You’ve just had a baby, so it really shouldn’t be surprising if sex isn’t the first thing on your mind! You’re probably exhausted and not to mention still a bit sore. It is estimated that up to 90% of first-time mothers who deliver vaginally will have torn tissue or an episiotomy (a small cut). Additionally, if you’ve had a caesarean section your wounds will be equally painful. As such, doctors and midwives generally advise that you should wait until the six-week postnatal check until you resume a physical relationship with your partner. All told, how soon until you start having sex should be both a medical as well as a personal decision.
Your birth experience
Bear in mind that the type of birth you’ve experienced may impact on your recovery time and when you’ll feel like having sex again:
- Natural birth -If you’ve had an episiotomy or a tear and have subsequently had stitches, these will dissolve after about 10 days, you should feel less sore and healed within two weeks from the birth. Even if you’ve had no stitches or tearing, you will feel a bit bruised, so go gently, take your time and do what feels right for your body.
- Caesarian -You’ll have been told to be mindful of your scar at all times – no hoovering, heavy lifting or anything that will put pressure on the healing area. This goes for sex too. Once your stitches have come out, you should be fine to start having sex again, but it’s a good idea to avoid any positions that will put pressure on your abdominal area.
Changes – your body, your surroundings
Things will have changed since the last time you had sex. For one, there’s a new little person in the house who could wake up at any minute – you may not feel comfortable having sex with the baby in the room and you may feel distracted by the thought that the may wake up. This is all completely normal and something that you’ll need to adjust to as a couple.
Also, if you’re breastfeeding you may notice some vaginal dryness (don’t worry, this is due to a drop in oestrogen which is the body’s way of preventing another pregnancy whilst breastfeeding). Your libido may not be quite what it was, reduced testosterone levels will contribute to this as well as lack of sleep and let’s be honest, leaking boobs and night sweats don’t exactly make you feel sexy! Give yourself time, talk to your partner about any doubts, concerns and reservations and let sex come back to your relationship gradually.
Resuming sex after childbirth
Here are some other tips to ease yourself into post birth sex.
- Firstly to combat exhaustion, accept all offers of help with your baby and the house so that you can rest. Once you’re fully rested you may feel more comfortable and ready to resume your sexual relationship.
- Try to choose a time when you’re least likely to be disturbed by your baby – after a feed, for example.
- Talk to your partner about how you feel about the changes to your body and the ways in which you might like – or not like – to be touched.
- Gently explore your vagina with your fingers so that you can discover if there is any pain or change for yourself first.
- Don’t go straight for full penetration. Oral sex or mutual masturbation may be easier to begin with.
- Try using a lubricant and make sure you are fully aroused before penetration.
- Regularly practice pelvic floor exercises – they can make a huge difference.
- Try positions that limit penetration.
- If the problem continues discuss any pain with your GP or practise nurse. Try to talk about this with your partner if it’s causing problems in your sex life. That way, you can deal with it together rather than worrying about it on your own.