Sex After Birth

To delve deep into the subject of postpartum sexuality, is to uncover a tapestry woven with change, resilience, and the power of human connection.

A couple are pictured standing, facing each other, holding hands and with their foreheads touching. The woman is wearing a long white dress with her big pregnant stomach sticking out while the man is wearing jeans and a white linen shirt.

 The Fourth Trimester

The postpartum period, often referred to as the 'fourth trimester', is a transformative time for new mothers, marked by an astounding interplay of biological, psychological, and social shifts.

As the body recovers from the birth, it's imperative to acknowledge the physical healing that must take place. Hormonal fluctuations are significant, with levels of estrogen and progesterone dropping markedly, which can influence vaginal lubrication and elasticity, potentially affecting comfort during intercourse. Medical professionals advocate for at least a six-week healing window before resuming sexual activities, but it's important to note that this varies greatly among individuals, and some women are happy to wait longer while they focus on healing.

Emotionally, women navigate a spectrum of feelings postpartum. The immense joy of welcoming a new life might coexist with a sense of overwhelming responsibility. It's not uncommon for fatigue and stress to colour this period, given the demanding nature of newborn care. Body image concerns may surface as women grapple with their changing physiques, which can play a significant role in one’s sense of sexuality and desire.

Birth Changes You & Your Relationships

Despite these challenges, postpartum sexuality is not solely defined by obstacles. This period also presents an opportunity for couples to deepen their intimacy, moving beyond physical connections into the realms of emotional and practical support. Open communication becomes an essential ingredient in renegotiating sexual relationships, with dialogue centering on mutual understanding, patience, and tenderness.

A black and white image of a couple on their wedding day pictured from the waist up. The man is kneeling at the woman's feet and is holding her hands while kissing her very pregnant stomach. Behind them in the background are tall trees.

The journey back to sex can be seen as a series of small steps, encompassing not just penetrative sex but a variety of expressions of affection — such as cuddling, kissing, and shared moments of closeness. This approach champions the idea that intimacy is multifaceted, and each couple can redefine what it means for them in this new chapter of life.

Postpartum Depression, Culture & Sex

Mental health plays a critical role too, with conditions like postpartum depression affecting approximately 1 in 7 women. Such mental health challenges can heavily impact libido and interest in intimacy. Therefore, support from partners, together with professional help, is paramount to navigate through any psychological hurdles that may arise.

Many cultures practice confinement or rest periods post-birth, emphasizing the need for recovery and the significance of this transition. Such practices highlight the diverse ways societies understand and respect the postnatal phase, acknowledging its complexity and the care it necessitates.

How Soon Should You Have Sex After Giving Birth?

Research in the field has begun to peel back the layers of postpartum sexuality, recognising it as an area deserving attention and de-stigmatisation. It calls for inclusive education before and after birth, providing couples with realistic expectations and coping strategies. The involvement of healthcare providers is crucial, offering a safe space for discussions about sexual health and lending support to those who may struggle with physical or emotional issues.

Generally the advice is to wait at least 6 weeks but, the good news is, it's perfectly OK to want to take your time, and it's important to not feel any pressure to have sex after giving birth. Sex after birth is a unique, individualised path and is not a topic that can be reduced to a medical checklist. It's an intricate part of the human experience, calling for empathy, personal agency, and societal support.  With the right care, communication, and compassion, it can pave the way for enriched relationships and a profound appreciation for the body's capacity for change and renewal.

Does Sex After Giving Birth Hurt?

If, after reading the above, you decide you are ready to have penetrative sex again, you might be concerned that it might hurt. The first time having sex after giving birth is a time for many women full of worry, anticipation of discomfort, but also excitement. Here are our tips for those ready to delve into that first time:

  1. Lube, lube and more lube

Vaginal dryness is a common problem as your hormones readjust, so apply plenty of lubricant to make the area wetter. Look for a water-based option since oil-based ones can irritate sensitive tissue. Click here for some lubricants we recommend

      2. Take it slow

Take it slow and easy and try to enjoy each other's bodies while increasing foreplay. Spend lots of time holding hands and cuddling. Take this opportunity to re-explore 'making out' without the expectation of sex. Enjoy being in that moment and see where it might lead. If it hurts, stop and change tact, or try again at another opportunity. Remember sex is play for adults - so have fun!

      3. Practice without a partner first

Masturbation is a safe and healthy way to gently ease into sex after birth. By getting to know your postpartum body through self-pleasure you will be more confident going into partnered sex. Start with external stimulation and build-up to internal stimulation slowly (and with lots of lube!). Click here for some toys we recommend to help with postpartum self-pleasure.

     4. Relax!

Put on some music that makes you feel relaxed, light a scented candle, have a warm bath with a glass of wine beforehand, do whatever helps your mind and body feel relaxed.


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