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Sex After Childbirth: 7 Questions & What You Need to Know

by Nathalie Marquez Courtney

A few weeks after giving birth to my son, I was scrolling through the feed of a Facebook group I had joined for other moms due the same month as me. One post caught my eye, and it had garnered dozens of comments. “Ladies,” the poster said, “This might seem a bit forward, but I was wondering – when is it ok to start having sex again?”

I was still in the early, it-hurts-to-pee-when-will-my-nipples-stop-being-on-fire phase of life with a newborn, but I read through the comments curiously. “What’s sex?” One woman joked. “Our bed is only for sleeping in at the moment – and there’s precious little of that even happening right now!” Laughed another.

Some women felt ready to go after just a few weeks, while for others, who were now on their second or third baby, it had taken months. Some had the desire, but not the time. Some wanted to, but worried about soreness and injury, whether tender from a vaginal birth or still tending to a C-section scar. Others felt technically able, but physically and emotionally drained – “touched out” at the end of a day looking after their baby’s needs, sex was the furthest thing from their mind.

Childbirth and becoming a parent are vast, multi-faceted experiences. This means there can be as many answers to the question as there are women, many combinations of factors that affect when you and your partner feel ready.

Whether you’re pregnant, in the newborn haze or a few months down the road, we explore some of the most pondered questions below.

When can I start having sex again?

As your midwife, doctor or OBGYN will no doubt tell you, the recommended waiting time is six weeks, regardless of the delivery method (if you had vaginal tearing that required stitches or more extensive work, you may be advised to wait longer). This is to allow your body time to heal and reduce the risk of infection, though it’s definitely more of a guideline than a rule. Every body – and every vagina – is different.

Will my libido ever come back?

For many of us, sex if the last thing on your mind in those early newborn weeks. Between the feeding, dramatic hormone shifts, and the exhaustion and overwhelm that’s part and parcel of the new baby package, it’s no surprise sex has shifted down the agenda. But just like you will eventually get a full(-ish) night’s sleep, you will eventually want to – and get to – have sex again.

Don’t put yourself under pressure – you don’t have to have sex at the six week mark. Trust your body to tell you when it’s ready. A few heartfelt tactile moments between you and your partner can keep the embers warm for now.

Will sex feel good again?

There’s no sugar coating it: A lot has gone on down there, no matter what way you brought this baby into the world. Many women worry their vagina will never go back to normal, but the good news is it’s designed for this very job. Sure, it might feel a bit different the first few tries (a lot women, especially when on their second or third babies, report it being a bit ‘roomier’ at first), but you’ll soon find a new groove. And if you have c-section scars, they’ll take time to fully heal. Start slowly and gently, give yourselves plenty of time to adjust and approach things with an open mind: Once you know you want to have sex, a can-do attitude (and a little lube) can go long way.

Can I get pregnant if I’m still breastfeeding?

Our bodies are wonderful things and while mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding during the first six months are offered some protection from Mother Nature, it varies from person to person and isn’t worth exclusively relying on (especially as a lot of health professionals recommend waiting 12-18 months before attempting your next pregnancy). For many, the six-week check-up is the perfect time to discuss birth control options with a doctor.

How can I get back in the mood?

Step number one to actually having sex again begins with making a teeny bit of room for it to happen. Make time – however little – for kisses and cuddles. A moment of intimacy before you both collapse in an exhausted heap at the end of the day, or a slightly longer than usual kiss are the tentative first steps to seeing your partner as something other than a fellow nappy-changing, puke-covered zombie.

Will we ever have time to have sex?

What if sex is something you really would like (along with sleep and the ability to eat a meal using both hands) and the barriers are not emotional and physical but, rather, practical? Now is a good time to consider finding new ways to make it work: Perhaps it’s an afternoon or early evening quickie while the kiddo naps, or maybe you can squeeze in some making out first thing in the morning. And take heart if you’re a first time mom, hoping for more babies: For many couples, figuring out how to have sex after their first baby can be the most challenging. Once you’ve gone through that initial huge adjustment, it can be easier to figure things out second and third time around.

How can I feel sexy while having sex?

You’re all too aware of how much your body has changed and with this can come some confidence issues. Here’s where open, honest conversation with your partner is a must. Talk about what you’re worried about and consider making a few tweaks: maybe wearing a bra would mean you don’t stress about leaky boobs. Maybe you used to love the missionary position but being on top now feels more comfortable. Discuss what you think will feel good now and don’t worry about trying to get back to doing things exactly like you used to.

Nathalie Marquez Courtney is a freelance photographer, editor, and writer from Dublin, Ireland. Her background is in editorial magazine publishing and works shooting talented photos for some of Ireland’s best and most loved publications.