important for partners to communicate how they feel during sexual intercourse. Do not be afraid to tell your partner if it hurts.
· Try out new positions to see what is most comfortable. Utilize positions that don't put pressure on the woman’s stomach or other sore areas. If the woman is on top, she may have better control over what feels good and can avoid what does not. Another position that allows for less pressure is side-by-side.
· Boost each other’s self-esteem. Tell your partner that you still find them sexy. Many women have a low sex drive because they are uncomfortable with their body and how it has changed after giving birth.
1. "Let's Talk about Sex: After the Baby." BabyCenter. Sept. 2014.
2. "Sex and Birth Control After Childbirth." Atlantic OBGYN. http://www.atlanticobgyn.com/sex-and-birth-control-after-childbirth/
Last Updated 30 October 2014.