You’ve done it. You’ve given birth to your cute new baby. And yes, we know that childbirth could take a toll on us, as women — most especially down there, so perhaps the last thing on our minds at this point is sex. But sex after childbirth does happen. So while intimacy is understandably the last thing in our minds at this time, here are a few things we need to know about sex after pregnancy.
How soon can I have sex after giving birth?
Most healthcare practitioners recommend holding off on the lovemaking until around 4 to 6 weeks after delivery, for both normal spontaneous delivery (NSD) and caesarean (CS) delivery. The risk of infection is still high 1 to 2 weeks after delivery, and waiting a few more weeks more can give our bodies more time to recuperate and heal. At the same time, we might also still be dealing with postpartum discharge, fatigue, pain, and even vaginal dryness during this time — all of which could make sex a bit uncomfortable. At the same time, it’s best to also consult our OB’s on the best time, especially for moms who might have experienced vaginal tear that required surgical repair — as this could mean waiting a bit longer than the norm.
Will it hurt?
Perhaps the next thing we’d like to know is if sex would hurt. Considering what our vagina went through during childbirth, yes, there might be some discomfort. But the good thing is, our vaginas start to heal itself almost immediately after the delivery. Aside from the pain, another consideration is dryness, especially for breastfeeding moms. To ease the discomforts of postpartum sex, here are a few things we can do:
- Consider using pain relief. If you still feel sore, then perhaps it’s best to take pain-relieving steps before the deed. You can empty your bladder, take a warm bath, or even take an over-the-counter pain relief medication. If you feel soreness or a burning sensation after, you can also apply an ice compress to the area.
- Use lubricant. If you’re feeling dryness in the area, you can consider using a lubricant.
- Try out new things. If you feel that your vagina is still not up for the job, then you can discuss alternatives with your partner, such as massage, oral sex, or mutual masturbation. Be open with your partner about what feels good and what doesn’t, and what you’re comfortable with or not.
- Make time. Anxiety will not help you in this instance, so it might be best to set your “love night” in advance. Preferably on a night when you’re not too tired or tense.
If sex still feels painful for you, then it might be best to consult your OB for other possible treatment options.
Will it feel any different?
Pregnancy, labor, and vaginal delivery can all take a toll on our vagina, and can even stretch or injure our pelvic floor muscles — which also support our uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum. The “different” feeling can be subjective — some moms say it is while for others it’s the same (same goes for the husbands/partners), but you can minimize this risk by “toning” your pelvic floor muscles. Do this via Kegel exercises: imagine you’re sitting on a marble, then tighten your pelvic muscles as if you’re “lifting” it. Try it for three seconds at a time, then relax for another three counts. Work up to doing it 15 times in a row, at least three times a day.
Do I need to use birth control?
Sex after pregnancy will require a reliable contraceptive, especially if you do not intend to get pregnant so soon after giving birth. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding and have not resumed menstruating, then breastfeeding (via the lactational amenorrhea method or lam) might offer you a 98% protection from pregnancy. However, research states that the effectiveness of this method can vary among women.
At the same time, it might also be best to consider using contraceptives as research also suggests waiting at least 18 to 24 months before attempting your next pregnancy to reduce the risk of complications and other health problems. Your contraceptive options immediately after delivery can include:
- A contraceptive implant
- A copper or hormonal intrauterine device
- Progestin-only contraceptives
It is best to talk and consult with your OB on the best contraceptive option for you as the effectiveness of birth control methods will also depend on the correct usage of each. At the same time, the misuse of some methods can also pose a health risk for us moms. For example, using birth control methods that contain both estrogen and progestin shortly after giving birth could result in blood clots. It could also result in low milk supply for breastfeeding moms, although recent research indicates that this is untrue as well.
Is it ok if I’m not interested in sex even after 6 weeks?
Adjusting to a new life after giving birth and with a new baby can be taxing for moms, so it’s understandable that sex can take the back seat during this time. It’s ok to still feel uncomfortable about the idea of sex even after 6 weeks postpartum. If your husband/partner is asking for intimacy, talk to him and explain what you’re feeling. Sex is not the only way to be intimate with your partner. Until you’re comfortable with having sex, you can maintain intimacy in other ways, such as spending quiet moments together.
If you feel like you’re still struggling, be wary of other symptoms such as severe mood swings, loss of appetite, overwhelming fatigue, and lack of joy in life, as these could mean that you have postpartum depression. Talk to your healthcare practitioner ASAP.