Maybe you’ve just given birth and you’re wondering how on earth you could ever have sex again.
Maybe you’re already beyond the six week wait and you’ve had sex for the first time.
And perhaps it didn’t feel like how you remembered sex before pregnancy and birth.
Or maybe you’re still pregnant and already concerned about how sex will be after your baby’s birth.
Sex After Birth – Will It Feel The Same Again?
Whatever the reason you’re here, you can read on to learn more about what is normal, what to be concerned about and how sex can actually be okay (and even great) after childbirth.
Why Does Sex Feel Different After Birth?
For some couples, there’s little to no difference in sex after childbirth. However, this is often the exception, certainly not the rule.
Although pregnancy is a very natural bodily function, it causes many temporary and occasionally ongoing changes to the body.
The temporary changes are caused by hormones, the weight of pregnancy, and the toll it takes on the body (a lot of energy and nutrition go into growing a human being). It can be weeks, months and occasionally a year or more before the body heals completely.
Some of the effects are:
- Haemorrhoids and vulvar varicosities, and typical varicose veins in the legs
- Pelvic floor discomfort, weakness, pain, and muscle strain
- Breast pain and irritation
- Changes in libido
- Vaginal dryness, pain, or irritation
As mentioned, these things are typically temporary, but they can take some time to heal fully.
Pregnancy ailments aside, there’s the birth itself. Just like pregnancy, birth is a normal bodily function. There can be ongoing complications as a result of birth, but that’s the exception and not the rule, especially following normal physiological birth.
After A Vaginal Birth
The vagina, also called the birth canal, is perfectly designed to make plenty of room for baby without significant long-term changes. The hormones your body releases during labour, and the flexible and elastic-like tissue of the vagina help your body give birth without severe damage.
Certainly, birth doesn’t always unfold perfectly, and damage can sometimes occur, but these side effects can be managed.
The effect of hormones, minor to moderate tears to the vagina or perineum (the area between your vaginal opening and anus), and pelvic muscle weakness or damage can take time to heal. If you have intercourse before these things are fully healed, sex might feel quite different from the way it did before you had a vaginal birth.
After A C-Section
Some people assume having a c-section means there will be no changes to their sex life. However, a c-section is a major abdominal surgery which can greatly affect the pelvic floor. Depending on whether or not you laboured, you might also experience vaginal changes, as well as the changes (mentioned above) that occur during pregnancy.
Intercourse can often put pressure on the cervix (the opening of the uterus) and on the uterus itself, which after a c-section has an incision that needs to heal. That is why it’s recommended you refrain from intercourse for up to 6 weeks (even if you didn’t dilate), just like after a vaginal birth.
Even if you have healed enough to have intercourse, you might still experience discomfort as overall healing from pregnancy and surgery can take quite a long time.
During pregnancy and birth, your body did a lot and went through a lot, regardless of how you gave birth, so you should expect sex in the weeks and months following birth to feel quite different.
Does Breastfeeding Affect How Sex Feels After Birth?
Breastfeeding, another normal physiological process, can also have an impact on your hormones. Many women report lower libido, and some have symptoms of low estrogen.
Breastfeeding can suppress the menstrual cycle. During the time you don’t have a cycle, your estrogen is often lower. This has some wonderful advantages, including reducing your risk of developing ovarian, uterine and breast cancers.
However, this lower estrogen causes vaginal dryness and even pelvic floor weakness in some women. This can also make a difference to how sex feels.
The good news for many breastfeeding mothers: a good lubricant is all you need to improve how sex feels.
If you are experiencing pelvic floor concerns, a pelvic physiotherapist will be able to help. Very occasionally, a low dose estrogen cream might be advised, but it should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional, for the shortest period of time needed. You should also be aware of its potential to affect your milk supply.
Will Sex Ever Feel The Same Again?
For many couples, sex can feel the same after birth; sometimes it even improves. Perhaps it’s better because of the intimacy and communication required to navigate sex just after birth, but some women report their sex life improves after birth.
