Post-partum coitus, or having sex after giving birth.
By: Catherine Radley
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One of the questions that is often asked by new mums is ‘how long should I wait to have sex, and will it hurt’? Although it is normal to worry, it is often a taboo subject that is rarely broached. I remember when I asked this question to my midwife, who laughed at me. Whilst during the last stretch of pregnancy, it is the question furthest from your mind, it is often one of the first worries a new mum will have. Whilst it is often women who struggle with this situation, men also have concerns about when to have sex and it is much more difficult for them to broach this subject, for fear of being seen as ‘pressuring’ their partners.* Another problem that comes with a newborn baby is finding the time to be intimate. A newborn baby requires a lot of time, effort and energy, which is exhausting to both parties, and it often feels like the newborn period will last forever. Although it doesn’t seem it, the newborn stage only lasts for a few weeks, so it will be possible to have a relationship again!
Worrying about having sex after birth is normal. Your body has just experienced a massive trauma which – although worth it – leaves you feeling self conscious and afraid of how intimacy will impact you. Here are some tips on easing back into regular sex with your partner.
1. Wait until you are ready.
The rate that you feel ready to become intimate differs from woman to woman. After giving birth, you will bleed heavily for anywhere up to eight weeks. This is natural, but it is important to wait until you have finished bleeding to have sex. Some women feel ready after the bleeding has stopped, but women who have experienced rips, tears or a caesarean section may want to wait even longer. If you rush into having sex, it is likely it will hurt but the more comfortable you feel, the less discomfort you will endure.
2. Discuss your worries.
It is important to discuss how you are feeling with your significant other; they also worry about how it will feel, and will not want to hurt you. Discussing sex with your partner will also help to make you both comfortable. When you both are able to discuss any anxieties, it helps to alleviate any problems you both may have. Again, the more comfortable you are, the better sex you will have.
3. Lube up.
Using lube for the first few times will help to ease you back into regular sex. Some women experience vaginal dryness due to a hormonal imbalance which, again, is completely natural and very common. Using lubrication will help you to both have a more enjoyable experience, which is exactly why you want to start having sex again!
4. Take it slow.
If, at any point, you do feel any discomfort, communication is key. Take it slow, and talk to your partner about how you are feeling. If you need to stop, tell them. Knowing that you are able to stop if you feel uncomfortable makes the experience much more pleasurable.
Women are all different but if you wait until you are ready, you feel 100% comfortable with your partner and you know you can stop if you need to, the discomfort that you will experience is minimal. It is unlikely that you will experience pain, especially if you feel that you are ready, however it can be slightly uncomfortable. I have heard it likened to ‘losing your virginity again’ but if you do feel pain and it continues, it is worth discussing it with a healthcare professional. Occasionally, it can be caused by an infection which, although unusual, may need antibiotics to clear up.
It is also worth remembering that the period after giving birth leaves you at your most fertile. For some reason, your body believes that one baby is not enough, and – unless you are SuperMum – you do not want two children under one to look after. Despite the common myth, breastfeeding is not a reliable form of protection and it is advisable to use another method. In the UK, a new mum is invited to a six week check up, where contraception is discussed. It is up to you which method you choose, but make sure you use one unless you want another baby!
It is important that, despite a new addition to the family, that couples still find time for each other. Whilst a routine is established between you, your partner and your baby, it is not always possible but eventually your baby will begin to nap at regular times or sleep in their own Moses basket (yeah, right!). It is worth remembering that you are still a couple. Although it does not always mean having sex, it is important that you do find some common interests. This could be watching a film or a television programme together, or even sitting down to a meal in the evening. Communication is important in a relationship and still continues to be important after the arrival of a newborn baby. If you are lucky enough to have family, or friends, that you trust implicitly, it is always possible to ask them to babysit for a few hours when you are ready to leave your baby. This could be to go out for a meal, to watch a film, or even just to go and have sex together. It is hard to find an equal parent/relationship balance, and the first year is certainly the hardest. It is not impossible though, and if you are willing to communicate and are both happy to have roles in parenthood, it is possible to be happy as a wife/partner and as a parent.
*The word pressuring was mentioned 90% of times when ten men were interviewed on their feelings on post-partum coitus. 100% of the men admitted to worrying about sexual intercourse after birth.