You have just given birth. Now you are no longer two but three. In addition your body is exhausted from the effort of carrying your child for 9 months and from the hormonal changes it has undergone. Your husband too is facing psychological and social changes as a result of becoming a parent. All of that has significant effect on your intimacy as a couple and, consequently, on postpartum sex.
When can you resume sexual activity after birth?
Postpartum sex is recommended around 6 weeks after delivery when vaginal bleeding stops. Women with C-section stitches may require more time to recover. In any case, you should be examined by your gynecologist before you return to sexual activity.
What about sex without penetration?
Sex without penetration is allowed and recommended any time after birth. Due to tiredness, lack of free time and some fears, couples avoid having full sexual activity. It’s really OK. You can pleasure one another without penetration.
It should be noted that any type of sexual activity, with or without penetration, is vital for your intimate relationship especially after birth when you have to get used to a new family life.
Having said that, male-to-female oral sex should be avoided in the first couple of weeks after delivery to prevent vaginal and uterine infection. Furthermore, breathing air into the vagina may cause air embolism, which is the blockage of blood vessel caused by air bubbles.
The difficulties women encounter
Many women are facing numerous difficulties when it comes to postpartum sex. The most common difficulties revolve around:
- Lack of sexual drive as a result of exhaustion.
- Decreased sexual pleasure and inability to experience orgasm due to reduced vaginal tightness after birth.
- Lack of vaginal lubrication caused by drop in estrogen level, a phenomenon that may last up to 6 months after birth.
- Negative body image – during pregnancy, the female body undergoes numerous changes, weight gain in particular. Some women may feel unattractive after giving birth and so lose interest in sex.
- Vaginal birth injury (mainly vaginal tears) can cause severe groin pain and consequent fear of penetration.
The difficulties men may face
Postpartum sex can also be challenging for men. Some of them feel rejected by their wife who is now dedicating all her time to the newborn. It is not uncommon for a man to be jealous of his baby. We have to remember that up until now, he has been at the center of his wife’s attention and now he faces competition.
There are men who may also find it hard to be attracted to their wife after physically seeing her at birth. The intense experience of giving birth is not easy for everyone. Some may be repulsed by it. Others may be afraid to hurt their woman and so avoid sex.
So what can be done to reestablish a healthy sexual routine after birth?
The last thing you want to do as a couple is to give up sex. You should try to adopt a constructive relationship that sees pregnancy and birth as an experience that does not separate you, but binds you together as a husband and wife and as parents.
Mutual respect and understanding is crucial to successful postpartum sex. Try to create the right atmosphere at home suitable for intimacy even if that includes recruiting the grandparents, the new baby’s aunt or even a friend to take care of your child and give you the time you need for yourselves as a husband a wife.
This free time doesn’t have to be dedicated to sex. Being together and having fun is equally important. Sex will come later on.
A few practical tips for sex after birth
✓ The spoon is the best position for postpartum sex. It will make sure penetration won’t be too deep, but still satisfactory for both the woman and the man.
✓ Use a water-based lubricant for easy and smooth penetration.
✓ No need to be afraid of touching the breast of a nursing woman and there is absolutely no reason to get panicked if little milk spills out.
✓ Sex should take place at a time suitable for both of you so you can feel most comfortable.
This article was contributed by Melany Stewart, a clinical sexologist from Baltimore, MD