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?

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.

After you give birth, your body will take its time getting used to not being pregnant anymore. You will have some vaginal bleeding after birth, which will last for a few weeks. This will happen if you had a vaginal delivery or a caesarean section. It’s best to wait until you’ve stopped bleeding before you start having sex again.

Your vaginal area can feel sore and painful after having 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) during the birth. You will need to keep the area clean to prevent infection, so it’s best to have a bath or shower every day and not have sex until it gets better. This will usually be about 6 to 12 weeks after the birth.

You may also have other symptoms that put you off sex, such as incontinence or haemorrhoids (piles). Find out more about your body after birth

Talk to your midwife, GP or health visitor if you have any concerns about when to have sex again.

Find out more about your body after birth

When can I have sex again after a caesarean section? 

Everyone recovers differently from a caesarean section. You’ll be encouraged to try to stay mobile and do gentle activities while you are recovering, such as going for a gentle walk. 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.

You should feel comfortable and physically ready for sex again after about 6 weeks. But remember everyone is different, so take your time and only have sex again when you feel physically and emotionally ready.

Find out more about recovering from a caesarean section.

Why is sex after pregnancy painful?

Many women have pain during penetrative sex after having a baby. This should improve over time. Some research has suggested that most women start having sex again about 3 or 4 months after giving birth and that this sex was painful for the first couple of times.

Vaginal dryness is a common cause of painful sex after giving birth. Some research has shown that this can be worse for women who are breastfeeding because they have lower levels of oestrogen (the female sex hormone). Again, this should get better over time or when you stop breastfeeding.

Talk to your GP or health visitor if you have any pain during or after sex after giving birth. If your vagina is dry, you may be advised to try using a water-based lubricant.

Will my vagina feel different after having a baby?

When you give birth, the entrance to the vagina stretches to let the baby out. This 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 shouldn’t be a problem when you have sex.

You could try doing some pelvic floor exercises, which can help tone the vaginal muscles. 

When can I get pregnant again after having a baby?

You can get pregnant 3 weeks after you’ve given birth, even if you’re breastfeeding and your periods haven’t started again.

Unless you want to get pregnant again, it’s important to use contraception every time you have sex.

Not all contraceptives are suitable for all women after giving birth. For example, you shouldn't use some methods if you have certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure.

If you're breastfeeding or developed certain medical conditions during pregnancy or delivery, you'll need to wait until at least six weeks before you can use the:

  • combined pill
  • vaginal ring
  • contraceptive patch.

You’ll have a chance to talk about this before you leave hospital. You can also talk to your GP or health visitor or visit a family planning clinic.

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

What if I don’t want to have sex after having a baby?

It’s not unusual to feel less like having sex for a while after you’ve had a baby. You’re recovering physically, plus you’re looking after a tiny baby. You’re probably coping with a few sleepless nights and are feeling very tired.

The early weeks with a baby can feel overwhelming. Understandably, you may feel so focused on your new role as a mum that sex is the last thing on your mind.

Your mental health

You’ll also probably feel quite emotional after giving birth. You’ll probably find yourself bursting into tears for no apparent reason or feel irritable, touchy or irrational. This is called the baby blues and are normal feelings as your hormones change and your body gets used to not being pregnant anymore. You may not feel very sexy during this time.

Some women have postnatal depression, which is not the same as the ‘baby blues’. Postnatal depression is when you have feelings of sadness, loss of interest, hopelessness, guilt or self-blame all the time for weeks or months after you’ve had a baby.If this happens to you, you’re not likely to feel very sexual.

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

“There are lots of reasons why my husband and I didn’t have sex after we had a baby. A c-section, sleepless nights, breastfeeding, hormones – there’s 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 for a while.”

Alison

Your feelings about your post-baby body

Your body will probably look very different after giving birth, too. This may not bother some women, but others may have negative feelings about their post-baby body, which may affect their sexual confidence. Doing some gentle exercises may help you feel better. 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 or swimming.

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

How will my partner feel about sex after I give birth?

Just as in pregnancy, your partner’s sexual desire may go up and down after you give birth. If they don’t want to have sex, it may be because:

  • they are feeling tired, perhaps because they are coping with sleepless nights too, or they’ve had to go back to work
  • they are afraid of hurting you
  • they are in ‘parent mode’ and sex isn’t a priority
  • they are feeling anxious or depressed (postnatal depression can also affect fathers and partners).

These mixed and confusing feelings aren’t fun, but they are normal. Remember, lots of people go through this in the early days, months and years of having children. You’re not alone.

Try talking to your partner about your feelings and theirs. This will help you both to understand what’s happening in your relationship. You can also try to stay connected and intimate in new ways that work for both of you.

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

Other parents can also be a great source of help and support. You could try talking to friends, family or other new mums and dads in your parent’s group, if you’re in one.

Sources

NHS Choices. Vaginal changes after birth. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/vagina-changes-after-childbirth/ (Page last reviewed: 23/10/2018. Next review due: 23/10/2021)

NHS Choices. Caesarean section. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/caesarean-section/ (Page last reviewed: 27/06/2019 Next review due: 27/06/2022) 

Jones, C et al (2011) Sex in pregnancy. CMAJ. 2011 Apr 19; 183(7): 815–818. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.091580

NHS Choices. Vaginal changes after birth. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/vagina-changes-after-childbirth/ (Page last reviewed: 23/10/2018. Next review due: 23/10/2021)

NHS Choices. Sex and contraception after birth. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/sex-contraception-after-birth/ (Page last reviewed: 13/12/2018. Next review due: 13/12/2021)

NHS Choices. When can I use contraception after having a baby? https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/when-contraception-after-baby/ (Page last reviewed: 19/09/2017. Next review due: 19/09/2020)

NHS Choices. Feeling depressed after childbirth (Page last reviewed: 24/08/2018 Next review due: 24/08/2021)  

NHS Choices. Keeping fit and healthy with a baby. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/keeping-fit-and-healthy/ (Page last reviewed: 18/08/2016. Next review due: 18/08/2019)

NHS Choices. Postnatal depression https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-natal-depression/ (Page last reviewed: 10/12/2018. Next review due: 10/12/2021)

Hide details

    Last reviewed on December 12th, 2019. Next review date December 12th, 2022.

    Was this information useful?

    Yes No

    Comments

    Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.

    Your comment

    Add new comment