Resuming Sex After Having a Baby: Advice from a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist
You’ve been cleared by your ob-gyn to resume sexual intercourse after having your baby. Whether your first reaction is closer to Yay! or Oh no!, you’re probably wondering what postpartum sex is even supposed to feel like. Or perhaps you’ve already tried it and experienced pain or discomfort. Nearly nine in 10 women experience pain the first time they have sexual intercourse after childbirth, but there’s a lot you can do to decrease pain and increase pleasure.
When Can You Start Having Sex Again?
There’s no set timeline for when it’s safe to resume sex after giving birth. But whether you gave birth vaginally or by C-section, your body requires some well-deserved recovery. It’s generally recommended to wait six weeks for proper healing. Vaginal birth can lead to perineal tears (in the area between your rectum and vagina). Resuming intercourse too soon can increase your risk of infection. After a C-section, your abdominal area may be sore as the incision site heals. Many people have a postpartum checkup at six weeks, which is when your doctor can provide clearance for resuming sex. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about your specific situation and timing.
What to Expect with Sex After Baby
You’ve been through a lot in those first weeks after having a baby. You are likely exhausted from sleepless nights. Your breasts may be enlarged, leaking, or painful. You may have lingering aches and pains from pregnancy. You may be generally overwhelmed from adjusting to life as a new parent. All of this can lead to a less than comfortable sexual experience. Here are some symptoms women report when returning to sex after having a baby:
Vaginal dryness and pain (especially if you are breastfeeding)
Less tone in the pelvic floor muscles
Joint pain, especially in the low back and pelvis
Numbness at scars, such as C-section or at the perineal area
Preparing for Pain-Free Postpartum Sex
In the midst of newborn life, it may be hard to try all of these tips — that’s okay. As you settle into this new phase of life and your physical recovery continues, you may find that your symptoms improve and things feel easier overall. For now, find what works best for you and your partner and give it a go.
Speak up. It can be uncomfortable to discuss your sexual needs and comfort levels. As the birthing parent, you’ve been through a unique experience. Sharing your concerns with your partner can open the door to conversation and a better outcome.
Let go of pressure. You are recovering from pregnancy and childbirth. It is okay if you don’t feel like having sex. There is no set timeline. Keep an open dialogue with your partner and communicate with your doctor if you have concerns about your libido or other symptoms.
Take a temporary pause. When sex is painful, it can cause your nervous system to associate sex with danger and make it more likely to trigger pain in future encounters. A temporary pause can interrupt the negative reinforcement of painful sex and give you time to work on solutions. Explore other forms of intimacy: cuddling, kissing, and pain-free touching. This can calm your nervous system and help you connect with your partner.
Try a sex “warm-up.”__ Gentle exercise helps reduce pain — including pain with sex. Engaging in regular exercise (like those in your Hinge Health program) can help you get ready. Simple exercises like child’s pose, inner thigh stretching, and squats can help your body warm up.
Modify positions. Your body may feel different after having a baby. Positions that once felt comfortable may not feel great now. Experiment with what feels good for you. Spooning or side-lying positions may be more comfortable when dealing with painful sex.
Lubricate. Lubricate. Lubricate. Lubricants help reduce vaginal friction or irritation, which is common when hormone levels are fluctuating after birth. (Breastfeeding can also affect hormone levels.) Lube newbie? Ask for our Using Vaginal Lubricants resource.
Discomfort with sex after having a baby is very common, with nearly nine in 10 women experiencing pain the first time they have sexual intercourse after childbirth.
Those who have recently given birth experience many symptoms during intercourse, such as dryness, vaginal pain, and tender breasts.
Modifying positions, warming up for sex, using a lubricant, and communicating your needs with your partner can help you work toward a more comfortable sexual experience.
McDonald, E. A., Gartland, D., Small, R., & Brown, S. J. (2015). Dyspareunia and childbirth: a prospective cohort study. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey, 70(5), 319–320. doi: 10.1097/01.ogx.0000466340.51108.12
A partner's guide to pregnancy. (2016, May). American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/a-partners-guide-to-pregnancy