Your doctor may have given you the green light to resume sex after you’ve given birth, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re truly ready. After all, pregnancy, and especially labor and delivery, bring about a great deal of change to your body. Additionally, you might not be mentally ready to get back between the sheets. It might take you more or less time to feel comfortable resuming sex after the baby than it did your sister or friend. Experts say that’s totally fine. So, don’t compare yourself to anyone. To help you prepare for what to expect when you’re ready to resume sex after the baby, we asked OB-GYNs to share the advice that they give their patients on postpartum sex.
Wait the recommended time.
The six-week rule exists for a reason—mainly to prevent infection. “There is a higher risk of infection postpartum because the cervix is dilated. [This] makes an easy passageway for infections, such as trichomonas, chlamydia, or gonorrhea to enter the uterine cavity and cause serious infections,” says Lakeisha Richardson, M.D., OB-GYN in Greenville, Mississippi. “In addition, the uterus is enlarged and has increased blood supply, so simple infections can quickly turn into serious infections, such as an abscess or sepsis.” It’s also important to remember that if you have stitches, your body needs time to heal.
It might take longer than six weeks.
Although physically you may be cleared for sex after six weeks postpartum, Dr. Richardson points out that women usually need more time before they are truly ready to resume intercourse. “A lot of women struggle with self-image after childbirth—unexpected stretch marks, weight gain, cesarean or vaginal scars, and the changes in the abdominal muscles can be overwhelming.” For this reason, it’s important to take your time and ease into postpartum sex.
It will be different.
Your body just went through the biggest change it will ever experience. It’s changed you in more ways than one. Physically, you may notice a decrease in muscle tone in the pelvic floor muscles. This can occur because of the reduced friction during intercourse, explains Lisa M. Valle, D.O., FACOG, OB-GYN and medical director of Oasis Women’s Sexual Function Center in Santa Monica, California. This is usually temporary. “Pelvic floor physical therapy, as well as regular Kegel exercises, can help,” she adds.
Hormone shifts may cause dryness.
Estrogen levels decrease after delivery, and breastfeeding also keeps estrogen levels low, which can cause vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and pain during sex, explains Dr. Valle. Lubricants can help with this. “Occasionally, a patient might require a small amount of vaginal estrogen cream to temporarily alleviate the pain and dryness,” she adds.
It might be painful for a while.
“There may be some mild pain or discomfort with trying to have sex after baby due to abnormal tissue in the vaginal area, such as granulation tissue or a stricture,” explains Dr. Richardson. If you are experiencing pain, give your health care provider a heads up. It may be a symptom of something more serious, such as an infection. If it’s mild pain, consider using silicone-based lubricants such as Replens Silky Smooth. “These can help ease some of the discomfort associated with dryness,” adds Dr. Richardson. “In addition, if you have an area where a tight band may have formed as a result of sutures, massage the area on a regular basis and the band will loosen.”
You might experience “milk let down.”
If you are breastfeeding and have breast stimulation, you may experience milk dripping from your breasts at times when you’re not nursing. This is known as milk let down—and it may happen during sex. To prevent milk let down, Dr. Richardson recommends wearing a tight fitting bra during sex and skipping any breast manipulation.
The intimacy might take time to rebuild.
Before labor and delivery, you were pregnant for nine whole months. Considering this, you and your partner have likely been less sexually intimate than you were before you conceived your beautiful baby. This can change the dynamic of your chemistry, at least in the beginning. “Sharing conversation over coffee in the morning or taking a shower together after you put the baby down for the night allows you to maintain relationship and connection,” advises Dr. Manigat. “Connecting in non-sexual ways throughout the day will help to keep you both connected in the bedroom.”
You can get pregnant while breastfeeding.
Don’t forget to talk to your physician about birth control options prior to resuming intercourse. Despite what many new moms think, you can get pregnant while breastfeeding. “You can get pregnant in your first six weeks postpartum, and you can get pregnant before your first normal cycle after your delivery,” says Dr. Richardson. “Always use condoms during postnatal sex, until you have been on an approved birth control method for at least thirty days.”