Not to get too graphic — because you’ll find out soon enough — but there’s a lot going on south of your naval after you have a baby. Whether you have a cesarean section or a vaginal delivery, your body will be in recovery from the mind-blowing sorcery that is childbirth. So, it’s entirely understandable if the last thing on your mind is sex after the birth of your baby. Or, hey, maybe you can’t wait for the sweet release of feel-good endorphins and all that other good stuff sex has to offer.
There’s no wrong way to feel about sex postpartum. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t post-delivery precautions to be made before you hit the sheets with someone. How soon is too soon? What if it hurts? Here’s your field guide to fornication A.C. (after child, obvs).
Your body after birth
To put your mind at ease, your vagina (if you deliver vaginally) will go back to normal functioning capacity again. This is kind of what she was destined to do. So, sure, she may look or even feel a little different, but trust that your vagina is both highly elastic and highly resilient. It will start to heal almost immediately after giving birth. While the muscles may not return to their original tightness, you don’t need to stress about being “too loose” after childbirth.
A more realistic concern? Post-delivery hormones can cause vaginal tissue to be thinner and more sensitive, meaning any activity down there could be uncomfortable in the weeks and even months postpartum. You may also start to wonder how long you’ll bleed after giving birth — since your uterus and cervix have to bounce back to their normal pre-pregnancy size, postpartum bleeding is common for four to six weeks after birth.
Then there is breastfeeding to consider. Aside from feeling extremely tender and engorged, your breasts might leak. Not surprisingly, breastfeeding can lower libido. It can also cause increased vaginal dryness, as it causes estrogen (which supplies natural vaginal lubrication) to drop below pre-pregnancy levels.
How long should you wait to have sex after birth?
In short, it varies. “There are many factors that play a part in discovering how and when you will start to venture back into having sex postpartum,” Dr. Rose Schlaff, pelvic floor physical therapist and women’s sexual health coach, told Scary Mommy. “Six weeks postpartum is a general rule of thumb based on tissue healing but when you get back to intercourse is a very personal decision.”
The six-week mark also typically aligns with your postpartum checkup, so it’s a logical time to touch base about whether you’re physically ready to have sex or address any concerns. Many women don’t feel particularly inspired to get frisky prior to that point anyway due to a natural drop in hormones and the demands of caring for a newborn. But if you start thinking about having sex two weeks after giving birth, more power to you, Mama! Just consider giving your health care provider a quick call to get the green light. Per the Mayo Clinic, the risk of having postpartum complications is highest in those first two weeks after delivery.
Can sex after delivery get you pregnant?
Yep! Unless you’re trying to create a sibling super-fast for your newborn, you’re going to want to get back on birth control. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, many birth control methods can be started right after childbirth — for example, your OB-GYN can insert an intrauterine device immediately after a vaginal delivery or c-section. Some methods require you to hold off for a few weeks, though.
All are safe to use while breastfeeding, although a few aren’t recommended as they may diminish milk supply. Also, certain methods like the sponge and cervical cap are less effective once a woman has given birth.
What should I know about sex after C-section?
Before childbirth, you might think you’re safe to start having sex sooner than women who deliver vaginally. But after having a C-section, you’ll likely have a different perspective. After all, it is major abdominal surgery. But since one in four women will undergo this procedure, questions about how soon you can have sex after a C-section are understandably common.
As is the case with vaginal deliveries, there is no required waiting period before you can have sex again. Having said that, the general rule of thumb for postpartum sex following a C-section is six weeks. That should give your incision site time to heal. Still, every woman’s experience — and pace of recovery — is different. While many women experience soreness, fatigue, and vaginal bleeding, you may find that those symptoms subside quickly. If you’re recovering well and start to feel amorous prior to that six-week postpartum checkup, proceed with caution.
Take it slow, and call your health care provider if you experience any of the following: severe pain in the abdomen, extreme vaginal bleeding (i.e. soaking a maxi pad in an hour), large clots in vaginal bleeding, leaking urine, foul-smelling discharge coming from the incision, bleeding from the incision, pain during urination, swelling and/or pain in the lower legs, unexplained anxiety or depression, an intense and unwavering headache, vomiting and nausea, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms, including a fever over 100.4 degrees.
What should I know about sex after an episiotomy?
During some vaginal deliveries, a doctor or midwife may decide it’s necessary to make a surgical cut in the area between the vagina and the anus known as the perineum. The term for this procedure is episiotomy, and they used to be routine. While they are now recommended far less, they are still sometimes deemed useful in allowing a baby to come through the vaginal opening.
If you do have to get an episiotomy, your health care provider will usually stitch you up within hours of baby being born. After, it typically takes about a month for the stitches to heal. But, to be clear (take it from someone who knows on a deep, personal level), that sort of trauma to your vadge is painful. Whether you have an episiotomy or tear naturally, you’ll likely be extremely sore in the weeks following birth. You’ll probably have to use a stool softener. Ice diapers — yes, ice diapers — will become your new BFF.
