You’ve gotten through the tough part — childbirth — and now, six weeks later, your doctor has given the all-clear for you and your partner to have sex again. But even though the scar tissue has healed, you’re both struggling to get back into the act. Obstacles abound: Sleep for both of you is elusive as you juggle breastfeeding, a new household routine and body changes. Will sex ever be the same as it was before?
The answer varies for everybody, though most health experts recommend waiting until after your six-week postpartum exam before resuming sexual activity. That allows time for your cervix, uterus and vagina to heal. Two weeks after giving birth, the chances of bleeding or infection are low. However, many women who give birth vaginally have lacerations that require repair, resulting in sensitivity and discomfort. With cesarean sections, the scar continues to heal at the six-week mark, causing sensitivity and core discomfort with strenuous activity. So, understand that either form of childbirth can result in unexpected discomfort during sex.
You might want to wait until the tears and scar tissue are completely healed before resuming sex, and that’s perfectly okay — taking your time is normal and nothing to worry about. You also can take the time to discuss future birth control options with your doctor so there are no unplanned pregnancies in your future.
Expect Sex to Be Different
How much does sexual intercourse change after having a baby? Studies have shown that 89 percent of women resume sexual activity within six months of giving birth. However, research also suggests that sexual activity seldom returns to pre-pregnancy levels. Why? Common factors include — unsurprisingly — stress, lack of sleep, lactation, bodily changes such as urinary stress and urge frequency, as well as changes in body image. At two to three months postpartum, 41 percent to 83 percent of women experience some level of sexual dysfunction. So, understand that some disruption of your sex life is not unexpected.
Keep in mind that sex is important for you and your partner’s emotional and physical well-being. The postpartum period is emotional for many reasons, including sleep deprivation and changes in the daily routine. Sex can be a valuable release of endorphins and important for your relationship with your partner, especially during stressful and challenging times. Communicate with your partner and support system, as even small amounts of time for self-care are crucial for your health and that of your family. Yes, resuming sex can be intimidating due to physical changes, but if you take it slow, you’ll be glad you did.
Advice for New Parents
After weeks or months of healing, you may discover this is an exciting, emotional and nerve-racking time to be intimate. You may have a different self-image and feel anxious. But remember, sex is an important part of life. Everything might not feel the same in the beginning, so take your time. Talk with your partner and, most importantly, keep an open mind and sense of humor. Perhaps ease back in with some massage, lubricant and new positions.
If Pain Persists, See Your Doctor
Remember that it’s key to give your body at least six weeks to heal before resuming sex. Once your doctor gives the OK, you can expect some discomfort. However, if you experience severe pain, it’s important to contact your doctor.
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