Sex after giving birth 101

Having sex after giving birth is going to be different for every couple, but you may have a few questions. Let us help you understand more about sex after childbirth.

The truth is, there’s no set rule that applies to everyone when it comes to having sex after giving birth, because each couple’s experience is going to be unique. It’s all about when you feel ready. 

One of the biggest factors affecting when you feel ready to have sex after pregnancy is exhaustion, combined with the feeling that your libido might have packed up and left the building.

It is often suggested that you wait to have sex after birth until after your first check-up at six weeks. But there are some couples who feel ready sooner, and according to obstetrician and gynaecologist at Demeter Fertility, Dr David Knight, it can often be fine for them to have sex before the 6-week check-up.

“There is no biological reason to wait six weeks to have sex after childbirth,” says Dr Knight. “If you have a vaginal tear, it might be uncomfortable, or if you have tissue injury, then it may be appropriate to wait.”

However, even if there is no physical reason not to have sex post pregnancy, the fact is you may not have the desire, and you might simply be too tired and emotional. 

There is no need to feel bad if your sex drive is non-existent; that is very normal. One study, published by Leeman and Rogers in the American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists, suggests that around 43 percent of women have issues with sex after birth, for a variety of reasons.

“The libido is in the brain, it’s a series of thoughts and feelings. In circumstances where all of a sudden you have a huge amount of extra responsibility, plus the fact that they’re not getting any sleep, plus there is bleeding going on which often makes women feel bad, frustrated about breast feeding, sore boobs… why would you want to have a shag?”, says Dr Knight.

While our libido may be largely in our heads, our physical bodies may also work against us due to hormonal factors. Breastfeeding alone causes a couple of interesting physiological changes when it comes to having sex after giving birth.

“Breastfeeding gives a suppression of estrogen, and this can be associated with a decrease in the thickness of the lining in the vagina and intercourse can be painful. In this case, a prescription of estrogen cream can be helpful towards thickening that up again,” says Dr Knight.
Couple relaxing on the sofa together

Also, your personal lubrication may decrease making sex after child birth irritating or painful. A bottle of store-bought lubricant may go a long way towards vaginal comfort between the sheets.

“Your largest and strongest sexual organ is your brain, so if you’re not feeling the sexy love, perhaps it’s time to get intimate without going the whole shebang”, suggests relationship therapist and sexual counsellor, Isiah McKimmie.

“It's important that you make time to be together and maintain your emotional intimacy, as well as being physically intimate. Make sure you have time to talk to each other as much as you can. Even though you feel exhausted and want to tune out to the TV, you need to tune into each other too,” McKimmie says.

“Swapping a massage with each other or cuddling is also a great way to stay connected. If the desire for sex does arise for one partner and not the other, it's important to not make one partner feel ashamed for that. You could offer to cuddle each other while one partner pleasures themselves.”

The mysterious libido is a funny beast, and sometimes we think we’re not in the mood. However often our moods are open to suggestion with some gentle and seductive persuasion.

“We often have an idea that libido or desire to have sex is spontaneous, will just happen on its own, and is needed in order to have sex. But that's not the case at all, particularly for women,” says McKimmie. “Often, it's only after we 'get started' that we feel 'turned on'. So start with what you do enjoy, like a massage, cuddling or kissing, and take your time.”

Physical intimacy is one of the joys of being human, and the hours spent with a new baby can be physically consuming for a woman, but sometimes a man can feel left out.

“Women often have their needs for physical connection met through their contact with their baby. Male partners are often not having these needs met and can be left feeling neglected and unloved. If your partner is asking for sex, know that they're also expressing a desire to feel close and connected to you,” says McKimmie.

With patience and communication, sex after pregnancy can be as sizzling and comforting as it was pre-baby. So just take it as slow, or as fast, as you need to. If sex is continuously painful, or you are experiencing unusual discharge, it is worth talking to your GP about it. 

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