When you become a parent, it’s normal to feel like you’re experiencing lots of change all at once. From your daily routine to your body – life before and after birth can look quite different! One area that nobody tells you becoming a parent might change is your sex life.
While you might love sex as you knew it pre-birth, the idea of having sex after having a baby can be daunting – both for you and your partner(s). Here’s everything you need to know about having postpartum sex, from when it’s safe to do so to getting the most out of it:
When can you have sex after giving birth?
You can have sex after giving birth, put simply, whenever you like! It’s often recommended by health practitioners to wait for up to six weeks for your body to heal and rest before having sex after childbirth. This is because it’s likely you might be in some pain and feel tired from parenting.
In truth, following childbirth and settling into parenthood, there is no normal. Everyone experiences different physical and mental impacts, so a timeframe can feel unhelpful at times. What’s most important is that you do what feels right for you.
So check in with yourself, your body, and the person you’ll be having sex with. If you both feel comfortable and happy to have sex, you can do so whenever suits you. But there’s no need to rush.
When can you get pregnant after giving birth?
If you’re having heterosexual sex, you can get pregnant from 3 weeks after giving birth. This is true even if you’re breastfeeding or haven’t gotten your first period after pregnancy yet.
Sperm survives for a little while in the vagina after ejaculation. So if you want to avoid getting pregnant, it’s a good idea to use protection every time you have sex after birth. This is regardless of how soon you become sexually active again. It’s likely that you’ll have the opportunity to discuss your contraception options before leaving the hospital after birth or in your first postnatal check. If your doctor doesn’t mention sex or contraception, we recommend asking them for advice.
Tips for having sex after childbirth
Your body and mind have been through a lot, so sex after having a baby can feel like brand new territory. Here are some tips for easing yourself back into sex in a way that is safe and enjoyable for you:
Communicate with your sex partner
Communication is always key, before, during, and after sex. It’s likely that you and the person you’re having sex with will both have your individual worries, concerns, or ideas. So talk to each other before you start having sex about your expectations and anything you’re worried about to make sure you’re on the same page. Continue communications throughout so that you both know how the other is feeling and what is going well, or not so much. After having sex, make sure to check in with each other again. Talk about how you both think it went, how it made you feel, and what you think might be better next time.
Keeping an open line of communication with a sex partner is essential for enjoyable and consensual sex, but it can also be really useful for guiding you both through sex after childbirth.
Take it slow
If you or the person you’re having sex with is nervous, really slow it down to help you both ease into it. This could mean enjoying other parts of each other’s bodies for longer or taking penetrative sex at a slower pace. Taking it slow is a good idea in case any parts of sex feel painful. Keep in mind there are many different types of sexual activity that can feel really good, it can be a useful opportunity to explore different ways of giving each other pleasure. Slowness gives you and your partner a larger window of opportunity to reassess and adjust what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.
Try other forms of showing affection
If sex feels like too much right now and you’re not ready yet, that is okay! There are plenty of ways you can feel close to your partner, show each other affection, and create intimacy. Try kissing or cuddling more, holding hands, giving words of affirmation or favours, or mutual masturbation. These will help you both to practice your love for each other and reaffirm your sexual desires without having sex before either of you are ready.
Using plenty of lube during sex (at any stage in your life, not just after giving birth) can be a great addition to your sex life. Lubricants can help in a practical sense to ensure sex isn’t painful. And lube can also heighten your pleasure and add in new and exciting sensations into your sexual activity. The hormonal changes that you experience after giving birth can make your vagina drier than you’re used to. We recommend using an organic lube, like YES lubes!
Be prepared for the unexpected
If things have changed with your body and the way you enjoy sex after birth, it can feel jarring. Try not to panic if this is the case. You and your body have achieved an amazing thing, and the changes you’re experiencing are testament to that. You and the person you’re having sex with can work and explore together to meet your new needs and desires. It might take some time and it could be difficult, just take it in your stride and avoid pressuring yourself – remember there is no ‘normal’ when it comes to sex.
Use a towel
After birth, it’s common to experience bleeding as a result of your womb lining shedding. This is called lochia. If you don’t want to create extra laundry or stain your sheets, it’s a good idea to lay down a towel when having sex. Don’t worry if you forget in the heat of the moment though, stains never hurt anyone and enjoying yourself is the most important thing!
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Is it normal not to want sex after birth?
Yes, it is normal that you might not want to have sex for a while after giving birth. There are several reasons why this might be the case, including:
- Pain or fatigue
- Reduced libido
- Accepting the changes your body has experienced
- Postnatal depression
Pain or fatigue
Your body has been through a lot, and now you have a new-born baby to look after. You’re probably feeling fatigued, and maybe in pain from the labour and all the changes that come after giving birth. Not to mention having a baby means you’re not getting a full night’s sleep. When you’re feeling sleep deprived, it makes sense that sex might be the last thing on your mind.
You may have a reduced libido as your priorities shift towards those of parenthood. Taking care of a new-born baby is a lot of work, and your number one priority often changes to focus on meeting all your child’s needs. While you listen to your parental instincts and take on this new challenge, your sex drive might be reduced so that you’re better able to focus.
No matter what kind of birth you have, childbirth often sees the body you’ve known for your adult life change in ways you might not have expected. It’s normal to need time to get used to these changes before you want to share them with anyone else.
It’s possible that if you’re experiencing a loss of libido, along with other symptoms, that you might have postnatal depression. While postnatal depression is common (1 in 10 new parents experience postnatal depression), it’s not normal and you don’t have to suffer with it alone. If you think you might have postnatal depression, you should talk to your doctor and your loved ones for support.
While not wanting to have sex for a while after birth is normal, if it continues it’s a good idea to speak to a doctor about it and take note of any other signs that you might be experiencing postnatal depression.
The key thing to remember when having sex after birth is to do what feels right (and good!) for you. If you have any questions about restarting your sex life after birth or your own tips to share, let us know in the comments.