8 Surprising Truths About Sex After Birth
How long after birth can you have sex, and what will it feel like? Follow this postpartum guide for having comfortable and enjoyable sex after pregnancy.
The very thought of postpartum sex can seem exhausting for new mamas, especially given everything that's stacked against them: the lingering pain from delivery, raging hormones, baby blues or postpartum depression, weird body changes, and of course, the biggest libido-killing elephant in the room: the pure exhaustion a having a newborn. You also might feel "touched out" after cuddling a baby much of the day.
But while getting it on may now be the last thing on your mind, that won't be the case forever. In fact, according to one study, a full 94 percent of respondents claimed to be satisfied with their post-baby sex lives, and more than half said having a baby improved things. (Woot!)
So how long after birth can you have sex? Most doctors advise not to put anything in the vagina for six weeks to give yourself time to heal. The lochia (discharge of leftover blood and uterine tissue) has probably stopped by then as well. Before hopping under the sheets, though, it’s important to note that sex after birth takes some time—and effort. These truths can help you bring back the heat and connection that got you that baby in the first place.
Postpartum sex probably won’t feel good at first.
"The assumption is that the pain is from the trauma of delivery, which it definitely can be, but it also has to do with low levels of estrogen that affect the elasticity of the vaginal tissues," says Rebecca Booth, M.D., a Louisville, Kentucky, gynecologist and author of The Venus Week. Estrogen levels drop right after giving birth and remain low while breastfeeding. "When a woman is nursing, especially in the beginning, the decrease in estrogen combined with high prolactin and oxytocin levels can mimic menopause for the first two to three months," says Dr. Booth. "Think night sweats, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and often pain."
Even moms who underwent C-sections will probably experience painful sex after birth—even six weeks postpartum. If you had an episiotomy or other laceration, the time it takes to heal will depend on how extensive it was and where the cutting was done.
There's a reason you're not into sex after birth.
Lack of sleep, a changing dynamic between you and your partner, and perhaps some body image issues as you realize that belly ain't gonna flatten itself: not exactly the combination to put you in the mood for sex after birth. If you're breastfeeding, even Mother Nature is working against you. "Nursing releases oxytocin, a hormone that triggers good feelings toward the baby but also suppresses your libido," says Dr. Booth. "Anthropologically speaking, keeping your sex drive low is your body's way of preventing another pregnancy too soon. Patients are always relieved to find out there's a reason they're not as into sex."
Your vagina may change.
Depending on your age and how many children you've had, there may be a little more, um, wiggle room down there. And, says Dr. Booth, "even a woman who had a C-section can be affected, because the hormones of pregnancy widen the pelvic rim." This is also why a woman who loses her baby weight quickly may still not fit back into her jeans for many months. If the thought of doing Kegels literally makes you cringe, try Pilates: "All that focus on the core also helps tighten the pelvic floor," she adds.
- RELATED: A Dad's Guide to Sex After Baby
Sex after birth is important.
"If there’s no physical intimacy, or if it's really limited, couples start to feel like roommates, which is rarely a good thing. Feeling disconnected can lead to resentment," says Amy Levine, a New York City sex coach and mom. "Start with kissing or touching each other in a loving way, and work your way up to post-delivery sex when you're ready."
The fact is, you won't have as much time to linger over dinner or go out for elaborate dates, so sex can be the thing to remind you that you're on the same team—and still more than just Mom and Dad. Also, let's be honest, it puts everyone in a better mood.
Quickies are your new best friend.
Knowing that it doesn't have to be a long drawn-out session is a lovely grown-up fact. "Have your partner do what it takes to get you turned on, and then you do what it takes to keep your attention in the moment," says Levine. "Focus on the feeling—what he's doing to you, what you're doing to him—to stay present.”
Afternoons really can be delightful.
"By the time I would get into bed at night, I was too tired to read a page of my book, let alone have sex," recalls Maryanne, a mom of two, of the early days. "I found myself turning my husband down a lot, which never feels good." Then they figured out that weekends during their son's nap was the perfect time to bond. "It took the pressure off our nights and became something we both started to look forward to," she says. "And we still love our naptime ritual!"
Sex after birth may be better than you think.
A lot of women enjoy sex more after birth than they did before they were parents. One possible explanation: "Giving birth awakens us to a range of sensations, and as a result, our bodies, particularly our genitals, become more alive, increasing our pleasure potential," Levine notes. Childbirth can also shift our internal parts into just the right place, to make them more sensitive to stimulation. "Many women report more comfort with their bodies and more intense orgasms after having kids," she adds.
You will want postpartum sex again.
Just like you will sleep again and you will go out with friends again and even be up for giving birth again, you will want to have sex again. "Give yourself time to literally heal, but also to adjust to your new roles," says Christi, a mom of two who had a tough time resuming a normal sex life after her first. "Be honest and open with each other, and remember that sometimes you may not be in the mood going in, but you will be really glad you did it afterward!"
Contrary to what you might think, having more kids does not equal less sex. Similar to how going from zero to one child is the biggest adjustment, returning to sex after baby number one is also the toughest. Bottom line: At a certain point you realize life with kids is always going to be chaotic, and you just have to do certain things, like fooling around, wherever and whenever you can.