It’s a question on the minds of many mums-to-be (and their partners) – how long should I wait to have intercourse following the birth of my baby? And we all have different reasons for wanting to know! Some women are nervous, others are curious, some are super keen to get started and others are absolutely dreading it. At the end of the day, sex following the delivery of a baby is a personal issue with many factors that come into play.
We asked obstetrician, Dr Brad Robinson to give us the low-down on sex after pregnancy and fill in the blanks regarding some of the lesser talked about issues.
The answer to this question is dependent on a number of different variables. Whether you had a vaginal delivery or caesarean section can be an important determinant. Some vaginal births require instrumental assistance with either vacuum or forceps. This may cause tearing, or require an episiotomy to have been cut. There may even have been complications following delivery such as an infection, or wound breakdown. The list goes on!
They key factor concerning sex after pregnancy is if the woman feels physically and emotionally ready. Many couples wait to have intercourse until after their six-week postnatal review.
There are a large number of reasons why some couples are not able to resume sexual intercourse for a longer period of time than others. There may be specific medical complications or emotional issues prohibiting it:
Broadly speaking there is no real difference between how the baby is delivered and the average time taken for a couple to resume sexual intercourse. An uncomplicated vaginal delivery may result in a woman feeling ready to start having intercourse sooner than if she had a caesarean section, but this is highly debateable. Furthermore, a vaginal delivery may potentially result in outcomes that cause a prolonged delay.
Women can be extremely apprehensive the first time they have sex after pregnancy – it is almost impossible to predict how things are going to go. So couples should really expect the unexpected! Broadly speaking, the first things you can expect are nerves, apprehension, and possibly anxiety. For this reason partners need to be understanding, patient, and gentle.
The genital region, even if there is no tearing or disruption during delivery, is often far more sensitive following pregnancy. This is further exacerbated if women are breastfeeding, as it makes the genital tissue somewhat dryer and less naturally lubricated.
Women are also commonly far more body conscious after delivery, and may have different sexual preferences in relation to how they are clothed, what positions they adopt, and how they like their partner physically touching them.
The key to sex after pregnancy is making sure the woman is absolutely and unreservedly ready. This is the single most important factor to achieving a positive outcome. However, there are a number of different things couples should consider if they feel uncomfortable.
Firstly, it is crucial that couples engage in adequate foreplay. This helps the genitals engorge with blood, and the pelvic musculature relax. It may also be beneficial if the woman is able to achieve organism prior to penetration.
Secondly, in these circumstances, there is no such thing as too much lubrication. A simple, water-based lubricant can help overcome vaginal dryness that is common following pregnancy. It can also assist with pelvic spasms that can occur when women are apprehensive about penetrative intercourse.
Women should also consider changing sexual positions. For example, being ‘on top’ allows women to control the extent and frequency of penetration, giving them a greater degree of control. It may be that other positions such as lying on the side in spoon formation are also more comfortable.
Finally, always remember that penetrative intercourse is not the only form of intercourse. Oral sex may be a more appropriate, gentler starting point.
Couples may encounter any number of mental barriers concerning sex after pregnancy. For starters, the introduction of a new baby brings with it sleep deprivation, fatigue, frayed nerves and general unpredictability – hardly typical stimulants for sexual intercourse.
On a more serious note, postnatal depression is another reason for couples not physically connecting. This affects up to 15 percent of women, and can have major implications on a couple’s sex life.
As mentioned previously, women are also forced to adapt to radical changes in their bodies after delivery – changes which intrinsically influence the way they feel about themselves, their femininity and sexuality. It is little wonder that faced with these changes they withdraw from their partners while they adjust and come to terms with these changes.
There is absolutely no reason that – excluding specific and rare complications – couples can’t resume a healthy and productive sex life after birth. In fact, many couples experience a greater and more fulfilling sexual relationship afterwards – forged through the shared experiences of raising their child.