Sex After Birth: Postpartum Sex What to Expect and How Long to Wait

Trish ~ Labor Nurse Mama
August 12, 2022

Sex and intimacy after having your baby are one of the things you need to cross out your “Life After Pregnancy” checklist. For most mamas, this topic can trigger a roller coaster of emotions: from having worries about how to get started at it again, to feeling scared sex might not just be your thing anymore, to a trillion other things.

Well, mama, I'm here to tell you that everything you're feeling is completely normal and totally valid! New moms and seasoned moms alike can all agree when I say that the first few weeks postpartum are the toughest stage post-birth. Feeling like you have less time despite the 24 hours you have on the clock, dealing with hormonal changes, second-guessing contraception, experiencing tiredness, and lack of sleep 24/7 — they're all part of the equation!

Settling into a new routine with your baby in the picture, sleep becoming a luxury you can't seem to afford anymore, and losing your alone time and self-care… these are all a common mom story! 

It's easy to talk about when the right time is to have sex if you and your partner have a mutual agreement. But if you have different sex drives, it may be another stress factor in the whole adjustment period and in your relationship overall.

Read on the blog and find out how you can overcome this sex after birth phase healthily!

When can I start having sex again after having a baby?

After such a life-changing experience as a woman, sex might be the last thing on your mind. Getting intimate again is probably the last thing on your to-do list for the first few weeks and even months after giving birth… and you don't have to feel guilty about that.

Whether it's a vaginal birth or a C-section delivery, your body will take its time to recover. Although each timeline is different, many health care providers recommend waiting four to six weeks after delivery before engaging in sexual intercourse regardless of the delivery method.

Be gentle with yourself. Healing your body takes a lot of courage and energy as it needs time off after delivery. To prepare you for what's to come, here are some postdelivery scenarios you may experience:

  • postpartum discharge
  • fatigue
  • vaginal tears
  • vaginal dryness
  • low sex drive
  • postdelivery hormonal changes

With all these afterbirth aftermaths going on, it's no wonder you're not in the mood to put in the work in bed at night!

If you had a vaginal tear that required you to undergo surgical repair, you may have to wait a little longer than the usual recommendation. Postdelivery hormonal changes can also play a big role in slowing down your recovery. Hormonal imbalance can make the vaginal tissue thinner and more sensitive. Plus, your vagina, uterus, and cervix will need time to return to their normal size too.

Also, your estrogen levels drop after giving birth, especially if you're breastfeeding. Low estrogen levels = low sex drive.

Remember, it's YOUR body. It's important you listen to what your body is telling you more than the numbers you hear on how long you should wait before sex. If at any time, you try to engage in sex but feel like you're not 100% ready, it's okay to stop. Try again when you're ready, not because others tell you it's okay to do so.

When can I have sex again after a cesarean section? 

You may feel like you're much more ready for postpartum sex a little sooner compared to those who had a baby via vaginal delivery. Having intercourse a little too early, specifically within the first two weeks, increases your risk of postpartum hemorrhage or infection.

Right after childbirth,  your body enters a healing phase when the bleeding stops, your tears heal, and your cervix closes. 

If you had a cesarean delivery, a perineal tear, or an episiotomy (a surgical cut that widens the vaginal canal), you definitely have to wait longer before having sex. If you do it too soon with an unhealed perineal tear, you can increase your risk of complications such as disrupted stitches, uterine infection (UTI), and postpartum hemorrhage. Ultimately, your healthcare provider will recommend waiting until the 6-week postpartum visit before resuming sexual activity. 

Planning your C-section? Read my blog on how you can totally be prepared!

Do I feel emotionally ready for sex?

This question is deja vu! I can't count how many patients I've had ask me this very same question. The answer is no as in NOT YET. I'm your guide from the future who will tell you that you WILL heal and you WILL regain your sexual desire. Maybe not now, but it will happen over time.

Generally speaking, it takes 1-3 months for a woman to feel ready again but let's scrap out the statistics. It all boils down to you knowing yourself and being in tune with your instinct. You'll know you're ready when this question doesn't pop up in your head like a nagging thought anymore.

Only you can tell when you're fully ready and you don't have to be so harsh with yourself during this process. I highly suggest you practice self-love as you take baby steps in building the confidence and readiness to engage in sexual intercourse with your partner.

This means…

    • Not gaslighting yourself into thinking you being unemotionally ready for sex means you're not fulfilling your responsibilities as a wife.
    • Not beating yourself up as to why you're taking it so long to be ready to get back at it again.
    • Not blaming yourself every time you make an attempt but end up taking a few steps back further.
    • Not saying no when you're not comfortable.
What if I don’t want to have sex after having a baby?

Not feeling to want to have sex after having a baby is completely fine. What you need to do is understand this feeling from a second-person POV. The fact that your body isn't in the mood for getting it on with your partner is a sign of discomfort — it's your body's way of telling you that there's something you need to fix within before you can start getting intimate again.

Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself to help you understand where you're coming from on a deeper level:

    • Am I afraid that sex will hurt?
    • Am I scared my partner won't see me as that hot chick he used to date now that I have the “postpartum body”?
    • Do I feel the complete opposite of sexy because of how my body looks after giving birth?
    • Do I still have a good self-body image?
    • Am I taking care of myself as I used to (skincare routine, eating 3 times a day, doing the things I love, watching my go-to comfort series)?
    • Do I still feel pretty and confident about myself post-birth?

