In general, it is recommended that a person avoids sexual intercourse during the first 4 to 6 weeks following a vaginal or cesarean (C-section) delivery. However, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider before resuming sex.
Most often, especially in cases of a C-section, perineal tear, or episiotomy, it is recommended to wait until after you are seen for your 6-week postpartum visit for approval from a health care provider to resume sexual activity.
Following childbirth, your body is in a healing phase in which bleeding stops, tears heal, and the cervix closes. Having intercourse too early, especially within the first two weeks, is not recommended due to a risk of postpartum hemorrhage or uterine infection.
When a woman is ready to resume sexual intercourse following the birth of a baby depends on several factors, including:
What will sex after giving birth feel like?
Due to the hormonal changes experienced during the postpartum period, many women experience vaginal dryness, which may continue past the typical 4-6 week timeframe if breastfeeding; this is due to low levels of circulating estrogen.
Breastfeeding can also lower your sex drive. In addition to lower levels of circulating hormones, painful sex may accompany a perineal tear or episiotomy, which can last for several months following the birth of a baby.
Steps that can reduce pain associated with sex after pregnancy include:
- controlling the depth of penetration with varied sexual positions
- increasing vaginal lubrication
- taking pain medication
- emptying the bladder
- taking a warm bath
Vaginal lubrication such as over-the-counter (OTC) creams or gels may be useful in relieving the symptoms of vaginal dryness. If you are using barrier method birth control, using a water-based lubricant is recommended to avoid weakening the latex.
Alternatively, oral or manual stimulation may be an option during the healing process. For some people, an appointment with a pelvic floor rehabilitation specialist may be recommended to evaluate and treat painful postpartum sex.
Sex following childbirth may feel different due to decreased vaginal muscle tone and stretching. Typically, this laxity in vaginal tone is temporary, however, and is affected by factors such as genetics, the size of the baby, the number of previous births, and the use of Kegel exercises.
Hormones can cause a variety of interesting - and, at times, inconvenient - symptoms. For example, during sexual intercourse, your breasts may leak milk due to the hormonal response to orgasm. Try pumping before having sex to reduce this symptom.
Hormones can cause a variety of unusual symptoms. For example, during sexual intercourse, your breasts may leak milk due to the hormonal response to orgasm. Try pumping before having sex to reduce this symptom.
Kegel exercises of the pelvic floor muscles can help provide strength and stability to the vaginal area following the delivery of an infant.
They are simple and can be performed almost anywhere.
The first step is to find your pelvic floor muscles. These can be easily located by stopping the flow of urine next time you visit the bathroom. The points at which you feel the strain are the pelvic floor muscles.
Follow these steps to perform a Kegel correctly:
- Relax the muscles in your chest, abdomen, thighs, and buttocks.
- Squeeze the pelvic muscles in a similar manner to the way the muscles were found in the first found. Try to stop an imaginary stream of urine mid-flow.
- Hold this for between 5 and 10 seconds.
- You should be able to feel a tightening and upward movement of the anus, bladder, or vagina. This means you have successfully completed a Kegel.
- Break for 5 to 10 seconds and repeat this 10 times.
- Repeat this 3 times per day.
You should be able to increase the length of each squeeze and the number of sets as the pelvic floor muscles become stronger.
Over time, this should help make sex less painful and more enjoyable.
Birth control options following childbirth
Having a reliable method of birth control following delivery is important to prevent an unintended pregnancy. If you are interested in immediate contraception, you can consider barrier options such as condoms or progestin-only contraceptives (Depo-Provera or the mini-pill).
The timing for a copper or hormonal intrauterine device or utilizing a fitted barrier method of contraception such as a diaphragm or cervical cap should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
If you are interested in combination birth control methods containing both estrogen and progesterone, such as pills or a vaginal ring, speak with your healthcare provider to see if this option is right for you.
The timing when a woman and her partner resume sexual intercourse following the birth of a child is ultimately a personal decision. Women should speak with their partner and health care team about any concerns that may be present.