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Sex After Childbirth

As a new parent, you will quickly learn that a new baby takes up most of your time and energy. Sometimes it may seem like you can't do anything else. This will get better over time and soon you will feel like you have more control of your life again - including your sex life!

You are now a mother but remember that you are also still a woman with your own needs and desires. Having a new baby can be overwhelming but maintaining a healthy couple relationship during this time of transition sets the foundation for your new family.

 

Sexual and emotional intimacy are essential parts of a loving, healthy relationship and it's important to make time for this. Focusing on you and your partner's needs isn't selfish. Nor does it mean you are neglecting your child.

 

How soon is too soon?

What might I expect the first time?

is our relationship in trouble?

Choosing the right birth control method

 

 

How soon is too soon?

It is important that you are both ready to have sex again. Think about both your physical and emotional readiness. Make sure you are talking to each other about how you are feeling.

  • Get the "OK" from your healthcare provider first.
    • Your healthcare provider may suggest that you wait longer if your recovery has been slow, you have an infection or if you are still having lochia (bleeding or discharge from your vagina).
  • A 2013 BJOG study by McDonald, & Brown1 found that:
    • 41% of women began having sex again 6 weeks after birth.
    • 65% of women by 8 weeks.
    • 78% by 12 weeks.
    • 94% by 6 months.

What might I expect the first time?

Many people worry about having sex again for the first time after childbirth. Take it slowly. Go back to "dating". Start with just kissing, then gradually progress to touching and so on until you are ready to "go all the way".

  • All mothers have low estrogen levels after they give birth – this is normal for the first few months, or longer if you are breastfeeding. Low estrogen can make the walls of the vagina dry and this may make sex uncomfortable.
    • Try including more foreplay before having intercourse.
    • Use a water-based lubricant.
  • Some women may notice that milk leaks from their breasts during sex - this is normal.
    • If it bothers you, nurse your baby beforehand or wear a bra with breast pads.
  • If you have had a perineal tear or caesarean section, you may experience discomfort or numbness at the incision site. Try different positions or use pillows for support.
  • Fatigue can have a big impact on your interest in sex. Try having sex in the morning, afternoon or when you feel most rested.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider if sex is painful, or if you and your partner are worried about a decrease in sexual response.

We haven't had sex in months, is our relationship in trouble?

Even though your body may be physically ready, emotionally you and/or your partner may still need time. With lack of sleep, constant demands on your time and the stress of being a new parent, you may find that you and/or your partner don't feel like having sex. The following may be helpful:

  • There are many other ways to connect intimately with your partner. Kissing, cuddling, massage and other forms of physical affection increase feelings of closeness.
  • Consider areas other than the bedroom, especially if the baby is sleeping in your room.
  • Partner tip: It's also important to remember that some women feel "touched out" by holding and caring for the baby all day and the last thing they want is to be touched. Allowing her time to do some self-care by herself, such as taking a walk, or a long bath can help her to feel more open to touch again.
  • Trust each other and talk about your feelings:
    • If you are wrapped up in the mommy role right now or just aren't feeling sexy, say so. If you're worried that sex will hurt, talk to your partner about what feels good, what doesn't and what you'd rather put off entirely for the time being.
    • It's not uncommon for partners to have unresolved feelings if they witnessed the vaginal birth of their baby. Reconciling the dual purpose of the vagina may affect their libido. Like the vagina, breasts were designed to play both a practical and sexual role. While these roles are not mutually exclusive, they can be a source of conflict for some couples during lactation. These feelings can't be resolved if they are never discussed.
  • Be patient and enjoy whatever form of togetherness feels right at this time. Remember that the important thing is to spend time with each other.
Did you know that fathers often experience an increase of the hormone oxytocin and decrease in testosterone during the postpartum period? Since it's the male hormones that spark desire - in both men and women - having a baby can decrease his libido, too.

Choosing the Right Birth Control Method

If you are having sex with a male partner, you can get pregnant shortly after childbirth even if you haven’t gotten your period yet. Thinking about birth control is important even if you haven’t had sex yet. There are lots of different methods of birth control available.

  • There are some things to ask yourself to help figure out what method will work best for you and your situation:

For more information please visit Sex & U.

 
Date of creation: February 22, 2013
Last modified on: October 23, 2019
 
 

References

1McDonald, E. A., & Brown, S. J. Does method of birth make a difference to when women resume sex after childbirth? BJOG: An International Journal Of Obstetrics And Gynaecology [BJOG] , 120(7), 823–830. Retrieved from
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23442053
2Healthy Families BC. (August 10, 2013). Concerns About Sexuality After Giving Birth. Retrieved from
https://www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca/home/articles/concerns-about-sexuality-after-giving-birth
3The MotHERS Program. Postpartum Health: Sex. Retrieved from
https://www.themothersprogram.ca/postpartum-health/sex
4Berlex. (ND). Sex after baby? A Survival Guide.