How soon can sex resume after delivering a baby?

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Any woman will tell you after just having delivered a baby the size of a football, the last thing on her mind is sex. She’s tired, sore and still bleeding from the delivery.  Even if she’s in the mood, her body needs to fully recover and heal to prevent any tears or infections occurring.

How long is the wait?

Depending on whether a woman delivers vaginally or has stitches from a C-section, a perineal tear or an episiotomy, it most likely will be at least 4- 6 weeks after childbirth before having sex.  This area of the body went through major trauma and time is necessary for the cervix to close, postpartum bleeding to stop and any tears or lacerations to heal.

During the healing phase after delivery, it is important not to introduce anything into the vagina including tampons or douching as that can bring in bacteria and cause an infection. Also the flow of lochia, a sign that the lining is healing, can last from 3 to 8 weeks.  The flow of lochia will be bright red for a few days right after childbirth and will lighten up as the weeks go by.  The lighter it becomes signals that healing is near completion.  Once a woman has gone for her 6 weeks checkup after delivery and the doctor gives her the green light for sex to resume, then she can safely do so.

Another factor to consider is if she is mentally ready to resume having sex.  Some women are ready but others may be feeling the effects of fatigue, stress, postpartum blues, and fear of pain during intercourse and may need some extra time before engaging in intimate relations.

Will there be pain?                                    

Pain is a possibility as hormonal changes can leave the vagina dry and tender. If there are any perineal tears or if an episiotomy was performed, there may be some pain the first few times of intercourse.  Try taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, relax in a warm bath and empty the bladder before bedtime to reduce any discomfort.  If pain continues to persist during intercourse, a woman will need to make a consultation with her physician. 

The first few times having sex after delivery, take it slow and easy.  Start with cuddling, kissing, or giving a massage to ease into the act of lovemaking.  If vaginal dryness is an issue, use a lubricating cream or gel.  Experimenting with different positions can help by discovering what relieves pressure and what doesn’t on sensitive areas.

Vaginal changes

Many women may notice decreased muscle tone in the vagina after childbirth.  This is not unusual and is normal for the vagina to be larger than what it was before.  How fast the vagina returns to its original size depends on genetics, size of the baby delivered, and how many babies the woman has had before.

The pronounced enlargement of the vagina after delivery is caused by the relaxation of the pelvic floor musculature.  With each successive pregnancy, these muscles will lose their tone.  But there is a secret weapon women can use to prevent this from happening – Kegel exercises.  Kegels are very effective in toning up pelvic floor muscles and for helping to prevent any issues with incontinence in the future.  This very simple method of tightening muscles within the pelvic floor can be done anywhere without anyone knowing they are being done.  All a woman needs to do is tighten the pelvic muscles as if she is stopping her stream of urine.  In fact, Kegels can be done during urination to practice what it feels like.  Start by contracting the muscles for a few seconds at a time and then relaxing between contractions.  The more Kegels a woman does, the quicker her pelvic floor muscles and vagina will be back in shape. 

Choosing birth control after childbirth

To prevent any unintended pregnancy having a reliable method of birth control is necessary.  A woman should discuss this with her doctor to decide what contraception is best for her and her partner.  There are many birth control options to choose from including barrier methods, hormonal contraception, and implanted devices.