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Vaginal intercourse after pregnancy: What to expect and how to make it better

Most providers will recommend not resuming vaginal intercourse until 6 weeks after delivery or after your first check-up, whether you’ve had a vaginal birth or a C-section. If you experienced a third or fourth degree tear during delivery, the timeline to sex after pregnancy is likely longer. 

And even after you are physically cleared, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll feel ready to have sex at 6 weeks. On the other hand, your sex drive might have come back sooner than you anticipated. Pay attention to how you’re feeling as you determine your timeline to readiness. Here are some things to consider about postpartum sex.

Before the 6-week mark

Generally, it’s recommended to wait to have vaginal intercourse until you’ve seen your provider, which is typically at the 6-week mark. It is important not to resume intercourse until your postpartum bleeding has stopped. Before this time, you are at an increased risk of a uterine infection. If you experienced a tear that required a repair, your provider will likely recommend that you wait a little longer as there is increased risk of infection as your body heals.

After you’re cleared 

One of the biggest concerns about resuming vaginal intercourse after delivery is discomfort or pain. It is common for women to feel nervous about the first time having sex after a vaginal birth. If discomfort is a concern, take it slow with plenty of foreplay and lubrication to increase comfort and pleasure. 

Signs that it might be too soon 

If you’re experiencing discharge or bleeding or vaginal or pernium pain, these are likely signs that you’re not quite ready for vaginal intercourse. 

Even if you are cleared physically, you might not be up for sex emotionally. There are so many ways to be intimate with your partner — simple things like spending quality time together or cuddling on the couch. It may take some time to start back up again, and that is perfectly normal. 

If you’re feeling ready but you’re not cleared 

If your sex drive starts making itself known before your provider recommends starting intercourse, you can check in with them about whether you’re good to go for oral sex and other forms of external stimulation. Chances are, they’ll tell you that as long as you keep it to the outside of your vagina (vulva) or your clitoris, you’ll be fine. Just make sure to keep any stitches or healing tissue clean, because the human mouth carries a lot of bacteria which could lead to an infection.

Once your doctor says you’re good to go

You still might not be in the mood. Which is totally normal and could be for any number of reasons, the first of which is hormonal. It could take months for your hormones to return to where they were before your pregnancy. They could take even longer to return to normal if you’re breastfeeding, since the hormonal changes that happen during breastfeeding can affect your sex drive. You might also be struggling with changes to your body, exhaustion, or other emotional contributors to lack of desire. Give yourself grace and time. 

When you do start having intercourse again, your breasts may leak milk. If you and your partner are fine with this, that’s great, as it’s a perfectly natural hormonal response. If you’re not, you can wear breast pads or have sex immediately after feeding Baby. This might be a good idea in any case, because after she has eaten, she may be less likely to interrupt you.

Even if you feel totally ready to have sex again, your vagina might be drier than you’re used to (even when you’re turned on). That’s another natural hormonal response to recent childbirth, and is something you can manage by using a lubricant.

Speaking of your vagina, it may not be in exactly the same shape as the last time you did this, and you may feel some pain the first time you have intercourse, whether you jump right back in as soon as your healthcare provider gives you the go-ahead or you decide to wait a while. It’ll slowly heal on its own, though, over time, and if you want to help with the recovery process, kegel exercises can help. Mild discomfort may occur when you first resume intercourse and often will improve on its own. If you still have pain three months out from your birth, it’s a good idea to talk to your provider about this. Pain at this stage is not expected and pelvic floor physical therapy can be very helpful. 

What about birth control?

Most forms of birth control are perfectly safe after pregnancy. However, if you’re breastfeeding, hormonal birth controls that use estrogen as well as progestin may decrease your milk supply. On the other hand, hormonal birth control that uses only progestin shouldn’t cause any problems. Your healthcare provider will be able to discuss which type of birth control is right for you, which may include progestin-only hormonal birth control, like the pill or implants, or non-hormonal birth control like condoms or copper IUDs.

If you make the decision to resume sex before you’ve started a birth control method, it’s important to use a condom to prevent pregnancy. It is not common to start ovulating again in the first six weeks after baby is born, but it is possible, so be sure you’re using some form of birth control.

If you think you might be ready to start thinking about a sibling, or even if you’re not, but think you might at some point, now is a great time to start tracking your cycle with Ovia Fertility!

Above all, it’s important to listen to your body. You’ll be able to feel it when you’re ready – and if you don’t feel ready, there’s no need to rush.

This content was reviewed by Dr. Lisa Hickman and Dr. Katie Propst. Dr. Hickman runs the Childbirth Pelvic Floor Disorders Clinic at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Dr. Propst runs the Postpartum Care Clinic at Cleveland Clinic. 


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