To add to the list of worries for new parents, many couples also fret about when they should start having sex again. Resuming your sex-life may take time – you may feel ready within weeks or you may not be ready for months. Every woman is different, so don’t feel pressurised or worry that you’re not normal.
The time taken to recover from labour and get back to having sex depends on the type of birth you had.
With stitches following a cut (episiotomy) or a tear you’ll feel sore. Stitches should dissolve after 10 days and by two weeks healing should be well underway, and the soreness should have reduced. If you do have stitches, you may want to try positions that limit penetration or reduce the pressure on the stitched area and remember to take it slowly and gently when you feel ready for sex.
If you had a natural birth, you may just feel tired and uncomfortable. With no tear or cut, healing will be swifter and you may feel ready for sex earlier, although if you feel bruised or have some grazing (which may sting) you may want to take it gently.
If you had a caesarean you may be worried about the scar but it should be well healed by the time your stitches come out. If it is still sensitive you may prefer to find positions that don’t put pressure on the scar.
Findings of a recent survey from British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) should put minds at ease. Because, like with the rest of parenting, there are no hard and fast rules.
One in eight couples (13%) wait at least half a year before having sex, while almost a quarter (23%) said they resumed having sex within six weeks after giving birth. Bpas said that the main barriers which stopped women from resuming their sex habits were pain and exhaustion. But it also said that body image anxieties were also “widespread”. Its poll of 1,350 mothers found that 45% said that they felt uncomfortable about their body after having a baby which put them off resuming sex.
“There is no set time to start having sex again after having a baby – all that should matter for women is that it feels right for them and that they have access to the contraception best suited to their needs if they wish to avoid another pregnancy straight away,” said Bpas’s director of external affairs Clare Murphy.
“We regularly see women experiencing unplanned pregnancy in the year after giving birth, sometimes because of confusing information about breastfeeding and contraception. “The sexual health needs of new mothers will be diverse and we need to find innovative ways to support them. This may mean ensuring more information is provided antenatally, enabling those women who want to leave hospital with contraception to do so – including with an advance supply of the morning-after-pill if she wishes.”
The NHS offers the following guidelines to new mothers:
If penetration hurts, say so. It’s not pleasant to have sex if it causes pain. If you pretend everything’s all right when it isn’t, you may start to see sex as a nuisance or unpleasant rather than a pleasure, which won’t help either of you. You can still give each other pleasure without penetration (for example by mutual masturbation).
Be careful the first few times you have sex. Explore with your own fingers first to reassure yourself that it won’t hurt. Use plenty of extra lubrication, such as lubricating jelly. Hormonal changes after childbirth may mean that you won’t be as lubricated as usual. Make time to relax together. There’s little point trying to make love when your minds are on other things and not on each other. Take your time. If you still experience pain two months or so after the birth, talk to your GP or family planning clinic. You can get treatment for a painful episiotomy scar. Ask to see an obstetric physiotherapist.
If you’re not ready for sex, don’t feel pressured, many women report having sex after pregnancy before they were ready with the main reasons being:
- Feeling pressured by their partner or feeling they were neglecting their partner.
- Wanting to ‘get it over with’.
- Feeling other women had already resumed sex.
- It’s important to make your feelings the priority. Don’t compare yourself to other mum – they may not be admitting their true situation anyway.
- Crucially, try not to feel under pressure from your partner. Instead share your feelings with your partner and explain the big changes that pregnancy, childbirth, and caring for a new baby bring about. If you do feel under pressure and are worried, talk to your health visitor or GP.