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Having Sex After Childbirth

As any new mom knows, a baby changes everything—and that includes sex, too. Read on to learn when it’s safe to have sex with your partner again postpartum, how sex may be different for you now, and how to plan ahead with birth control so you don’t have any surprise pregnancies.

When is it OK to have sex again after childbirth?

Most healthcare providers advise waiting at least 4 to 6 weeks after delivery before having sex again. This gives your body some time to heal from childbirth. It’s also important that you don’t have any postpartum vaginal discharge (lochia) before resuming sex. If you have sex while you still have this discharge, you’re at risk of infection.

During childbirth, you may have had a tear or a surgical cut (episiotomy) made in the area from your vagina to your anus (the perineum). You may have stitches there. If so, your provider will advise you to wait until the area is fully healed. Talk with your provider about when it’s OK for you to resume having sex.

How is sex different after childbirth?

The reality is that sex after having a baby is going to be a bit different than it was before. It’s important to take it slow and recognize that your body has gone through some major changes. Here’s what you should know:

Having sex may hurt

There are a few reasons why you may feel some pain during sex after childbirth:

  • Vaginal dryness. After giving birth, your vagina will likely feel dry. This is because your levels of the hormone estrogen are lower now than they were during pregnancy. If you breastfeed, your estrogen levels will be even lower. This should change when your periods are back to normal and you have stopped breastfeeding. In the meantime, try using a lubricant during sex. But if you’re using latex condoms, only use water-based lubricants. Oil-based products can tear latex condoms.

  • Sore perineum. The area between your vagina and your anus may still be sore if you had stitches there to fix a tear or episiotomy during delivery. This area should be fully healed before you have sex. Talk with your provider if you have any questions on how it’s healing. Pain medicine can help. If you’re breastfeeding, talk with your healthcare provider to see which over-the-counter pain medicines are safe to use.

You may not be in the mood

There are many reasons why you may not be as interested in having sex right now. Your body is still recovering, you’re sleep-deprived, and you’re overwhelmed caring for your baby. Your breasts may also feel a little sore if you’re nursing. Talk with your partner about how you’re feeling, don’t just shut them out. That way you can come up with some solutions together. For example, maybe try just cuddling and kissing at first. Talk with your healthcare provider if you feel you need more help.

Woman and man talking.

Deciding on birth control

Ideally you should talk with your healthcare provider about birth control options when you are still pregnant or just after giving birth. It’s best to be prepared and start using a birth control method right away. This can help you avoid a surprise pregnancy. If you’re not using birth control and you have sex soon after having a baby, you can get pregnant again—even if your period hasn’t started again and you’re breastfeeding.

Many women choose to wait at least 18 months before getting pregnant again. Your body needs enough time to fully recover from your last pregnancy before another pregnancy. And not having enough time between the pregnancies can raise your risk of premature birth.

There are many birth control methods available. Talk about your birth control options with your provider. If you’re breastfeeding, ask about which methods are best to use. There are a few options that are not advised when you start breastfeeding as they may reduce your milk supply.

  • IUD (intrauterine device). This is a small device that your healthcare provider places inside your uterus. There are 2 types: The hormonal IUD works by sends out a small amount of the hormone progestin into the uterus. It’s approved for 3 to 5 years of use. The copper IUD sends out a small amount of copper into the uterus. It’s approved for up to 10 years of use.

  • Birth control implant.This small rod is about the size of a matchstick. Your healthcare provider inserts it in your upper arm. It releases progestin into your body. It’s approved for up to 3 years of use.

  • Birth control shot (injection).This shot has a type of progestin and works by stopping ovulation. You can get your first shot right after delivery. After that you’ll need a shot every 3 months.

  • Combined hormonal methods. These options have both estrogen and progestin. They include birth control pills, the patch, and the vaginal ring. They work by stopping ovulation.

  • Progestin-only pill. These pills only have progestin. They work by stopping sperm from fertilizing the egg. These pills must be taken at the same time each day.

  • Barrier methods. These options work by stopping sperm from reaching the egg. They include the cervical cap, diaphragm, sponge, male and female condoms, and spermicide. These don’t affect your hormones in any way.

  • Lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). This is a natural, short-term type of birth control that relies on exclusive and frequent breastfeeding. It’s based on the way the body naturally prevents ovulation when a woman breastfeeds.

  • Sterilization.These procedures offer permanent birth control. It means closing off or removing the fallopian tubes or removing sperm from the semen by getting a vasectomy.

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