Sex HealthRecovering from birth

What to Expect from Sex After Giving Birth

Pregnancy and delivery change a lot about your body, as well as your sex life.

Postdelivery hormonal changes may make vaginal tissue thinner and more sensitive. Your vagina, uterus, and cervix have to “return” to normal size, too. And if you’re breastfeeding, that can lower libido.

In short, your body needs some time off after delivery.

There’s no definitive timeline that says how long you should wait to have sex after giving birth. However, most doctors recommend women wait four to six weeks following a vaginal delivery.

After your doctor has given you the all clear to resume sexual activities, you may still need to take things slowly. Remember: In addition to physical recovery, you’ll also be adjusting to a new family member, less sleep, and a change in your regular routine.

You may also need to wait longer if you have a perineal tear or episiotomy. An episiotomy is a surgical cut to widen the vaginal canal. Returning to sex too soon may increase your risk of complications, such as postpartum hemorrhage and uterine infection.

How Does Delivery Affect Sex?

Sex after delivery will feel different. One small study from 2005 found that 83 percent of females experienced sexual problems in the first three months after their first delivery.

However, that number continues to fall as the post-pregnancy months increase.

The most common issues with sex after delivery include:

  • vaginal dryness
  • thin vaginal tissue
  • loss of elasticity in vaginal tissue
  • perineal tear or episiotomy
  • bleeding
  • pain
  • “loose” muscles
  • soreness
  • fatigue
  • low libido

Hormones play a big role in postdelivery recovery and a return to normal sexual activity.

In the days immediately following childbirth, estrogen drops to pre-pregnancy levels. If breastfeeding, estrogen levels might sink below pre-pregnancy levels. Estrogen helps supply natural vaginal lubrication, so low levels of the hormone increase the likelihood of vaginal dryness.

Dry tissue can lead to irritation, even bleeding, during sex. This increases your risk of infection.

Vaginal birth can temporarily stretch the muscles of the vaginal canal. These muscles need time to recover their strength and stability.

If you had a perineal tear or episiotomy during vaginal birth, you may have a longer recovery. Having sex too soon can increase your risk of an infection.

A cesarean delivery can also affect vaginal sensation. The same hormonal issues can make the tissues of the vagina dry and thin, possibly leading to painful sex.

Plus, you’ll be recovering from abdominal surgery, so you’ll want to make sure the incision site has properly healed before resuming sex.

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