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Let’s face it, sex after childbirth is a very personal topic and one that can be tricky to talk about. We know from threads on our forums that, when it comes to resuming your sex life after having a baby, many women are keen to talk about their experiences and to hear stories from others as well.
As one new mum asked: “I'm three weeks after giving vaginal birth and curious about when people felt ready and started having sex with their partner again.”
You may also be wondering when it’s safe to have sex after childbirth, how you cope with pain or bleeding during sex and even the best sex positions to try after having a baby.
As always, we turned to Mumsnetters for their views. Along with scouring the Mumsnet forums for tips and advice, we also spoke to three Mumsnetters to find out more about their experiences of having sex after childbirth.
New mum Naomi, 28*, felt pressure to do the deed for the first time after having her son, now eight months old.
“I saw the six-week GP checkup as some sort of deadline for when I should be having sex again,” she admits. “But I’ve struggled with vaginal dryness due to breastfeeding, which has made penetrative sex really uncomfortable for me when we have tried.”
“I think because I had a caesarean section I thought there would be no problem in going back to our normal sex life pretty much straight away, but this is very far from what had happened and, as yet, we haven’t managed penetrative sex although we have done other things.”
Mum-of-three Jenny, 35*, has struggled to resume her sex life due to birth complications, including prolapse. “I had what I would call a typical sex life up until having my first child, when I was 24,” she explains.
“I’d expected everything to snap back into place but realised that something wasn’t right after having sex when the baby was six months. It turned out that a third-degree tear I’d suffered during the birth hadn’t been corrected properly and I also had a prolapse.”
“My husband and I were hopeful that our sex life would start to regain some normality after I had corrective surgery but, as it turned out, things were even worse as I had scar tissue from the repairs which made sex painful. We've only managed sex twice in the last three years,” she continues.
Mum-of-one Georgia, 34*, was incredibly nervous about having sex again after having her daughter, now four months old, but discovered that her renewed sex life was actually much better than before. “I think people calling your six-week checkup the ‘sex week checkup’ didn't help, as I felt like you had to have sex after six weeks, which is ridiculous,” she says.
“I was also conscious of my partner as we hadn't had sex for a while and I didn't want it to come between us. The pressure also came from wanting that normality back and, if I hadn't just given birth, we would have had sex many times by then. Nearly four months post giving birth, we still hadn't done it. However, I had two orgasms the first time we had sex after birth and feel more empowered in my body than ever before.”
At Mumsnet, we believe that, by talking openly about our worries, challenges and also our desires, we empower ourselves as women and as new mums too. From where we’re standing, that can only be a positive thing.
So here's our guide on how to approach, and what to think about when it comes to, sex after childbirth.
*not real names
“I'm not about to start as the area is a bloody warzone, but after nine months of sickness, my appetite for it is coming back.” – Mumsnet user
When can you start having sex after childbirth?
“I was gobsmacked that a vaginal birth could delay a resumption to a normal sex life. We had a very active sex life before I became pregnant so I would like to return to normal ASAP.” – Mumsnet user
There seems to be a huge variation as to when women feel ready to get intimate again after childbirth. Some might feel ready relatively quickly after giving birth. For others, it might take a lot longer.
First things first, don’t feel that you have to rush into anything. The most important advice for any new mum is this: give your body time to recover from pregnancy and birth.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that you (yes, you!) have achieved something miraculous. And you certainly don’t need us to tell you about the toll pregnancy takes on your body, whether this is your first baby or your fourth.
Then there’s the birth. It doesn’t matter if you had a vaginal birth or a caesarean section – you may be dealing with ongoing pain, stitches and bleeding. Post-delivery hormonal changes can also cause your vaginal tissue to be more temporarily more sensitive, thinner and less elastic. Not to mention the fact that your vagina, cervix and uterus have to shrink back to their normal size.
