Sex after pregnancy

There are no rules about when you can start having sex again after you’ve given birth. It depends on when you feel physically and emotionally ready.

When can I start having sex again after having a baby? 

Everyone is different when it comes to having sex after giving birth. There are no set rules about when to start. It all depends on what kind of birth you had and how well your body is recovering. You also need to be emotionally ready and do what feels right for you.

Remember that during the weeks after the birth you will be going through a lot physically. You will have vaginal bleeding and your breastmilk will come in. You’re likely to feel very tired and emotional.

You will have some vaginal bleeding after birth, which will last for about 6 weeks. This will happen if you had a vaginal delivery or a caesarean section. These may all make sex less of a priority for you. You may, for example, want to wait until the bleeding has stopped before having sex again. 

You may also have other symptoms that put you off sex, such as incontinence, or haemorrhoids (piles).  

The safest place for your new baby to sleep is in their own cot, in the same room as you, whether it’s during the night or at nap time in the day for the first 6 months. Some new parents find having sex in the same room as their newborn off-putting. Others do not mind.  

You can take it gently. And there are lots of other ways for you and your partner to be close and intimate without penetration, such as kissing, mutual masturbation, massaging and stroking. 

Talk to your midwife, GP or health visitor if you are concerned about having sex again. 

Find out more about your body in the first 6 weeks after birth


“There are lots of reasons why my husband and I did not have sex for a while after we had a baby. A c-section, sleepless nights, breastfeeding, hormones – there is quite a lot of physical stuff going on to put you off! Plus, mentally, we were in full-on ‘new parent mode’. Frankly, sex was the last thing on our minds.” 


When can I have sex again after a vaginal delivery? 

Your vagina and the surrounding area can feel sore after a vaginal delivery. You may have had stitches after tearing or an episiotomy (where the doctor or midwife makes a cut to make the opening of the vagina a bit wider). This can make sex painful during the first few months after birth. Give your body time to repair itself.

When can I have sex again after a caesarean section? 

Everyone recovers differently from a caesarean section. It is best to stay mobile and do gentle activities while you heal, such as walking. This helps reduce the risk of blood clots. But you may not be able to do some things straight away, such as driving, exercising or having sex. 

Only have sex when you feel physically ready again. This may not be until after about 6 weeks post-birth. Take your time and do not feel pressure to have sex before you are ready.  

Find out more about recovering from a caesarean section.  

Why is sex after pregnancy painful? 

It is common to have some pain during penetrative sex after having a baby. This should improve over time. Some research has suggested that many women start having sex again about 3 or 4 months after giving birth, and that sex was painful for them, the first couple of times.

This might be because your vagina is drier than usual, especially if you are breast or chest feeding. This is because you have lower levels of oestrogen (the female sex hormone). Again, this should get better over time, or when you stop breastfeeding. In the meantime, using a water-based lubricant will help.  

Talk to your GP or health visitor if you have ongoing pain during or after sex once you have given birth.  

Will my vagina feel different after having a vaginal birth? 

When you give birth, the entrance to the vagina must stretches to let the baby out. Giving birth may leave your vagina feeling bruised and swollen. This is normal and should reduce after a few days. 

Your vagina probably won’t go back to its pre-birth shape, but this should not be a problem when you have sex. 

Pelvic floor exercises help tighten the muscles around your bladder, vagina and bottom. They can help your body recover after pregnancy and let you get more enjoyment from sex.  

Do I need to use contraception after I have given birth? 

You can get pregnant as early as 3 weeks after you have given birth. This is true even if you are breastfeeding and your periods have not started again. 

Unless you want to get pregnant again you will need to use contraception when you have sex.  

Not all contraceptives are suitable for everyone after giving birth. For example, you should not use some methods if you have certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure. 

If you are breastfeeding, or if you developed certain medical conditions during pregnancy or delivery, you will need to wait at least 6 weeks before you can use the: 

  • combined pill 
  • vaginal ring 
  • contraceptive patch.

You might want to use condoms in the meantime. Talk to your midwife about all of this. You can also talk to your GP, health visitor or a sexual health clinic. You will be asked about contraception at your 6-week postnatal check. 

Breastfeeding as a form of contraception 

Because breastfeeding can suppress ovulation, some women use it as a form of natural contraception. This is known as the Lactational Amenorrhoea Method (LAM).  

When used correctly and consistently, less than 2 in 100 women who use LAM will get pregnant in the first 6 months. But it is not suitable for everyone and can become unreliable when: 

  • gaps between feeds are longer than 4 hours during the day or longer than 6 hours at night 
  • other foods or liquids are substituted for breast milk 
  • your baby reaches 6 months old 
  • you have a period.

Find out more about sexual and reproductive health after having a baby

If you are thinking about having another baby, find out more about planning a pregnancy.  

What if I do not want to have sex after having a baby? 

You might find you go off sex for a while after you have had a baby. You are recovering and looking after a tiny baby. You’re likely to be tired from sleepless nights.  

The early weeks with a baby can feel intense. Understandably, you may feel so focused on your new role and responsibilities as a parent that sex is the last thing on your mind. This is all quite normal but talk to your health visitor or GP if you think it has become a problem.

Your mental health 

You will have a range of emotions and feelings after giving birth and you may find your mood can quickly change. You may feel angry and teary for no reason. This is known as the baby blues. It is normal as your hormones change and your body gets used to not being pregnant. As a result, you may not be feeling very sexy. 

Some women have postnatal depression (PND), which is different from the baby blues. Postnatal depression is when you have constant feelings of sadness, loss of interest, hopelessness, guilt or self-blame for weeks or months after you have had a baby. You may have other symptoms, such as poor appetite and low confidence, and it could affect your libido (sex drive) too. 

Talk to your midwife or GP if you think you have any symptoms of depression, and they last for more than two weeks. Find out more about postnatal depression

Your feelings about your post-baby body 

Your body will look different after giving birth. This may not bother some people, but others may have negative feelings about their post-baby body, which may affect their sexual confidence. Finding time for yourself is hard when you have a new baby but even doing some gentle exercise may help you feel better about yourself. If you had a straightforward birth, you can start gentle exercise as soon as you feel up to it. This could include walking, gentle stretches, pelvic floor exercises and swimming. 

It is a good idea to wait until after your 6-week postnatal check before you start any high-impact exercise, such as aerobics or running.

Will my partner’s sex drive change after our baby’s birth?  

Your partner’s sexual desire may go up and down after you give birth as they adjust to life with a new baby. Lots of people go through this in the early days, months and years of having children. You are not alone.  

If they do not want to have sex, try not to let it dent your confidence. It may be because: 

  • they are feeling tired, perhaps because they are coping with sleepless nights, or they have had to go back to work  
  • they are afraid that sex may be painful for you  
  • they are in parent mode and sex is not a priority 
  • they are feeling anxious or depressed (postnatal depression can also affect all partners).

Try talking to your partner about how you are both feeling. This will help you work through it and figure out ways you can stay close and intimate. 

If you and your partner need help then talk to your GP. They might refer you to a therapist or a couples counsellor. 

Talking to other new parents, friends and family, can also help.  


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Review dates
Reviewed: 14 June 2023
Next review: 14 June 2026