If you’re a little concerned about how you’ll cope with sex after childbirth, don’t worry, you’re not alone. In the early days following the big push of childbirth, it may seem unlikely that you’ll ever have sex again! But for most women who have had uncomplicated births, you could be back in the saddle sooner than you may think.
How long should you wait?
Many people think you need to wait for your six-week postnatal check-up to get the green light, but if you are feeling healed and interested, then there’s really no need to wait. If you are unsure though, ask your doctor at an antenatal check-up what they recommend. Some doctors suggest that you actually try sex before the six-week check-up so you can ask any questions that may come to light when you venture into this new territory.
Every couple is different – some jump straight back into the saddle, others wait a month or two, while others wait six months or more. No matter when the time is right for you, remember that:
- The longer you wait, the bigger deal it becomes in your head. While we’re not advocating having sex before you’re ready, putting it off because you’re nervous or tired does tend to make you more anxious about it. If you’re physically ready, don’t overthink it – just do it!
- Your partner is not a mind-reader. Make sure you are communicating with your partner about how you feel – physically and emotionally – about the idea of sex. If your partner is keen to resume sexual relations before you are, make sure he knows why you’re not ready, and that your lack of interest does not translate into a lack of interest in him.
Healing after birth
Before you can consider having sex after childbirth, you need to feel that your body is healing well and is not too tender. If you were one of the lucky mums who delivered vaginally with no tearing or complications, chances are you’ll be feeling pretty good in a week or so after birth. For the rest of us, recovery may take longer due to:
- Tearing resulting in stitching or healing naturally
- Episiotomy resulting in stitching
- Assisted birth – forceps or ventouse – resulting bruising and sometimes grazing
- Breech birth
- Long birth resulting in excessive swelling and perineal pain
Sex after a caesarean delivery
Women who have had a caesarean birth are in a similar position to women who have delivered vaginally – they can have sex when they feel ready for it. While it is not necessary to consider episiotomy healing, perineal swelling or vaginal tenderness, women who have had a c-section do still bleed in the weeks following birth in the same way as women who have vaginally delivered due to the removal of the placenta.
Women who have had a caesarean delivery also have to consider their healing wound when thinking about sex. Pressure on the wound can cause pain while it heals so they may want to consider a position during sex that won’t put additional weight on the tender area. Numbness around the wound due to nerve damage can also put some women off the idea of sex as the skin in this area can become hyper-sensitive to touch.
Top tips for making sex after childbirth easier
Get used to the idea
Before you leap back in the saddle (or inch slowly, as the case may be!), try to get comfortable with the idea of sex before you actually do the deed. Spending time cuddling and kissing without ending up getting naked allows your body to relax and become comfortable with being touched and held. Cuddling can also have the benefit of making you feel nurtured and supported so that sex may be more likely next time!
Take your time
While you don’t have to wait until your six-week check-up before having sex again, you don’t have to rush into it either – make sure you feel ready and physically and emotionally comfortable with the idea of sex. Ensure that any healing that has to take place is sufficiently advanced that sex isn’t going to be painful. After all, there is no bigger turn-off (other than sheer exhaustion!) than anticipating pain.
Have a birth control plan
If you don’t plan on becoming a mother with three children under two, make sure you have a birth control plan from Day One. In the very early days, this is usually going to take the form of condoms (remember? Withdrawal is not birth control!) so make sure your partner is organised. Just because you haven’t had a period yet doesn’t mean you can’t fall pregnant, so always be prepared.
Talk to your partner
Having given birth ourselves, it’s all too easy to imagine that any issues with resuming sexual relations will be centred around our own headspace and our physical wellbeing, but if you talk to the man in your life, you may be surprised to discover that he is anxious too. Men often feel concerned that they may cause you physical pain, that you may not enjoy sex, and a common cause of concern for men, that they may not ‘fit’ as well any more due to vaginal stretching. Talking about sex with your partner will allow you both to voice your concerns so you can feel connected about the issue.
Very often in the early months after childbirth, insufficient lubrication due to low oestrogen levels – this is particularly true for women who are breastfeeding – can be a problem. Insufficient lubrication can mean painful sex which can lead to nervousness about sex which can lead to insufficient lubrication… See the pattern?! Over-the-counter lubricants can solve this problem before it’s even begun and it is definitely something all postpartum mothers should consider stocking up on (along with the condoms!) before they have sex again after birth.
Don’t wait ’til bedtime
Rarely is bedtime the best time for sex for new parents. By bedtime you are both exhausted and are more likely to view sex as an interruption to the couple of hours of sleep you may have before getting up to a hungry baby. Instead, try first-time sex during the day whenever the opportunity presents itself – naptime for baby, perhaps. If you have other kids in the house and a daytime ‘nap’ isn’t going to work for you, try going to bed at the same time as the kids instead.
If you’re not ready to have sex, say no. Your partner should respect your wishes if you don’t feel ready yet. It’s that simple. If the issue of sex (or lack of) is becoming a issue between you, talk to your partner and explain to him why you’re not ready. Try not to let this topic become a no-go zone between the two of you.
When should I be concerned about sex after birth?
If after many attempts at having sex that is careful and gentle, you are still experiencing considerable pain (or it is getting worse) seek advice from your GP or obstetrician. Often continued discomfort comes from a healing episiotomy scar – or a tear that has healed badly – and it may require surgery to correct if it is considered bad enough.
This article was written by Ella Walsh for Her World.