Leading a healthy sex life is very important for most of us.
Although giving birth is involved with our sexual health, when we talk about sex we usually mean the act of physical intimacy between two lovers.
When a couple become new parents there are many novelties in their lives. Reintroducing sex after birth is important and it’s a healthy way to approach the new postpartum period we’re going through.
When a woman gives birth, whether, by c-section or vaginal birth, she understands that sex as she used to know it will not be the same – at least, not for a few weeks or even months.
Let’s look at what we need to consider to re-establish a healthy sex life after childbirth.
Sex After Birth #1: How long after birth can you have sex?
Although this is a very common question there isn’t an exact answer to it.
Each birth is different and each childbirth experience is unique; therefore, the recovery time in the postpartum period will vary, depending on various circumstances.
The answer to this question will vary from one set of new parents to another. Even for the same couple, postpartum sex will be different after the birth of each one of their babies, depending on the birth experience.
When the woman is ready for sex, that’s exactly the right time.
For some people, re-establishing sexual activity might just take a few days after the baby is born; for others, it might take a few weeks postpartum or even months.
You must remember penetrative vaginal sex isn’t recommended during the first few weeks postpartum, as the woman’s reproductive organs need time to heal.
Let’s have a look at different circumstances surrounding birth that might influence the way many women approach postpartum sex.
Sex After Birth #2: Sex after episiotomy
If you’ve had a vaginal birth, just the thought of penetrative sex might be out of the picture for quite a while. If you’ve had an episiotomy or a vaginal tear that required stitches, it’s understandable penetrative sex isn’t going to happen until the perineum and the vaginal tissue are completely healed.
We need to bear in mind sex doesn’t necessarily mean vaginal intercourse. Healthy sex might not even involve the vaginal area at all.
There are different ways of pleasuring each other (oral sex, mutual masturbation) that can happen really soon after birth. These can be fulfilling and pleasurable in the early postpartum days when the woman’s body isn’t ready for penetrative sex just yet.
Sex After Birth #3: Does sex hurt after a c-section?
We tend to simplify sex into vagina and penis, or what is known as vaginal penetrative sex.
If a woman has had a vaginal birth, we understand penetrative sex is a ‘no’ for quite a while after childbirth.
If a woman has had a c-section, even if it was a planned c-section with no labor, she’s had major abdominal surgery. Everyone needs a four to six weeks recovery period from major surgery.
You can read more in C Section Recovery – 7 Tips To Help You Recover.
The woman’s vaginal muscles and mucous membranes might not have been affected by labor; however, her uterus and the surrounding areas in her abdomen will not welcome gentle or rough sex at all, usually for a few months after giving birth.
Although there isn’t any scar tissue in the vagina, there is an incision with stitches in the uterus. Even the contractions an orgasm produces might be quite uncomfortable for many women in their postpartum period.
You can read more in Sex After A C-Section-When To Resume And Tips For Comfort.
Sex After Birth #4: Sex after birth pain
Unless it’s been previously discussed and agreed between both partners, pain during sex is never a good sign.
If you experience pain while having postpartum sex it’s very likely the pain comes from something that needs further healing.
This doesn’t mean you can’t resume your sex life after giving birth. What it does mean is your body is telling you that specific sex act isn’t right for you at the moment.
Until your vaginal muscles have recovered from giving birth, it’s a good idea to wait before resuming penetrative sex. It will be much more enjoyable and there are many other ways you can enjoy sex until then.
Sex After Birth #5: Sex after birth bleeding
When a woman has given birth, she will bleed for four to six weeks after the birth of her baby. This bleeding is known as lochia and it comes from the placental site, where it was attached to the uterus.
Once a woman has stopped bleeding from the placental site, her next physiological bleeding will be from her next menstrual period. Depending on a few factors, such as how long you breastfeed, your menstrual period might or might not resume for some time.
You can read more in Your Period And Ovulation After Having A Baby.
If your postpartum bleeding has stopped and you start bleeding after having sex this should be investigated.
If bleeding is accompanied by pain, stop sexual activity, as your body is clearly telling you it isn’t a good idea.
If you’re experiencing pleasurable sex and the bleeding happens after orgasm, this might just mean that orgasmic contractions are expelling any remaining material from inside the womb.