If these questions hit the spot, it's perfectly fine to feel mixed emotions. While it can be nerve-wracking, answering these questions truthfully will give you a clear picture of what you're dealing with just like a “diagnosis from the doctor's clinic” when you're sick. And if you know what the “symptoms and causes” are, it will help you find the right cure.

Aside from all this, a major change in your life is happening AKA adjusting to the new mom life with a baby. 

What does sex feel like after postpartum?

I'm sure you've Googled everything you can about postpartum sex and you might have read that it's painful. Or, you probably heard it from your mom friends who had their sex after birth journey prior to you. The answer is yes, sex after the postpartum period will hurt BUT! For some new moms, the postpartum sex pain is short-lived.. nothing that an extra dose of lubricant and creative positions can't fix. For others, however, especially if you've had a significant tear to recover from, postpartum sex pain can be pretty intense and surprisingly long-lasting. 

If sex after birth is leaning towards more pain than pleasure, I highly suggest you book an appointment with your healthcare provider. They might recommend over-the-counter pain killers like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)  or acetaminophen (Tylenol) before having sex. 

If you're breastfeeding and are low on estrogen hormones, this can lead to vaginal dryness and affect your vagina's elasticity. Your doctor may suggest applying topical estrogen cream inside the vagina.

Reasons why sex might hurt after childbirth

Vaginal dryness, hormonal changes, and perineal tears/healing from an episiotomy are some of the factors that contribute to the painful parts of having sex after birth.

Here are some ways you can ease discomfort during sexy time:

    • Lubricant is your best friend. It helps with vaginal dryness.
    • Stay creative with those positions! Talk to your partner about exploring alternatives to vaginal penetration. Consider other ways of getting pleasure like a massage, oral sex, mutual masturbation, and even role play. Think outside the box!
    • Pain relief is key. Aside from taking over-the-counter pain relievers, try taking a warm bath and emptying your bladder too. If there's burning after sex, get ice, wrap it in a small towel, and gently put it on the affected area.
    • Timing is gold. Talk to your partner about how you feel about the whole situation. Make time for sex when you're not too exhausted from the whole household work or too anxious with all the worries flying over your head. 

If sex still continues to be painful despite these tips, it's best to consult your doctor about possible treatment options.

Check out my Instagram post on the different kinds of postpartum pain!

What if my partner wants sex after birth before I do?

As cliche as it may sound, COMMUNICATION. IS. KEY. Just because you and your partner have the go signal to get physical doesn't mean it'll all go smooth. You need to make your partner understand what it is you're going through; that it's more than just your body healing the stitches and tears.

While you work on building the courage to go back to normal, it's best to help your partner understand the essence of patience. You have to understand where he's coming from too. Being in heat and not getting that sexual tension off can be frustrating… which is why you have to remind him to manage his expectations and feelings of frustration as well.

Ask him if he can create a safe space for you to feel ready again; to slowly ease you into it. In cases where you feel like you're still not ready because of physical reasons, explain to him the risks you're taking if you do it sooner than you should.

The beauty of this situation is that it helps you and your partner go through an issue together. It's not gonna be a perfect scenario but having the willingness on both sides to make it through and the commitment to adjust is something that turns this anxiety-driving situation into one of the fundamental foundations of building a stronger relationship.

Rebuilding Intimacy: Ideas

Now you're wondering how to ease yourself into having sex. Just like a retired athlete who wants to regain his passion and moves for the sport, you have to warm up first before taking a deep dive.

Here are some ways you can rebuild intimacy:

    • Kegel exercises are a lifesaver! Before doing the deed, start doing your Kegels again. This exercise strengthens and activates your pelvic floor muscles which help increase blood flow, improve muscle tone, and promote healing to make you feel comfier to have sex whenever you're ready.
    • It's all about the mood. The trick is to give yourself some mind hacks to help you relax: dim lights, scented candles, good music, a glass of wine, whatever sets the mood, do it!
    • Lubricate. Lubricate. Lubricate. Yes, lubricants are your besties for the first few tries! Using a lubricant is essential because it helps increase pleasure and reduce pain.
    • Take all the time you need. Unlike us women, men don't need much to warm up but don't let it get to you. If you feel like you need more time for foreplay to set you in the mood, tell your partner. 
    • Postpartum sex helpers won't hurt to try. Consider getting a supportive pillow that can help relieve pressure points and make you feel more comfortable when it comes to doing certain positions.
    • Stay creative with those positions. Take this time as an opportunity for you and your partner to go outside of your comfort zone. Explore different positions and go crazy about it until you find the right ones that feel good and pain-free. They say it's best to start with a top or side-to-side position since these positions put less pressure on sensitive areas and give you control over the depth of penetration during sex.
Where to get help

If you're still struggling to get into the mood, observe yourself and watch out for symptoms of postpartum depression:

    • Loss of appetite
    • Overwhelming fatigue 
    • Severe mood swings
    • Feeling unhappy in life

If you feel like you may have postpartum depression, get help from your health provider. After all, prevention is better than cure! Acting on it at an early stage helps speed up recovery. 

You can talk to your GP if you're concerned about your sex life being off track. Get help from a sexual health expert to help sex intimacy become more comfortable for you or a therapist to address PPD and relationship problems.

labor nurse mama trish ware

Just a little Disclaimer: As always, I am just writing my thoughts and what I’ve learned along the way. Although I am in fact a labor and delivery RN, This is not medical advice. You should always seek and follow the advice of your care provider.

This post may contain some affiliate links (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission, but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Thank you! For our full disclosure read here)


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