Naomi admits that the pressure to have sex continued to mount after childbirth: “As the six-week date got closer and we still hadn’t had sex, I put mounting pressure on myself – like if we hadn’t have done it by then, we weren’t normal, and I would be letting my husband down.”
Actually, your doctor may advise that, when it comes to penetrative vaginal sex, you should wait until six weeks after a vaginal birth to reduce the risk of infection, although the NHS says that there are no rules set in stone when it comes to timings.
You may consider oral sex as a ‘safer’ option as you don’t need to worry about penetration and there’s less chance of it causing infection. Again, though, only go for it if you’re truly ready.
“I’m [scared] about doing it. My bits don’t feel right after giving birth and I’m worried that it’s really going to hurt.” – Mumsnet user
What if I don’t feel like having sex yet?
“We should all be allowed to heal in our own time.” – Mumsnet user
“There’s enough pressure on mums with parenting without adding in the suggestions they should be adding a rampant sex life to the list.” – Mumsnet user
If you’re experiencing bleeding or ongoing pain following childbirth, having sex may not be top of your priority list. The truth is that, even if you’re healing well, you still might not feel like getting intimate straight away.
Unsurprisingly, many new mums are nervous about having sex again, including first-time mum Georgia who says: “I built it up into this really big deal in my head. I had an episiotomy and a forceps delivery, so I'd had stitches and was incredibly sensitive and sore for the first couple of weeks post birth. I started to convince myself that sex would be painful and, once I got that in my head, I got more and more anxious about it.”
Also, it’s understandable if you just don’t feel all that sexy. Constant physical contact with a new baby and being more tired than you’ve EVER been before will dim the desire to drag your DP into bed – unless it’s for a really good kip – and breastfeeding can also entirely suppress some women's libidos. Quite simply, a disinterest in sex after childbirth is completely normal.
Your partner may struggle to understand this. After all, they’re not the ones who’ve just gone through childbirth. Even if they attended all the birthing classes, timed your breathing and held your hand through labour, they were still essentially a bystander.
Try to keep lines of communication open with your partner (between looking after your tiny human, of course). But don’t ever forget that it’s ultimately YOUR decision as to when you feel ready to be intimate again. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it and you’ll find more useful advice on this subject on our Relationships Talk board.
Most important of all? You should never feel pressured or forced into having sex before you’re ready – either by your partner, by friends who claim to have done the deed much sooner after childbirth, or even by yourself.
“I can enjoy sex again, but my orgasms are different now.” – Mumsnet user
Is sex the same after childbirth?
“We took it slowly, with lube to hand, and all was well. And I had the most intense orgasm ever! Apparently post-birth sex can be even better than before.” – Mumsnet user
As you’ve probably already gathered, life as a new parent is far from hearts and roses. You’re more likely to be found knee-deep in dirty washing than enjoying a romantic date night.
The truth is that postnatal sex can be a bit awkward and cringesome – like starting all over again with your DP. The essentially ridiculous and surreal nature of the act becomes alarmingly apparent when you haven't done it for ages.
You may also find that things feel different down there. The NHS advises that it’s not uncommon for women to feel their vagina is more loose or dry than before and sex can feel a bit uncomfortable or even painful at first.
As Naomi says, “I wish I’d known that it’s common to have problems with sex after childbirth, no matter how you deliver. I’m also very conscious of my section scar – the skin around it is still quite sensitive, and I worry that certain positions might pull or stretch it."
That said, rediscovering your sex life after having a baby can be exciting and exhilarating. You might even discover that things have improved.
As Georgia reports, “I was actually really looking forward to having that closeness with my husband again and planned to have sex after my six-week check up, but lack of sleep and time to ourselves prevented it from happening. As time went on, I was convinced that it would be really uncomfortable and I built up a mental barrier. But when we finally did do it, it was actually amazing and some of the best sex I've ever had.”
“Neither DH or I were interested! Happy to say it’s relatively back on track now but it’s taken a few months.” – Mumsnet user
How does giving birth affect sex?
