By Megan Cottrell
After giving birth and coping with the exhaustion of caring for a newborn, getting back into the sack might be the last thing on your mind. But at some point, you will want to have sex again—really! When the time comes, here's what all new moms should know about sex after baby.
When can I have sex after baby?
Generally, you should wait four to six weeks after giving birth to have intercourse, says certified nurse midwife and nurse practitioner Eileen Beard, senior practice advisor for the American College of Nurse Midwives. That gives your body time to recover, including for your cervix to close, your uterus to contract, and the bleeding to stop.
What if I don’t feel ready?
But just because it's been a month or two or your doctor gave you the go ahead, don't feel like you have to rush. An essential part of navigating marriage with a newborn is to be honest with your partner about how you're feeling. “The most important issue is when the woman and her partner feel ready,” says Beard. “Keep the communication open between you and your partner.”
If you're just not interested, don't worry. That's pretty normal, says Beard, especially if you're breastfeeding: Nursing decreases estrogen levels, and the closeness and positive bonding hormones that get released often satisfy a woman's need for intimacy.
But even if you're not ready to do the deed, still make time for romance, says Beard. Hugging, kissing, cuddling, even taking a walk and holding hands, can help you bond with your spouse post-baby even if you aren't having sex.
Does sex after baby feel different?
It might. “Your muscle tone may not be as good, and you may not get as much friction initially,” says Beard. “Sex may feel different, but it doesn't mean it's not going to ever feel good.” (Phew!) To improve sensation, Beard recommends exercises for strengthening your pelvic floor, like Kegels, to help the vaginal muscles recover from pregnancy and birth.
Does sex after baby hurt?
It's not unusual for there to be some discomfort the first few times you have sex after baby, says Beard. If it doesn’t feel good, she recommends waiting another week or so and trying again, or trying an alternate position. Also, use lubrication, especially if you're breastfeeding. The lowered estrogen levels often cause vaginal dryness which can make sex especially uncomfortable.
Do I need to use birth control?
Despite what you might think, you can get pregnant immediately after giving birth, so be sure to use contraception as soon as you start having sex after baby. (Believe it or not, Beard has had patients who found out they were pregnant at their six-week post-partum checkup.) Any contraception method you're comfortable with is fine, but if you were using a diaphragm, you need to be fitted for a new one.
Will sex ever seem normal again?
Yes—but maybe not right away. Of all the barriers to having sex after baby, time might be the biggest. “There's two times when babies always seem to cry: When you want to eat dinner and when you want to make love,” says Beard. But don't worry too much. Your sex life will get back to normal, or, as everything else after having a baby, you'll find a new normal that works for you.