Sex after baby is born--the first two months

My simple suggestion? If you are not sure, wait

Sex in the weeks immediately after giving birth, like sex at any time, should be enjoyable and must be agreed upon by both/all participants. At the end of the day, this is for you to decide, not me, nor anyone else. But there are some practical points to think about.

The reasons why sex might not be ok include:

  • mum will be physically recovering—it is normal to have bleeding, bruising, tenderness and whether baby was born via the vagina or via a caesarian section, mum will have pain and will need time to heal

  • mum will be experiencing a whole lot of changes in her hormones and this is often a very emotional time

  • some of the hormonal changes experienced after birth reduce sex drive and, importantly, lubrication, meaning that sex can be painful, even if mum is recovering well. When you are ready to have sex again, I suggest you start slow, use a lubricant, be gentle and be prepared to change positions or try again later if necessary

  • babies have little tummies which means they feed lots which means disrupted sleep for the whole household which means you will be tired, really tired. Tiredness impacts significantly upon most people’s sex drive

  • the breasts have a mind of their own in the early stages! They are tender, swollen, they leak at all sorts of random times, and even if mum chooses not to breastfeed, it takes time for them to settle. Seriously, you may need to wear a bra and breast shields if you don’t want milk all over yourself or your partner!!

  • sex is much more than penis-in-vagina sex and if you feel ready to try having whichever type of sex, then give it a go. Do allow for tiredness, hormones and those leaky breasts though!

  • you don’t need to have a formal check up before you start having sex, although in my experience, a lot of women prefer to. If you have a tear which involves the anus (bottom), I would advise you check with your midwife, doctor or physiotherapist before having penis-in-vagina sex

  • having sex in the first two weeks after baby is born does carry an extremely rare but really dangerous risk of air embolism, so do consider waiting at least two weeks

  • partners need time to recover too! Birth is an amazing process but sometimes partners need a break before they are ready to have sex again and you will have to guide them to what feels ok for you

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Could we fall pregnant?

If baby is feeding regularly and frequently, having only breastmilk, NO water or formula and if mum has not had a period yet it is really unlikely that you will fall pregnant. But not impossible.

There is some detailed information about natural birth control in the first 6 months after baby is born available here. Do consider using condoms or the mini-pill (this only contains progesterone, so is considered safe in mums who are breastfeeding) if you don’t meet all the conditions.

The World Health Organisation recommends that you wait at least 18 months before becoming pregnant again, to reduce risks to mum and baby, but it is always your choice.

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Man to man

Your beautiful, powerful woman may have just done the equivalent of several marathons pushing her baby out. She may need to rest for a while.

She may have just donated one to two units of blood to the sheets and floor. Bleeding may go on for four to six weeks. It will change from the fresh red stuff to brown. It will smell.

There may be some surgical thread holding her vagina together if she had a tear or an episiotomy (a fancy word for taking a pair of scissors and making the vaginal opening that little bit bigger).

If she had an epidural, it made her legs feel like jelly and she may have needed a catheter to stop her bladder swelling to the size of a watermelon.

If she is breast feeding, that milk is for the baby. There should be plenty of cold stuff from a cow in the fridge and if you feel like some warm stuff try the microwave.

If you squeeze her breasts like before you may get squirted in the eye.

It’s okay to wait.

Dr Mark Raines

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Partners to parents

This is not individual medical advice, this is general information only. If you have a specific question or a particular circumstance, please discuss it with your midwife or doctor.