RETURNING TO SEX AFTER HAVING A BABY

Some women find they are ready to resume intercourse quite soon after childbirth, while others may find it takes much longer. It is important to listen to your body and decide what is right for you.

Following an episiotomy or a perineal tear it will be best to wait until the stitches are healed and no longer painful (this is usually about 6 weeks). Post cesarean section your abdominal scar will also need a similar time frame to heal. For some women with ongoing discomfort and / or pelvic pain, sexual interest can be diminished for some time. Some women take 6 to 12 months before feeling comfortable and confident to resume penetrative sexual activity.  

After birth the usual lubrication of the vagina does not return to normal for some weeks (even longer for some women). When you are ready to resume intercourse, you may want to use a lubricant in you and on your partner. You may wish to use lubes that aren’t water-based (as water tends to dry you out further) however, remember that oil based lubricants are not compatible with condoms!!

If you are aware that you have little natural lubrication, you may want to avoid having a bath before sex as this may dry out your vaginal tissues (showers are fine!)

For your first return to intercourse, take it slowly! Initial penetration should be slow, your vagina should be well lubricated and you should be in control of the depth and rate of thrusting.

 A few more things to consider:

  • Sore breasts–you may have tender breasts in the early weeks after birth as they enlarge and engorge with breastmilk. Experiment with different positions to find the most comfortable for you. You may find that wearing a supportive nursing bra during intercourse helps reduce breast tenderness ( and you may also find a bra useful in case you need breast pads in for any leaking).

  • Your pelvic floor muscles are effected by pregnancy and birth. Your pelvic floor plays a big role in sexual function in particular sexual satisfaction. Seeing a women’s health physio after birth can help you reconnect with your pelvic floor muscles and improve pelvic floor function.

  • Prolapse and incontinence–Following pregnancy and birth some women can develop a vaginal prolapse. Sometimes a vaginal prolpase can be uncomfortable with intercourse, often if it is dry or irritated from rubbing on underwear. Damage to the pelvic floor muscles, fascia and nerves during pregnancy and birth can also lead to symptoms of incontinence. Leaking can occur with activities such as coughing, sneezing or lifting your baby and it can sometimes also happen during intercourse. Firstly don’t panic - try using a lubricant and try different positions to see if any different positions are better for you. Also make sure you see a womens health physio who can help you further with your prolapse and / or incontinence symptoms and guide you with your rehabilitation of your core and pelvic floor muscles.

  • Hormones, fatigue, sleeplessness, and all the other stresses that come with having a new baby may decrease your libido. Make sure you are open with your partner about how you are feeling and don’t feel any pressure to return to intercourse before you feel ready. There is a big range of ‘normal’when it come to this topic!

  • Contraception–Talk to your doctor about appropriate contraception as you can still get pregnant, even if you are breastfeeding and your period hasn’t returned!

Rebecca Dodson

Womens Health Physiotherapist

Leto Womens Health

image @helathline.com

rebecca dodson