Postpartum Sex [What You Need to Know]

If you have questions about postpartum sex, you are in the right place.

After reading this post, you will learn everything you need to know about getting intimate after having your baby.

Specifically, you will learn:

  • how long you should wait before having sex,
  • what to do if you have pain or bleeding during sex, and
  • how to resume sex postpartum.

Okay, lets get started.

postpartum-sex

Disclaimer

***READ FIRST***

Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.

Ok, moving on.

How long do I have to wait before having sex Postpartum?

After a vaginal delivery, you should wait at least 4-6 weeks before putting anything in your vagina.

Why?

Because this is the amount of time it will take for

  • your body to bounce back from the delivery,
  • your vagina to repair itself, and
  • for your cervix to close up and heal.

This is also the reason why your postpartum visit is 6 weeks after delivery.

At this visit, you will have a physical exam to look at your cervix, and any vaginal or perineal lacerations sustained from the childbirth.

Believe it or not, 2/3 of all women will experience some sort of laceration during the birthing process.

The bigger the laceration, the more time is needed for your vagina to heal.

What If I Had A C-Section?

If you had a c-section, you should still wait 4-6 weeks to have sexual intercourse for other reasons.

#1. Your incisions need time to heal (and different sexual positions can place a lot of strain on your abdomen)

#2. Your cervix might be sore- even though you didn’t have a vaginal delivery, intercourse can simply irritate your cervix, causing significant pain.

#3. If you had an unplanned c-section, your cervix probably dilated a few centimeters, and will need time to close back up and heal.

Can I have sex 3 weeks after giving birth?

If you had a relatively uncomplicated normal vaginal delivery and you feel ready, you may be able to have sex 3 weeks after giving birth.

You are more likely to be able to have sex 3 weeks postpartum if:

  • you did not have any stitches placed on your vagina or perineum,
  • you aren’t experiencing any vaginal bleeding and
  • you aren’t experiencing any significant pain

Just be sure to give your health care provider a call to make sure there is no other reason why you would not be able to have sex sooner than 4-6 weeks.

What Happens If I Have Sex Before 6 weeks?

If you have sex before the 4-6 weeks postpartum, you may be susceptible to an infection or disrupting the vaginal sutures that you had placed.

Let me explain:

The opening of the cervix is normally the size of pin.

In order to have a full term vaginal delivery, your cervix has to dilate to 10 cm.

How big is 10cm?

The size of a full term baby’s head.

Ideally, you would want your cervix to close before putting anything in your vagina

As you could imagine, vaginal intercourse before the cervix closes can push bacteria that is normally present inside the vagina, upwards towards the cervix and into the uterus causing an infection.

risks-of-having-sex-too-soon-postpartum

This could present with fever, chills, abdominal pain, and foul smelling vaginal discharge.

You must let your doctor know if you experience any of these symptoms.

As far as disruption of vaginal or perineal sutures go…

…that is self explanatory :).

How long does it take for the cervix to close after birth?

There is no definitive timeline, but the cervix can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks to close.

Everyone is different.

The thought is that the cervix closes at the same rate as it takes for your uterus to return back to normal size.

How Does Sex Feel After Birth?

Postpartum sex will feel different for every woman.

In general, postpartum sex can be painful. This is totally normal – and usually indicates that you might need more time to heal.

In addition, some women might feel “loose” while other women might feel “tight.”

In order to understand this difference, we need to go over what happened during the delivery.

First, your vagina and pelvic floor muscles stretch significantly to accommodate the passage of your baby through the birth canal.

If you did not experience any tear or laceration, you may feel “loose” because all these muscles have been stretched out.

In this case, I recommend you start doing kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor and regain the strength and elasticity of the pelvic muscles.

Why am I so tight after having a baby?

If you experienced a deep vaginal tear/laceration, your doctor probably had to place a few stitches.

Depending on the location of the laceration, (as well as the extent of it) the stitches might have pulled your vaginal tissue more tightly than normal.

This is normal, and often necessary in order for your vaginal tissue to heal evenly.

In this situation I recommend you trying a water-based postpartum lube to help with penetration.

How Do I resume sex after having a baby?

So how do you resume sex after having a baby?

The number one piece of advice I can give you is…

Take your time and listen to your body!

It is normal for your self-confidence and your sexual desire to be low. There are many hormonal changes that your body is experiencing, which can also affect your mood.

In addition, sex might be painful for the first couple of weeks. (I’ll go into more details below).