Exactly when it starts to feel the same (or better) can vary significantly. Even if you had a completely uncomplicated vaginal birth, it might take a few weeks or, in some cases, a full year or more to heal.
If you’ve had a c-section, episiotomy, vacuum or forceps assisted birth, you might heal quickly, or you might need quite a bit of extra time for your body to heal from the trauma.
Feeling ‘different’, or experiencing some discomfort can be quite common, and might just be part of the normal transition after birth. If you still experience pain during intercourse that isn’t resolved with adequate lubricant, after 6-8 weeks, however, it might be time to have another check-up.
Many women liken sex after birth to the feeling they had the first time they ever had sex. They experience a little discomfort, some fear and concern, and some tension. Eventually, these feelings dissipate and sex begins to feel very similar to how it was before birth.
Another thing to keep in mind is giving birth and having a baby is a life-altering experience.
Did you experience a traumatic birth? Are you getting enough rest? Have you had time to heal?
How are you feeling emotionally? Have you and your partner had time to reconnect and experience intimacy (not just physical intimacy) since becoming parents?
Although sex is a physical act, its very much intertwined with your emotions. A traumatic birth or a lack of connection with your partner can have an impact on how sex feels. It’s important to consider and address those things if you’re finding your sex life still doesn’t feel quite right.
It’s Been A Few Months And Sex Still Doesn’t Feel The Same; Is This Normal?
Feelings of slight discomfort, or dryness are quite common for up to several months after giving birth, especially if you had a difficult birth.
It isn’t uncommon for women to feel touched out, uninterested and too exhausted to really enjoy intercourse. The role of a new mother is a very busy one.
However, if you’re experiencing pain during intercourse well after your 6 week checkup, this doesn’t fall into the realm of normal – even if your provider insists it does.
While sex after birth can be different, it shouldn’t cause ongoing pain. If you’re experiencing vulvar pain, vaginal pain, ongoing cramping, pelvic floor discomfort or you have any other concerns, you might want to see a pelvic specialist and inquire about pelvic physiotherapy.
Although the majority of women heal quite well from birth, some women experience:
- Pelvic floor weakness, tightness or muscle damage
- Vulvodynia (vulvar pain, and pain around the opening of the vagina)
- Difficulty in areas with scar tissue or incisions, from tearing, episiotomy or a c-section
- Hormonal imbalances (such as thyroid problems).
If you’re experiencing ongoing pain with intercourse, especially if the pain affects other areas of your life, see a pelvic specialist (or several) until you find someone who can help.
There are many treatment options for the above conditions. Even if sex is extremely painful for a while, there are many ways to address it so you can get back to a normal sex life.
What Can I Do To Improve Sex After Birth Faster?
Nine months of pregnancy followed by six weeks of no sex can mean some couples want to get things back to normal rather quickly. For other couples, it’s simply about surviving the early months with a newborn, and sex is on the back burner until they suddenly realise it’s been quite a while since they’ve had sex.
Whatever the reason, if you want to improve sex after birth, the most important thing to remember is it’s vital to allow your body to heal fully. It’s the first step to getting back to your typical sex life. Having sex too soon can prolong the healing process and it will take even longer for sex to feel ‘normal’ again.
If you have ongoing pain, you need to see a specialist to properly address it. You don’t need to grin and bear it through terribly painful intercourse in hopes it will eventually improve.
The next step is to understand the physical toll of parenthood and the impact that can have on your relationship. It’s important to address any birth trauma, and relationship struggles (such as lack of intimacy) since baby’s arrival.
If you allow your body to heal and address any underlying physical concerns, and if you recognise the impact parenting can have, you are more likely to see your sex life return to normal faster than if you just jump right in and push through discomfort.
And if you’re breastfeeding, many mothers swear by a good lubricant being the fix-all to uncomfortable post birth sex.
Wondering why you’re not into sex since the birth of your baby? Wondering why your partner isn’t interested in sex? Be sure to read 10 Reasons Why She Doesn’t Want Sex After Having A Baby for more understanding of sex after welcoming a new baby.