Find out what to expect from post-pregnancy sex once your baby is born
The old adage says that once you’ve had a baby, your life will never be the same again, but does that ring true with your sex life, too? We get the lowdown on all your postnatal sex questions and discover exactly what’s going on down there and why.
When can you have sex again after giving birth?
For a vaginal birth, there’s no official timeline on when you can get back to having sex – though if you do feel sore in the vaginal area, it’s worth knowing that this should feel better within six to 12 weeks of the birth.
A 2005 study found that in the months after having a baby, women reported lower levels of sexual desire than their partners. (In fact, women in the study preferred to sleep or spend time on their own than have sex. Understandable, right?) Reassure your partner that you still love them, and find other ways to get close, like snuggling up to watch a movie.
Saying that, you are probably going to feel absolutely exhausted from all those night feeds, so the key is to take it easy and not rush back into anything. It’s completely normal to feel like sex is the last thing you fancy.
After a Caesarean section, the NHS recommends waiting until at least six weeks after the birth before thinking about having sex, but after this time, yet again it will depend on how you feel.
If you’re not sure, ask your GP at your six-week post-natal check.
Will sex feel different after having a baby?
It’s true that sex may not feel the same once you’re a mum. Here are some common concerns:
1. My vagina feels different
Hormonally, you may find your body is all over the place with less oestrogen than when you were pregnant. This can make your vagina feel dryer, so use a lubricant if you’re finding this a problem. If you’re breastfeeding, vaginal dryness is especially noticeable. But don’t worry, once your periods are back to normal, your oestrogen levels will return to their pre-pregnancy levels.
Had a vaginal birth? While your vagina should return to the same size as before you had your baby, it may end up feeling slightly ‘wider’ than before. Pelvic floor exercises can help but really don’t worry. You’ve just done an amazing thing. Your body needed to adapt.
2. I just don’t fancy sex any more
Yes, inserting a whole new person into your family can definitely have an impact on your relationship... Soreness, sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, body image, and focus on your baby can all have an impact on women’s desire.
A study found that in the months after having a baby, women reported lower levels of sexual desire than their partners. (In fact, women in the study preferred to sleep or spend time on their own than have sex. Understandable, right?)
Reassure your partner that you still love them, and find other ways to get close, like snuggling up to watch a movie.
3. I’m anxious about having sex again
The first sex after having your baby may feel a bit nerve-wracking. You could be wondering if it will hurt, while your partner is likely to be worried about hurting you!
4. How do you find time for sex anyway?
Lazy mornings in bed aren’t going to cut it any more once you’ve got a baby to look after, and you might be too exhausted in the evenings to even look at your partner. It can take a while to find out when’s the best window for you to have sex, but keep persevering.
5. Do we need contraception?
Turns out you can get pregnant three weeks after having a baby. And yes, that’s also true if you’re breastfeeding and have not got your periods back after the birth.
6. My body image stops me fancying sex
It’s completely normal to feel a bit self-conscious about your body after having a baby – after all, chances are you’re dealing with stretchmarks, baby weight and a post-birth bump, too. A study found that many new mums don’t feel comfortable about the changes that have happened to their body and this affects their body image – with a knock-on effect on their sex lives.
Remember, it takes time for your body to adjust to having given birth so give yourself a break – you’re awesome, and you’ve just done an amazing thing.
When you feel ready, and your doctor has said it’s okay to start exercising again, try a Jennis Postnatal workout. Every exercise is physio-approved and explained by Jess. Not only will you shape up, but you’ll also experience an endorphin-release – helping you feel more confident about your brilliant bod.
7. Does breastfeeding affect sex?
Yep. For a start, it can make your vagina dryer than it would otherwise be due to low levels of the hormone oestrogen.
Then there’s the ‘surprise!’ element: some breastfeeding women find that their boobs leak milk during an orgasm. The hormone oxytocin, responsible for your milk let-down during breastfeeding, is also a bit loose and free with your breast milk during an orgasm, too. If this isn’t your thing, try feeding your baby before you have sex so your breasts are empty.
8. Will sex feel the same?
For some women, sex can feel the same – they’re just more tired than before, and having to be more creative with when to squidge it into their lives. For others, it may feel different. For example, you might find that a position that you liked before doesn’t seem quite so hot. And if you’re breastfeeding, your nipples may feel less sexual than before.
The key is to just relax and go with the flow. Enjoy the adventure, and this new phase in your sex life.
9. What can I do to improve my post-baby sex life?
Apart from a good night’s sleep? You can work on your pelvic floor muscles.
According to a study, a weakened pelvic floor has a huge negative effect on your sex life, reducing blood flow to the vagina, lowering vaginal sensation, and making it less likely you’ll orgasm. Plus you’re more likely to experience pain during sex.