“We were both absolutely exhausted from a baby who didn’t sleep unless we were holding her and I’d had a really traumatic birth with a c-section and frankly I’d had enough people rooting around down there that I was all touched out!” – Mumsnet user
“I just didn’t feel like my body was my own.” – Mumsnet user
When it comes to sex after childbirth, there are certain factors to consider, such as the way exhaustion and being busy 24/7 can wipe your libido.
Don’t underestimate how physical changes caused by pregnancy and childbirth may affect your body confidence. As Naomi explains, “Your body goes through such a transformation when you’re pregnant and I struggled to get used to my big bump and working out what clothes to wear,” she says.
“Then, once you give birth, you suddenly have to get used to more dramatic changes. My boobs growing was lovely, but also a nightmare. Then there was my c-section scar. I felt upset and embarrassed whenever I caught sight of the angry red line in the mirror. These changes made my body confidence plummet and stripping off was the last thing I wanted to do.”
You may also be coping with postpartum bleeding or other birth-related issues, like mum-of-three Jenny, who was diagnosed with a vaginal prolapse after having her first baby.
“My vagina was suddenly a medical issue and I had barely any sensation,” she says. “I felt so self-conscious about my husband touching me because I didn’t recognise my body anymore and had lots of feelings of anger and shame."
She continues, “Thankfully he’s very patient and we’re intimate in other ways. I think my situation is definitely extreme. Most women would fortunately not have these issues, but I would recommend they get medical advice quickly if they do.”
“I find my breastfeeding breasts incredibly sexy, actually. They look and feel much nicer than when I'm not.” – Mumsnet user
Sex and breastfeeding
The extent to which breastfeeding interferes with your libido varies from woman to woman. Some don’t feel sexy at all until they stop breastfeeding and/or their periods resume. Others aren’t affected in the same way.
If you're breastfeeding, it’s fairly common for changes in your hormones to cause a low sex drive. This is because nursing releases oxytocin, which helps you bond with your baby but also suppresses your libido. However, not all women are the same and your experience may differ from pregnancy to pregnancy.
While there are plenty of women who enjoy having a boosted cleavage thanks to engorgement, there are many who struggle to see their boobs as sexy when they’re being used for more practical purposes.
“I find it quite difficult for my husband to touch my boobs as I’m breastfeeding and it feels slightly odd to then see them as a part of sex,” explains Naomi. “I also panic that I’ll start leaking milk so I end up keeping my nursing bra on which doesn’t feel at all sexy!”
It’s worth being forewarned that breastfeeding has also been linked to vaginal dryness, as Naomi also discovered: “I wish I’d known that breastfeeding can make you really dry down below. Once I started looking online at forums and groups, I saw that so many women who were breastfeeding really struggled with painful dryness. Since discovering this, we’ve bought some lubricant. Hoping that we get to have another go soon!”
“I feel more discomfort in certain positions and like everything has been twisted up inside so some angles feel painful or uncomfortable.” – Mumsnet user
What are the best sex positions after childbirth?
While everyone is different and you’ll need to find out what works best for you postpartum, the truth is that you probably won’t feel like swinging from the chandeliers when it comes to sex after childbirth.
Generally, it can be beneficial for you to be on top when you have sex postpartum so that you can control the speed and depth of penetration. Another idea is to try spooning – lying sideways with him behind – and to go slowly.
“I think though for the first time, the good old missionary position is the best,” says Georgia. “It’s also when I feel most connected to my partner as you're able to look into each other's eyes and have that intimacy. I think that's generally down to personal preference though and 'down there' will feel so different for everyone.”
“Don't count on breastfeeding for contraception. I breastfed my DS but had a period just four weeks after he was born and that was me fertile again and back to normal periods. It works for some people but should not be relied on.” – Mumsnet user
How soon can you get pregnant again after childbirth?