During this time, it’s important that you:

  • Practice your kegel exercises
  • Talk with your partner about your expectations
  • Get some lubrication (as vaginal dryness is not uncommon postpartum)
  • Try to make time for sex in the midst of everything (even if it means getting a babysitter one night a week)

Ways to be intimate after having a baby

Here are some ways you could have physical intimacy and spice up your sex life:

  • Cuddle with your partner as much as you can
  • Go on a daily walk with your partner (with your stroller)
  • Take a hot shower together while the baby is sleeping
  • Go out to eat once or twice a month while you get a babysitter
  • Exchange massages with warm oils when you don’t feel like having sex.
ways-to-be-intimate-postpartum

What Should I Do If Postpartum Sex Is Painful?

Painful sex, (also known as dyspareunia), can occur after childbirth for several reasons:

Here are some common causes:

Vaginal dryness

After childbirth, your hormone levels are completely out of whack. In addition, breastfeeding also interferes with your body’s ability to produce estrogen.

Estrogen is the hormone that keeps the vagina supple and lubricated.

As a result, these sudden changes in your estrogen levels can lead to vaginal dryness.

As you could imagine, this can make sex very uncomfortable.

To overcome this, try using this postpartum lube prior to intercourse that has pretty awesome reviews.

Sexual position

Depending on your anatomy, certain sexual positions can cause more pain than others.

As always, don’t rush into things and take it slow.

Start with positions that do not cause deep penetration as this could irritate your cervix and lead to increased sexual discomfort.

Try the missionary position, or a side lying position.

Inadequate healing

If your vagina has not adequately healed from your delivery, you will definitely experience pain with intercourse.

This is especially true if you required stitches, as these need 4-6 weeks to heal. Your doctor will examine the lacerations at your postpartum visit to ensure that everything is healing properly.

Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) can also manifest in a variety of ways including painful intercourse.

It can be very difficult to differentiate normal postpartum changes from postpartum depression but if you have experienced any of the following symptoms, you should speak with your provider and seek help ASAP.

Here are common symptoms of PPD.

  • Changes in sleep
  • Loss of interest in things that used to make you happy
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Decreased energy
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling that you are moving slowly
  • Thought of hurting yourself or others.

Is bleeding After Sex Normal Postpartum?

Bleeding after sex can occur for one of several reasons:

  • If one of the stitches that was placed in the vagina or perineum becomes loose and pops off during vaginal penetration, you can begin to experience bleeding from your vagina.

This can be a problem especially if you had a deep laceration that required multiple sutures.

If the bleeding does not stop after 1-2 hours, you should seek medical attention.

  • Another reason why you may experience bleeding during sex is due to vaginal dryness.

In the postpartum period, you have decreased levels of estrogen, especially if you are breastfeeding. This can cause the vagina to lose its lubrication.

The penetration of dry tissue can cause continuous friction, leading to mucosa breakdown and bleeding.

  • Engaging in sex too soon could also lead to bleeding during sex as the uterus is still contracting down to its pre-pregnancy size.

While the uterus is contracting down, any clots or tissue that was left inside the uterus will be evacuated out.

This could even occur during orgasm, as the uterus can contract and expel any remaining blood products inside of it.

vaginal-bleeding-during-sex

Other Related Questions

How long should sex last postpartum?

On average, studies have shown that sex can last 3-13 minutes on average.

When attempting sex for the first few times after childbirth, take it slow.

Don’t rush.

Your body is still going through some amazing changes and recovering from the birthing process.

Make sure you are comfortable and be sure to communicate with your partner.

Can I have an orgasm after giving birth?

Yes you can have an orgasm after giving birth. There is no medical contraindication to achieving climax as long as you have been cleared by your provider to resume sexual activity.

With that said, you may notice that increased difficulty in achieving orgasm after delivery.

Why can’t I climax postpartum?

There are several reasons why you may not be able to climax after giving birth.

One of the most common reasons is that you might have A LOT on your mind.

You are still healing from your delivery, you are sleep deprived, your eating habits have changed, and your self-confidence might not be what it used to be.

In addition, your mind is constantly thinking about what your baby needs, how often you need to breastfeed, who is going to fold the laundry, why you still look pregnant, if your husband still finds you attractive, etc.

As you could imagine, it is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed.

Reaching orgasm requires a state of comfort and relaxation.


Fatigue/Sleep Deprivation

How many hours of sleep are you getting each night?

When was the last time you had uninterrupted sleep for 6-8 hours?

There are studies that have actually demonstrated the direct association between longer sleep duration and greater sexual desire.

Obviously, getting quality sleep at this time is a lot easier said than done.

I recommend, getting a babysitter or family member to help you out a few times a week so that you can get a full nights sleep once in a while.

