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Sex After Giving Birth


No evidence-based time period exists stating how long a woman should abstain from sexual activity after giving birth. However, many health care professionals advise waiting around four to six weeks to allow for episiotomy stitches to heal and prevent urinary infections. Many physical and psychological changes happen postpartum, and women should return to sexual activity when they feel ready to do so.

When is it safe to resume sexual activity after birth?

There is no exact time after birth that a woman should wait until they resume sexual activity. No matter the form of delivery, a woman should resume sexual activity when she feels physically and emotionally able to. Many healthcare professionals suggest waiting four to six weeks to reduce the chances of developing urinary infections and allow the body time to heal.

After delivery, the uterus, vagina, and cervix need time to heal and return to their original position and size, and this takes time and is different for every woman. Vaginal bleeding is also very common in the postpartum period and lasts a couple of weeks. It is best to wait until the bleeding has stopped before commencing sexual activity.

After birth, the vagina will become sore and swollen. If the labor resulted in an episiotomy or perineal tear, this would prolong the time the vagina will need to heal. These tears usually take six to 12 weeks to repair, and it is best to seek a doctor's or midwife's approval before resuming sexual activity.

Women who have had a Caesarean section should wait until the incision has healed to prevent it from reopening, which usually takes around six weeks.

Women who experience traumatic births may take longer to recover and should seek the advice of a doctor or midwife before resuming sexual activity.

The addition of a new baby is physically and mentally exhausting, so it may take a while for a woman to feel comfortable enough to engage in sexual activity. Again, this is different for all women, and the decision to resume sexual activity should be made only when a woman is ready.

Will sex feel different after giving birth?

Sex is likely to feel different after giving birth. This is due to several factors. Pregnancy, labor, and delivery stretch the pelvic floor muscles and thin the vaginal tissue. The pelvic floor region is built up of many muscles and nerves which support the uterus, bladder, and rectum. The pelvic floor has been found to play an important role in healthy sexual functioning for women, and any damage to this region may result in painful sex. Although painful sex is quite common in the early stages of postpartum, it has been found to decrease significantly with time.

The thinning of the vaginal tissue is likely to cause different sensations during sexual activity, particularly during penetration. The vagina is unlikely to return to its pre-birth shape, but this is normal and shouldn't affect sexual functioning.

What are the effects of childbirth on sex?

Childbirth affects the body both physically and mentally, and these effects can impact sexual functioning.

Mental health

The change in hormones after birth, coupled with fatigue, is likely to cause a woman to feel emotional and irritated, and some women will experience postpartum depression during this time. This often leads to a lack of sexual desire and arousal. The change of role, from a partner to a mother, also leaves many women with no desire for sex.

Body image

The body undergoes remarkable changes during pregnancy, which may make some women self-conscious about their bodies. This impacts sex as some women do not feel as though they are desirable.

Hormones

The change in hormones, particularly for breastfeeding women, is likely to result in less vaginal lubrication, which could cause painful sex. Therefore, using plenty of lubrication when resuming sexual activity is important.

How soon is it possible to get pregnant after giving birth?

For most women who are not breastfeeding exclusively, ovulation will return approximately six weeks after giving birth. However, this is different for each woman; some have been found to ovulate even sooner.

Women who are breastfeeding exclusively, under six months postpartum, and have not had a period since giving birth, are much less likely to get pregnant as exclusively breastfeeding children under six months of age acts as a form of contraception. This is known as the lactational amenorrhea method and is 98% effective at preventing pregnancy when practiced correctly.

If not looking to get pregnant, a woman should talk to her doctor or midwife and partner about appropriate contraceptive methods.

Conclusion

Many physical and psychological changes can impact a woman sexually. The change in hormones, lack of sleep, and body differences can leave a woman feeling undesirable, and physical changes to the body, including vaginal dryness, can cause sex to be painful in the months following childbirth. Luckily, these changes have been found to subside with time, and most women return to normal sexual functioning.

Key takeaways

Many psychological changes can impact a woman after giving birth, which affects sexual functioning. Fatigue and hormonal changes can impact a woman's health, causing less sexual desire and arousal.

Physical changes can also impact a woman after giving birth, affecting sexual functioning. Damage to the pelvic floor from birth can result in pain during intercourse.

A woman can return to sexual activity when she feels that she is ready. Although there is no definitive time, many health care professionals suggest waiting six weeks.

Resources:

Pelvic Floor Involvement in Male and Female Sexual Dysfunction and the Role of Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation in Treatment: A Literature Review - The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Postpartum Sexual Function of Women and the Effects of Early Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises - Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica

The Neuroendocrinological Aspects Of Pregnancy And Postpartum Depression - Acta Endocrinologica

Return Of Ovulation And Menses In Postpartum Nonlactating Women: A Systematic Review - Obstetrics and Gynecology

Assessing The Quality Of Data Regarding Use Of The Lactational Amenorrhea Method - Studies In Family Planning

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