Sex after childbirth requires a reliable method of birth control. It’s possible to become pregnant again shortly after having a baby, even if you are breastfeeding and your periods haven't returned yet.
For more information on your options, read about when you can start different contraception methods or talk to your GP.
“I've been off birth control for a few years, long before we started trying for a baby,” says Georgia. “One thing I was using and I'm going to use again soon is OvuSense. It's a little silicone 'tampon' that you put in at night. It records your body's core temperature, so you can see when you're about to ovulate and when to have sex if you want to pregnant, or when not to if you don’t.”
Tips for having sex after childbirth/easing back into sex after childbirth
If you’re fretting about doing the deed again, you may be reassured by these tips from Mumsnetters.
1. Make a plan
If you’re really busy, as most parents are, you should probably coordinate your diaries and schedule in some time for getting jiggy, otherwise it might never happen.
“As unromantic as it sounds, we had to plan when we’d have sex, navigating around the baby’s naps and feeds,” says Naomi.
“The spontaneity was definitely gone as, when we did have the chance to stop, we usually ended up falling asleep or taking the opportunity to put washing on. Try to make time for sex or weeks will fly by and you’ll realise it’s been a very long time!”
2. Enlist help
No, not that kind of help. We’re talking babysitters. If you feel comfortable with having someone else looking after your DC for a little while, it might give you and your DP the opportunity to reconnect.
As one Mumsnetter says, “We got DD out of the house for the night (at her auntie's house), I drank a reasonable amount of red wine and we took it very slowly.”
3. Have some ‘me time’
Try to find the space to look after yourself. Getting an opportunity for a bit of pampering or dressing up and feeling good about yourself can also give you a boost in the right direction.
“I treated myself to some posh undies, a haircut and some nice clothes and felt a million dollars, which really helped,” says another Mumsnetter.
Georgia adds, “If you can, try getting away and if you can't, go for a nice meal together. Don't let having a baby stop you from doing the things you used to do – like having sex!”
4. Communicate with your partner
It sounds simple, but if you don’t tell your partner how you feel, they won’t know. “I think talking to your partner is key. He was very aware of how I was feeling and didn't push me. My advice would definitely be to communicate your feelings and to try and let it happen without thinking about it too much.”
5. Appreciate your postnatal body
It may be softer, rounder and less toned, but try to focus on what your body has achieved. “Having gone through pregnancy and birth and realising, more than ever, how incredible our bodies are to grow a life and bring it into the world, my views on my body really changed,” Georgia continues.
“I now see it in a totally different light and I'm unbelievably proud of it and what it went through. Yes, I have scars, stretch marks, and wobble, but who cares? They're a reminder of the amazing thing it did for me. My partner was very positive about my body and the way it's changed, and he made me feel good.”
6. Don’t rush it
Take your time resuming your sex life and try not to put pressure on yourself. As Jenny advises, “Lots of women will be able to jump back into it and carry on like before but if this isn’t the case for you, don’t rush things. Everyone is different.”
7. Remember that your pleasure is important
It’s about quality, not quantity. As one Mumsnetter professes, “I deserve to have good sex, so I'm trying to focus on my pleasure and enjoyment in bed, and I'm getting there.”
8. Stay healthy
Eat well and try to exercise. Even if it's just for 10 minutes, exercise helps to release endorphins. Find a way to get some sleep too if at all possible. Lack of sleep not only affects your mood but also your libido: “Ways to improve your libido… more sleep, less stress, dirty books?”
9. Do pelvic floor exercises
Kegel exercises not only help with issues of incontinence and prolapse, they can also improve your post-labour sex life by increasing sensitivity – resulting in stronger orgasms!
If you struggle with pelvic floor exercises, specially designed pelvic floor trainers can help. “Pelvic floor exercises make a noticeable difference to the enjoyability of sex, which frankly I consider a good payoff for remembering to do them."