Of all the thing on your to do list after having a baby, resuming sex with your partner can understandably fall pretty low on the priority list. Between your fluctuating hormones, your healing vagina, your needy baby, your fatigue, and your lack of personal lubrication, sex can feel more like a chore than the pleasurable experience it was once upon a time. So here are a few short thoughts on resuming sex after baby.
Take it easy.
Your first few sexual encounters after having a baby should not be an all out party. Vaginal stitching (if you have it) can take several weeks to heal, and your partner should be very gentle on you until you feel you can handle a more rigorous encounter. Cesarean scars can take a couple months to heal, so be creative about positioning so that you can be safe.
Things may feel different.
Your hormones change the way that you experience everything, including physical sensations. If you are breastfeeding, your breasts may feel particularly tender. This may be a good thing or a bad thing – either way is normal! During birth, the pelvic floor gets stretched and slightly weakened, so penetration may feel slightly different. Differently is ok – and it can even be exciting!
Kegels can help.
As soon as you start to feel ready, start practicing Kegels. With the pelvic floor slightly weakened from pregnancy and birth, Kegels can add tone that can make sex more comfortable and pleasurable.
Tell your partner if something is not working for you or if it is causing you pain. What worked well for you only a few weeks ago may now be uncomfortable. Make sure you are communicating a lot during the postpartum phase as your body adjusts to a new normal.
Don't be afraid to lubricate.
In the postpartum period, hormones suppress a woman’s ability to self-lubricate, particularly if you are breastfeeding. That does not need to slow you down – just use what tools are available to you and make the best of it!
If you had stitches – either vaginally or from a cesarean, they can take several weeks to heal. Sex can still be resumed during the healing time provided you are able to be comfortable. Trying different positions during this time can be helpful.
There is no "expected time."
There is no “expected time” that a couple should resume sex. If you are comfortable a couple weeks after birth, go at it! If you are still 8 weeks (or more) after birth and still not feeling ready to resume sex, that doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. The first several months with a new baby are incredibly challenging and if intimacy is slow to start, that is ok.
Make the best of it!
Sex after baby can sometimes be new and confusing – sometimes even comical. Laugh through the adjustments as you and your partner figure things out!
Some women experience pain during intercourse in the postpartum period. Some of this is normal, particularly as stitches are healing, but pain should not last for several months. If you are experiencing pain during intercourse after baby, the best person to visit a woman’s physical therapist. A woman’s physical therapist is an expert at the female pelvis, its ligaments, muscles, and complications with it. A woman’s PT has the best tools to find what it is that is causing your pain and help you correct the problem.
Do what works best for you and your partner. During the postpartum and newborn phase, be flexible and patient with yourself. In time, your sex routine will reach a balance with the rest of your new life with baby.
As if relationships weren’t complicated enough, pregnancy can throw yet another curve ball at a couple, especially when it comes to sex. It’s sensitive subject with innumerable potential discussion topics.
Some women want more sex in pregnancy, others can’t stand the thought. Even dads to be are sometimes intimidated by the thought of sex during pregnancy for all kinds of reasons. Some couples still desire sex but they wonder about the safety. Whatever you are feeling about sex is completely valid and normal, even if you think you are alone in how you feel. So here we are going to talk about the basics of sex during pregnancy. (And as always, discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor or midwife.)
Sex in pregnancy is safe. Sex is by and large completely safe during pregnancy. There are few situations where a woman should refrain from sex (we will talk about those below.) But for the majority of women, sex, including penetration and orgasm, is perfectly healthy. It even offers some tremendous health benefits in pregnancy including relaxation, lowered blood pressure, and improved sleep and increased immunity.
It’s normal if you don’t want sex. And it’s normal if you do. The way a woman’s body responds to the hormone changes that pregnancy brings is unique to each person. Some love sex, others hate it. Others are completely unchanged. And some women find that some things about sex are ok and others are temporarily off limits. All normal.
Orgasms don’t trigger early labor in a normal pregnancy. During orgasm, a woman’s body is flooded with oxytocin, which is also the hormone that causes contractions during labor. The uterus has oxytocin receptors on it and throughout the majority of pregnancy, these receptors are closed. That means that, as long as these receptors are closed, a woman can have all manner of oxytocin coursing through her body and it will not start labor. At the end of pregnancy when those receptors begin to open as a woman becomes ready to go into labor, orgasms have the potential to encourage labor to start. In these situations, sex can come in handy to help start labor – both for the oxytocin and the prostaglandins in semen.
Try different positions. The basic mechanics of sex change a bit as pregnancy progresses. The belly gets bigger and bigger making several positions harder to utilize. Furthermore, women should not be on their backs for an extended period of time after about 20 weeks. Try having the woman on top (no pressure on the belly), doggie style, or side lying. Couples can also try other means is sexual gratification including oral sex.
When NOT to have sex in pregnancy
If you are at risk for preterm labor. There are many contributing factors to preterm labor and each situation is unique. If your doctor has said you are at risk for preterm labor, make sure to follow their recommendations carefully. Some allow penetration but no orgasm. Some allow orgasm, just no penetration. Some say to refrain completely until after birth. Whatever your situation, make the best of it and do everything that you ARE allowed to do to keep the intimacy up.
You have a history of miscarriages. In some women, a history of miscarriages means that sex in pregnancy is risky, though this is not in all cases.
You have Placenta Previa. If the placenta is growing at the bottom of the cervix, it can be unsafe to have sex in pregnancy. With a placenta previa, sex can irritate the placenta and cause it to detach from the uterine wall prematurely which is dangerous for mom and baby. Fortunately, placenta previa is rare and it’s easily detected.
The water has broken. Once the membranes have ruptured, sex is no longer a go. Anything placed in the vagina after the water has broken has the potential to cause infection, including semen.
In a normal, healthy pregnancy, sex is beneficial and safe. Few situations are cause for concern and your doctor or midwife will lead you through those. In general, enjoy the physical sexual connection as much as the emotional connection with your partner during pregnancy!