You will be surprised at the difference in your stress levels, eating habits, and desire for sex.

why-you-cannot-climax-postpartum

Postpartum Depression

The last reason why you might not be able to orgasm is that you might have postpartum depression (PPD).

This is a serious condition that requires medical attention.

Symptoms of PPD include feelings of sadness, guilt, hopelessness, lack of interest, and inability to bond with your baby.

This also includes a lack of sexual desire.

Studies have shown that women with PPD have significantly worse sexual satisfaction.

If you think you have PPD – please seek care AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!

How soon after birth can you get pregnant?

It is recommended to wait at least 18 months postpartum before getting pregnant again. This is the recommendation for you no matter if you had a vaginal delivery or cesarean delivery.

Your body and uterus need time to heal.

Having a short inter-pregnancy interval will increase your risk of having a preterm delivery.

Make sure to have a visit with your primary care doctor to discuss contraception.

Can I get pregnant 2 weeks after giving birth?

It is unlikely that you will get pregnant 2 weeks after giving birth. With that said, your body can resume normal menstrual cycles and begin ovulating 6-8 weeks after birth.

That is why it is important that you have a reliable method of birth control either before you leave the hospital, or by the time you get to your postpartum visits.

Can I use condoms after birth?

Yes you can use condoms after birth.

As I mentioned previously, you should wait until you are at least 4-6 weeks postpartum before putting anything inside your vagina.

Once you reach that point, as long as you are cleared by your doctor, you can have sex and use condoms.

Condoms are a decent method of barrier contraception and protect you against sexually transmitted diseases as well as HIV.

More effective forms of birth control include pills (you will need progesterone-only pills if breastfeeding, the implant, the copper IUD, or the progesterone releasing IUD.

When will my period come back after delivery?

Your postpartum period should return approximately 6-8 weeks after your delivery as long as you are not breastfeeding.

If you are breastfeeding you period may not come back until you stop breastfeeding as the hormones normally responsible for causing you to menstruate, are being inhibited.

Final Words on Postpartum Sex

Sexual health postpartum is very important and something you shouldn’t ignore.

Be sure to speak with your doctor and hold off on resuming sex if you are still bleeding, experiencing pain, or simply don’t feel ready.

Now I want to hear from you.

When did you resume sex after baby?

Which challenges did you face?

Comment below and let me know!

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brittany-robles

Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness, expert. She holds a Masters of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.



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10 thoughts on “Postpartum Sex [What You Need to Know]”

  1. We had sex 2 weeks after birth. It was a caesarean birth so no vaginal tearing or sutures needed. It felt like the first time I ever had sex…..like I was a virgin again. I don’t think I had a problem with bacteria into the uterus as I only got to a dilation of 2cm before the c-section.
    The main difficulty was finding a time to do it, with lack of sleep and taking care of a baby.

    1. Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

      Hi Carolyn!

      Thanks so much for your comment!

      I am so glad you are finding time to be intimate with your partner despite having a newborn 🙂

  2. Thank you for this article!! I am currently 2.5 weeks postpartum. I have slight bleeding still, randomly thru the day. But I do not have any more clots, and for most of the day the pad is dry. My first daughter I tore in two places and waited 4 weeks. This time I had no tears, my labor was only 3 hours long, all natural, and I am DYING from the need for my partner LOL! I can’t even focus through the day I want him so bad. We have an extremely active sex life and this is so hard! Is it completely necessary to wait till the bleeding is done completely? I have no more cramping, no pain, no clots, etc. I’m thinking of waiting till at least my three week mark, but if I’m still bleesing then I don’t know if I can wait any longer! Lol

    1. Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

      Im glad to hear your sex drive is strong postpartum! In general, it is definitely best to wait as much as you can to reduce the risk of infection. See what your OB thinks!

  3. I stopped bleeding 3 weeks PP so my partner and I tried to have sex, everything was fine, it wasn’t painful. But bleeding returned a couple days after, and lasted about a week. The bleeding then stopped around 4.5-5 weeks PP so we had sex again, and a few days after that the bleeding came back. I’m not sure if I should be concerned, sex was never painful and there’s no pain or foul smell.

    1. Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

      Hi Sydney, it’s hard to say exactly what’s going on – I definitely recommend following up with your OB to ensure everything looks ok at your PP visit!

  4. I had sex 1 week after giving brith i had gotten only 2 stitches I stopped bleeding and it only hurt for a second and then the pain went away it felt normal when I wiped just a very small amount of blood on it and that was it

  5. My first birth I made it 2 weeks postpartum before I couldn’t control myself anymore I needed my husband. I am 3 weeks postpartum and we just had sex I’m feeling a little sore afterward but I also felt much tighter so I’m assuming that’s why.

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