Sex after childbirth

couple

The facts of life, short form: you have sex. And that can lead to you having a baby. And then you feel like you may never want to get in the sack again (or the complete opposite). To reassure you, here's some advice on having sex after childbirth.

When to have sex after childbirth

First, give your body time to recover because, let's not forget, it's just done something quite amazing. If you are bristling with stitches and bleeding, it's probably not going to be the right time for you. Some doctors say with penetrative vaginal sex you should wait until six weeks after a vaginal birth to prevent infections.

Unsurprisingly, many women don't feel like sex when they are breastfeeding (which entirely suppresses some women's libidos), in constant physical contact with a new baby or simply catatonically tired.

A lack of interest in sex after childbirth is completely normal and just the way a lot of women feel when they have very new babies who require their constant attention. Keep communication open with your partner (between looking after a tiny human), as it's your shout as to when you feel up to it again.

Having said all of that, there does seem to be a huge spectrum as to when women do feel like it after childbirth. There are some women who are covered in lovebites before they are out of the labour ward (just how, those women?). For others, it might be a lot longer. Either way, give yourself as much time as you need.

You may still be bleeding after birth for a good few weeks and if you are breastfeeding you could be dry and need lubrication.

I bled for about three weeks after giving birth. I tried to have sex once the bleeding stopped but it was still too painful (despite using lube) so left it another week or so. It was better then, but took another few weeks before I'd say it was enjoyable!

I have always had a high sex drive and it has returned after each birth, but I get properly back into my stride after about nine months, or usually when I've stopped breastfeeding (in that I feel sexier and less 'lights off, cover up').

There is no 'normal' time, seriously. Just go with the flow and see how you both feel afterwards. DH and I honestly didn't even think about having sex for a few months afterwards due to being so knocked for six by having this new little human in our lives who literally didn't leave my side for the first three months.

How to have sex after childbirth

couple sleeping

The truth is, postnatal sex can be a bit awkward and starting over-ish. The essentially ridiculous nature of the act becomes apparent all over again when you haven't done it for a while.

Jumping into the sack can also be tough after some of the changes your body has gone through after pregnancy and childbirth. Here are some factors to consider if sex is the last thing on your mind, and what you can do to get back into the groove when you're ready:

I deserve to have good sex, so I'm trying to focus on my pleasure and enjoyment in bed, and I'm getting there. Just remember you are your own worst critic – what you see will be totally different from what he sees.
  • Explain to your partner if you are feeling trepidatious and unconfident about your postnatal body. Of course, most people are quite aware of the amazing feat your body has accomplished in the last nine months and are not inspecting your stretch marks. However, if you personally are really fretting about your body, one Mumsnetter shared this important reminder: “It may not be quite the same, but you just need to look at what you have produced and nobody really should give a sh*t!” Amen to that.
  • Try to find some time and space to look after yourself and do the things you want to do. Getting an opportunity to dress up and feel good about yourself can also help you feel more 'lively'. One Mumsnetter shared, “I treated myself to some posh undies, a haircut and some nice clothes and felt a million dollars, which really helped.”
  • Make sure you are eating well and find some time to exercise. Even if it's just for 10 minutes, exercise can help release endorphins that make you feel good.
  • Find a way to get some sleep. If at all possible. Lack of sleep not only has an effect on your mood but also your libido.
Happy is a good step on the road to sexy.
  • Have a massage or do something else which makes you feel physically well and not like a leaky postnatal bundle of sore.
  • Doing pelvic floor exercises not only can improve your post-labour sex life through increasing your sensitivity (resulting in stronger orgasms!), it can also help with issues of incontinence and prolapse.

What about birth control?

Sex after childbirth requires a reliable method of birth control. It is 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.

Sex and breastfeeding

The extent to which breastfeeding interferes with your doings varies from woman to woman. Some never feel like it at all until they stop and/or their periods resume. Others are not affected in the same way.

If you're breastfeeding, it is fairly common that the changes in your hormones 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 affected in the same way, and your experience may differ from pregnancy to pregnancy.

In addition, whether or not you want to involve your boobs in the action also varies among breastfeeding mothers. Some women find that breasts need to be kept out of the whole arena for the duration. Others are OK after breastfeeding settles down.

Personally, I have issues with my breasts multitasking… Even if we have sex while I'm still breastfeeding, breasts are fairly off-limits, as it feels entirely unsexy having them manhandled when their day job is feeding the baby!

For the first few weeks after having a baby, I didn't want my husband near my breasts. But that's during that initial intense period when the baby is feeding all the time anyway. Once that settles down, it's game on again.

And then there are those who enjoy the whole engorgement phenomenon and the resulting boost in cleavage.

I find my breastfeeding breasts incredibly sexy, actually. They look and feel much nicer than when I'm not.

Whichever camp you fall into, you'll find support for your stance on the Relationships Talk board.