Sex after pregnancy: Set your own timeline

Sex after pregnancy might be the last thing on your mind. Understand what to expect and how to renew intimacy with your partner.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Sex after pregnancy happens. Honestly. First, however, vaginal soreness and sheer exhaustion are likely to take a toll. Whether you're in the mood or sexual intimacy is the last thing on your mind, here's what you need to know about sex after pregnancy.

After the baby is born, how soon can I have sex?

Whether you give birth vaginally or by C-section, your body will need time to heal. Consider waiting to have sex until your health care provider gives you the green light — often four to six weeks after childbirth. This allows time for the cervix to close, postpartum bleeding to stop, and any tears or repaired lacerations to heal.

The other important timeline is your own. Some women feel ready to resume sex within a few weeks of giving birth, while others need a few months — or even longer. Factors such as fatigue, stress and fear of pain all can take a toll on your sex drive.

Will it hurt?

Hormonal changes might leave your vagina dry and tender, especially if you're breast-feeding. You might experience some pain during sex if you're healing from an episiotomy or perineal tears, especially extensive tears.

To help ease any discomfort during sex, take it slow. Start with cuddling, kissing or massage. Gradually build the intensity of stimulation. If vaginal dryness is a problem, use a lubricating cream or gel. Try different positions to take pressure off any sore areas and control penetration. You might also discuss alternatives to vaginal intercourse, such as oral or manual stimulation, until healing is complete. Tell your partner what feels good — and what doesn't.

You might also take pain-relieving steps beforehand, such as emptying your bladder, taking a warm bath or taking an over-the-counter pain reliever. If you experience burning afterward, apply ice wrapped in a small towel to the area.

It's also important to focus on the moment. Keep your mind on yourself and your partner — not the diapers, laundry and other household chores.

If sex continues to be painful, consult your health care provider about possible treatment options.

Will it feel different?

After childbirth, decreased muscle tone in the vagina might reduce pleasurable friction during sex — which can influence arousal. This is usually temporary.

To tone your pelvic floor muscles, try Kegel exercises. Simply tighten your pelvic muscles as if you're stopping your stream of urine. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. Once you've got the hang of it, do at least three sets of about 10 Kegel exercises a day.

July 02, 2015 See more In-depth