This bleeding is usually a small amount and the dark red, brownish color of the blood means it is old.
If the blood is bright red, however, it’s a sign of fresh bleeding occurring. Refrain from any further sexual activity and contact your health care provider as soon as possible.
Sex After Birth #6: Why am I so tight after having a baby?
Giving birth is a physiological act and your body is perfectly capable of recovering and going back to its pre-pregnancy state.
When you’ve given birth normally, without any interventions such as directed pushing, episiotomy, forceps or vacuum, your body will generally heal quite quickly. Interventions tend to cause more damage and the time needed for recovery and healing is longer.
Your pelvic floor muscles have a very important role, not only during pregnancy and birth but also right after having a baby.
These muscles have been stretched and sometimes some of their fibers have been slightly torn. The muscles need time to heal.
They are also protecting the access to your uterus, which needs a well-deserved rest. It’s therefore very normal your pelvic floor muscles are tighter than they were before.
Also, during pregnancy, you have increased levels of a hormone called relaxin, which prepares your body for childbirth, by giving extra elasticity to your muscles and joints. Once the baby has been born, the levels of relaxin slowly go back to pre-pregnancy levels and your muscles regain their previous tone and tightness.
Sex After Birth #7: How to satisfy my husband after giving birth
After a new baby is born it’s important the woman is the one who leads, in terms of when to restart sexual activity.
No partner should expect a woman who has just given birth to have sex straight away.
It’s clear that significant physical and hormonal changes have taken place for the woman but the man’s sex drive has changed very little. His hormones and sexual desire are similar to how they were before the new baby arrived.
The new father’s main role will be to protect the mother-baby bonding and relationship. To make sure that space isn’t trespassed upon by others.
Be confident he will know how to manage his sexual needs ‘solo’ and will wait until you’re ready to regain sexual activity.
There are many ways you can help satisfy him sexually without having to involve intercourse. You can talk sexy to him, touch him, or talk to him about the future sexual activity you will have once you’re healed and ready to start up sexual activity with him. You can do this while he pleasures himself, or you can pleasure him in different ways without involving vaginal intercourse.
Have an open discussion about his sexual needs and your current feelings, and what can you do for him that doesn’t interfere with your healing process. Sincerity is always your best ally when you’re both in different life circumstances.
The article Sex Too Soon-New Mothers Forced Or Pressured Into Sex After Childbirth will help you understand what your body, and your partner’s, is going through after the birth of your baby.
You might also find this research article about women’s perceptions of postnatal sex helpful to understand what other women go through in this situation.
Sex After Birth #8: Why do you have to wait 40 days after giving birth?
40 days after giving birth is the approximate time a woman’s body needs to heal and go back to pre-pregnancy status.
The postpartum bleeding has stopped, the placental site has totally healed, the cervix is now fully closed and the uterus has gone back to its non-pregnant size and place.
Some women might need less time than 40 days and others might need a little more.
These 40 days are based on the traditional practices of many cultures around the world. It allows time for new mothers to rest and restore their health and energy.
Be sure to read Why You Should Have A Post Natal Month After The Birth.
Sex After Birth #9: What would happen if I had sex 2 weeks after giving birth?
It’s widely acknowledged by medical professionals that vaginal intercourse during the first few weeks postpartum can lead to problems and unwanted consequences. These range from uterine infection or even an increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage, to an unplanned pregnancy.
It’s extremely unlikely a new mother would want to have penetrative sex just 2 weeks after giving birth as there hasn’t been enough time to heal completely.
However, if a woman feels aroused and ready to resume intimate sexual activity, it doesn’t have to be penetrative sex or painful intercourse. Gentle caresses, mutual masturbation, or even oral sex can be very pleasurable activities that can be shared as soon as the woman feels ready and comfortable about them.
Our brains are our main sexual organs and brains don’t need time to heal physically. If nothing is entering your vagina and sexual activity makes your brain feel good, there’s no indication you should refrain from it.
The oxytocin flow generated by sexual arousal and orgasm will also help your tissues heal much faster.
You can read more about this in Sex After Birth – Will It Feel The Same Again?.