The pain should only last two to three weeks, though, at which point you might want to start having sex again. Just know that it’s common for sex after an episiotomy to be painful those first few months. Per the National Health Service, studies show 9 out of 10 women who had an episiotomy reported sex after the procedure was very painful but improved over time.
When you do decide to take the plunge, keep an eye out for any signs of infection, like red skin, swelling, discharge from the cut, unusual odor, or persistent pain.
What should I know about sex after a hysterectomy?
In rare cases, it may be medically necessary after childbirth for a woman to have a hysterectomy. Emergency issues like uterine rupture, postpartum hemorrhaging, or the presence of cancer could lead to this otherwise last-resort surgery taking place, leading a woman to wonder how life will be different sans uterus and cervix. Accordingly, women who experience this tend to be curious about sex after a hysterectomy.
The good news is that recovery isn’t much different from typical childbirth, barring any complications. The advised timeline for returning to your normal bedroom behavior is four to six weeks, but that rule isn’t hard and fast. It’s probably best to wait until your scars heal and any vaginal bleeding stops. You do you, though! A word of caution: Some reported side effects of a hysterectomy are a lowered libido and vaginal dryness. Before you get going, grab some lube and ask your partner to indulge in a little extra foreplay.
What should I know about anal sex after birth?
If butt stuff is your thing, you’re probably thinking the postpartum period is the perfect time to get some back-door action. Your vagina may be out of commission after bringing a baby forth into this world, but your tush is ready to go, right? Well, yes and no. That whole six-weeks moratorium on sex advised by health care providers postpartum applies to anal sex after birth, too. And that isn’t the only reason you might want to keep your booty on the bench instead of putting it in play to pinch-hit.
Per the American Pregnancy Association, anal sex involves certain elevated risks. It can increase the chance of contracting an STD; heighten the risk of exposure to hepatitis A, B, and C; irritate or even rupture existing hemorrhoids (which are sometimes a side effect of pushing during birth); and heighten the risk of contracting digestive infections from bacteria, parasites and amoebas.
If you think you’re ready to give it a try regardless, ask your doc if you’ve physically healed enough first. Once you get the go-ahead, make sure you have plenty of lube on hand and take things slow (not sure how? We put created a comprehensive guide on how to use lube, we got you, Mamma!). Let your partner know if you need to stop, and be on the lookout for red flags like bleeding or severe pain.
What should I know about masturbation after birth?
Ready for some good news? While intercourse isn’t encouraged until the four to six week postpartum range, “outercourse” is fair game as soon as you feel up to it. What is outercourse, you ask? Easy — it’s any external stimulation used in an effort to climax. So, if you’re not quite ready to have full-on sex yet but your hormones are kickin’, you can count on masturbation (solo or mutual) to get you through. Or, in this case, get you off.
Clitoral stimulation is safe and healthy, meaning you can go as wild as you want. You can even break out the sex toys, as long as your mindful about keeping them clean and bacteria-free. The only thing you really need to be mindful of is being gentle around sensitive areas like a C-section incision or episiotomy cut.
What should I know about oral sex after birth?
Happily, oral sex falls under the same umbrella as masturbation: outercourse. And that sort of external stimulation after birth is usually considered a perfectly safe way to be sexual and build intimacy with your partner postpartum. There is a caveat, though — because the risk of infection is highest in those first few weeks after delivery, it’s best to keep your tongue outside of the vagina initially. Until your doctor greenlights any form of intercourse, your partner can pleasure you via oral stimulation of the clit. Sounds like an acceptable way to while away the time, eh?
What should I know about romance and intimacy after birth?
Remember during those early months of pregnancy when you were horny AF? With hormones like estrogen and progesterone peaking, pregnant-you was probably an insatiable sex goddess. But when baby is born and those hormone levels return to normal, you may notice your libido disappears. This is normal and usually resolves on its own as your body continues to heal.
However, that might not be the only hurdle in your postpartum sex life. Your body has been on a nearly 10-month-long physical and emotional roller coaster. You probably have a few more wobbly bits than you did before. Skin may drape differently. Stretch marks may splay across your tummy, breasts, and butt. In other words, it might take time for you to feel comfortable in your body again — and it may take even longer to feel “sexy” again. You may be worried about how to satisfy your partner after having a baby.
“When you do, go slow, use lots of lube and take your time rediscovering what feels good. Remember, intimacy isn’t solely physical touch,” advised Dr. Schlaff. “Write a list of the ways your partner turns you on and give it to them. Touch, massage, or kiss different body parts for the purpose of finding what feels the best. Focus on creating a space that is comfortable for both of you, and leave kissing off the table for now. Communicate clearly on what feels good and what doesn’t bring you joy. Keeping this in mind, together you can break down barriers in a thoughtful and loving way.”
Written by Julie Sprankles.