Sex After Birth: Your Questions, Answered

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Sweat

May 16, 2022

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Returning to exercise after having a baby can be challenging, but another thing we don’t talk about enough when it comes to life and wellbeing post-pregnancy is the return to sex. 

We know that there are many ways to have sex and experience sexual pleasure, but for the purpose of this article we will mostly be discussing penetrative intercourse.

Just like resuming exercise, having sex after giving birth is something that can bring up a lot of apprehension and questions. There’s no right timing or one size fits all approach, so it’s important to be patient, listen to your body and keep communication open if you have a partner. 

To take some of the guesswork out, we dived into some of the most common queries. If you’ve got any concerns or questions specific to your body, pregnancy or baby, make sure to ask your health provider. 

How long after birth can you have sex?

There is no official required waiting period according to the Mayo Clinic, but most health professionals recommend waiting until 4-6 weeks after delivery. 

Whether you had a vaginal birth or a c-section, it’s a lot for your body to go through and you need to allow time for healing and recovery, especially since the risk of complications is highest in the first two weeks after childbirth. 

If you experienced any tearing, cuts, or anything that required stitches or surgery, you may need to wait longer. Every birth is different so it pays to always check with your doctor, especially if you’re interested in having sex before that 4-6 week mark. If you’ve waited several weeks and your body has healed, when you start having sex again becomes a personal choice based on when you feel ready. 

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Is it normal to not feel interested in sex after having a baby? 

Short answer, yes! Some women don’t feel interested in sex for weeks or months after having a baby and that’s okay. This can be related to changes in your hormones, sleep patterns, body aches, nipple soreness, body confidence, exhaustion, or sex not being on your mind as you adjust to life as a mum. 

Breastfeeding causes its own unique hormonal changes and sensations, such as the oxytocin released during nursing which generates positive feelings towards your baby. For some women, these changes can lead to a lower libido, while others might feel a boost. 

There are many factors at play and every woman may feel a little differently!

Take things slowly, try to remove any expectations or pressure around sex, and know that if you don’t feel ready, that’s okay. If you have a partner, it can help to let them know how you’re feeling and potentially explore other forms of intimacy and physical affection. 

If your interest in sex is returning but finding the time or energy is a challenge, look at your routine and set aside times that could work best. Even if you don’t have a partner, this can apply to self-pleasure too. 

If your libido is something you’re worried about, talk to your healthcare professional.

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What if you don’t feel confident in your body?

A woman’s body will go through many changes during pregnancy and birth, and it’s normal to feel a mix of emotions as a result. You might have some loose skin, stretch marks, be a different weight or feel differently about your body shape.

While none of these changes are anything to be ashamed of, that doesn’t mean feeling comfortable and confident in your skin happens overnight. 

As trainer Kelsey Wells always says, it can help to think about all the amazing things your body has done and is doing for you and your baby. 

Your body is a miracle, and focusing on everything there is to appreciate about your body can be a good way to build your confidence.

If you have a partner, it can help to communicate how you’re feeling, and talk about what might make you feel more comfortable. This could be dimming the lights, lighting a candle, or taking smaller steps towards sex. 

If you are breastfeeding and want to reduce the heaviness or leakage, wearing a nursing bra or crop top is an option, or try expressing beforehand.

Is having sex going to feel different? 

For a lot of women, sex does feel different after having a baby. The tissue can be very sensitive as it heals, and the stretching of your muscles and fluctuating hormones can change the sensations too. 

You may experience some pain and discomfort when you start to have sex again. This could be related to your vagina specifically, or the surrounding muscles that have been affected. 

If things are feeling different during sex, talk about what feels good and what doesn’t.

In addition to the changes you might experience with your sex drive, the post-natal hormone changes mean you may experience vaginal dryness, but lubricant is an easy fix! 

Book in to see your doctor if you have any pain, dryness or discharge that isn’t improving or is worrying you. 

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How do you strengthen your pelvic floor again?

Having a baby can affect the strength of your pelvic floor, which is important for keeping your pelvic organs in place, increasing sexual pleasure, and controlling your bladder and bowel.

Many women leak urine in those first few weeks (or a bit longer) after birth as the tissues heal so don’t feel embarrassed if it happens.

To work on strengthening your pelvic floor again, you’ll want to do Kegels, where you squeeze and lift your back passage as if you are stopping wind and hold for five seconds before repeating.

When do you need to use contraception?

Unless you’re ready to have another baby, using contraception is a good idea anytime you have sex. Your healthcare provider will usually talk to you about sex and contraception at your four or six week check-up, but if you are interested in having sex earlier, feel free to bring it up at any time.

While it’s common for women to wait until their period has returned as a sign they are ovulating again, it’s important to remember you are fertile BEFORE your period, so using contraception is important at any stage. 

Breastfeeding is also commonly believed to prevent pregnancy, and while it can reduce the likelihood of pregnancy, it’s not a guarantee. 

Sweat is about so much more than your workouts

Feel your best - inside AND out

The experience of having sex again after having a baby will be different for every woman. Give yourself time, compassion and patience as you adjust to your new normal as a woman, a mother, and if you have a partner, a couple. 

Something worrying you or not feeling right? Always see your healthcare provider for advice.

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* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.

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