How Soon After Giving Birth Can I Have Sex?

18 March 2023

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How Soon After Giving Birth Can I Have Sex?

By Lex; mother, writer and all-round flaps advocate

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There are few events that have as transformative an effect on your body as giving birth, and yet it’s a occurrence that’s not just commonplace in society but expected of most with a womb and vagina. As with any major life milestone, it’s one that throws you off course a little bit – often physically, almost always mentally, and for many of us, sexually too. Armed with a physicality you may not recognise or feel immediately at home in after months of pregnancy, it’s no surprise that not everyone who goes childbirth feels in the mood again for intimacy and sex right away; but as with everything in the age of social media, it seems that the given assumption is that ‘everyone else is doing it’ and that, therefore, you should too.

There are two ways to give birth: either through the vagina and or through surgical intervention via caesarean section. There’s a myriad of factors that contribute toward which method occurs for each birth and needless to say, those who form a solid birth plan often find things don’t quite go as expected. There’s pros and cons to both but the physical exertion is large in either case; and combined with the toll that pregnancy can take on a body no matter the child’s exit method, there’s complications (both gynaecological and otherwise) that can last for weeks, months and years after the big event.

Physical Factors

Physically, unless there has been specific trauma during a birth and a healthcare professional advises against it (usually to allow for either medical intervention or the natural healing process), there’s really no set rules on how soon after birth intimacy and sex can take place. Penetrative sex may not be the most comfortable experience in the world while your reproductive organs heal and rearrange themselves into a position where they’re not accommodating a child, but it’s possible. Of course, if advised against it for a while, it’s probably best to heed a professional’s call and back off. Where penetration isn’t necessarily the goal, there’s certainly plenty else that can be achieved pleasurably – and intimacy has a large part to play in any relationship, but particularly one where partners have undergone (and are still undergoing) such a life-changing experience together. Contraceptive Considerations

Once someone has given birth, their hormones undergo a rapid fluctuation. This can mean that fertility is at an all-time high anywhere up to about 6 weeks post-birth, so unless you’re attempting conception again, contraception should be well considered. It’s not uncommon to hear of others on maternity wards having full sex with their partners right away, or for midwives to wave you off with a “see you next year!” farewell. Indeed, lots of couples who would like more than one child choose to have them in quick succession, in order to minimise the overall disruption on their lives.

If you’re not looking to do it all again right away, the high female hormone levels means that contraception should be explored. Barrier contraception will be effective right away, as will be an IUD or IUS inserted immediately after birth. Other hormonal methods, and the LAM; Lactational Amenorrhea Method; (that is, using the hormones emitted when you exclusively breastfeed as a natural contraceptive) may take a little longer to kick in.

Mental Factors

If you’ve been through the birth of a child and the onward experience of parenting a newborn, you’ll know that you quickly feel exhausted – not often a state that’s compatible with being in the mood for much sexy. Then, there’s sleep deprivation to add to the equation. Then your adjusting hormones wreaking havoc on your moods. Then the touch aversion you may feel after spending 24/7 cuddling a baby. Then the fact that the NHS estimates about 27% of new parents experience a perinatal mental health issue. It’s really no surprise you might not be up for a quick bit of slap and tickle (or anything much more exerting). And it’s normal! As with any intimacy or sexual experience, it’s imperative that you’re in a frame of mind in which you can enjoy yourself. For a myriad of mental health reasons, this isn’t always the case during the ‘fourth trimester’ or after – and so it’s absolutely critical that you don’t rush into anything you’re not entirely comfortable with. So, How Soon Are People Having Sex After Birth?

To my knowledge, there’s never been an academic study into how quickly people jump back in the sack once they’ve had a baby. Anecdotally, pretty much anyone you ask will have a different answer – although it’s easy to assume that everyone’s back ‘at it’ right away.

So, I conducted a not-so-scientific study into this myself by polling my Instagram followers. First, to anyone who had given birth vaginally into how long after the event they’d had penetrative sex (be that p in v or with a toy/finger/something more exciting). 10% said in the first few weeks, 25% in the first month or so, 24% three months or more and 29% six months or more. For those who had given birth by c-section, the numbers weren’t vastly different: 9% in the first few weeks, 30% in the first to third month, 39% three months or more and 21% six months or more.

Taking the penetrative angle out of the equation, I asked again how soon they were trying out physical intimacy with their partner/s. This time, 68% enjoyed intimacy between the one to six month mark, just 16% before a month, and 9% over six months later. The truth? Everyone’s different and everyone does it at different times, and some not at all… just like losing your virginity, trying new things and reaching just about every life milestone ever. There are no rules but those you set yourself.

So, How Soon Should I Have Sex After Birth?

Truly, whenever you feel ready and willing. While an impressive 78% of my surveyed followers said they’d followed their gut and taken things at the right pace for them, 17% said it was too early and they wished they’d waited longer. Open and honest communication with your partner alongside accepting (if not embracing) your body for all it has achieved despite any changes is key.

Sex doesn’t (and definitely shouldn’t) just mean p-in-v penetration, and other physical touch and intimacy can be hugely underrated in its ability to bond you to a partner. Lots of birthing people report that sex actually gets better for them after having given birth – with a new range of sensations awakened, some internal organs shifting into more comfortable places and a newfound confidence in the person you’ve become.

The bottom line? Take your time. Find what you like. And fucking enjoy it! Your body is all yours. Make it work for you again.

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