Every woman’s body heals differently, but it is generally considered safe to have sex after delivery with stitches when your practitioner gives you the all-clear at a postpartum checkup. However, penetrative sex can cause pain due to fluctuating hormones and a sore perineal area (or episiotomy) after delivery.
Irritation of the cervix can also lead to light bleeding after sex.
Wait at Least Six Weeks
If you had a vaginal delivery, your healthcare professional may recommend waiting until 4-6 weeks after childbirth before engaging in sexual intercourse. This is to allow your uterus, vagina, and cervix to return to their normal size and heal. It is also common to experience bleeding during these early weeks, and penetration can irritate the area, leading to additional pain.
Even if your health care provider says you can have sex, it’s still important to listen to your body. Your sex drive and energy may be different than before you got pregnant, and some women find they don’t feel like having sex at all during this time.
Your doctor will likely ask you to abstain from sex after a C-section, too. This is because your incision needs to heal and the cervix was dilated during the surgery, making it vulnerable to infection.
If you do want to resume sex, be patient and work with your partner to get back into the groove. Having a baby can change the dynamic of your relationship and introduce new pressures and expectations. It’s a good idea to discuss this with your partner ahead of time to see what expectations you both have and how they might be altered. Until you’re physically ready, there are other ways to bond and connect with your partner such as kissing, mutual masturbation, or massage.
Take It Slow
There are a lot of things going on after a vaginal delivery – hormonal shifts, sleep deprivation, pain and a new relationship with your partner. It’s important to communicate openly and respectfully to figure out when you are ready for sexual intimacy – including how much penetration feels right to both of you.
If you’ve had a tear or episiotomy from a vaginal birth, you may have stitches in your perineum that need time to heal. Likewise, if you’ve had a C-section, your abdominal scar will also take some time to recover. Both of these factors can cause pain when having sex, so it’s best to wait until you are fully healed before you attempt to have penetrative sex.
Your hormones will be shifting after pregnancy and childbirth, which can make the vulva feel dry and thin. This can lead to friction during sex, which can irritate your mucosa and cause bleeding. You can use a water-based lubricant to decrease friction and help prevent pain.
It can be hard to know when you’re emotionally ready to have sex, but there are many ways to show your partner that you love and care for them without penetration. Try cuddling, kissing and other forms of affection until you’re both physically and emotionally ready for sex. This can help you build trust and comfort in your relationship as well as give you a taste of sexual intimacy until you’re both feeling comfortable again.
Don’t Overdo It
Getting overexcited and attempting to have sex too soon can be the cause of pain during intercourse. This is common because of the many changes taking place during postpartum: you’re recovering from delivery, your hormones are out of balance and caring for a new baby requires a lot of energy.
The pubic bone is also weakened from being pushed outward during pregnancy and childbirth and needs to heal, which can take up to four weeks. This is why it’s important to be patient and wait until your healthcare provider gives you the go-ahead for sexual activity, especially if you had an episiotomy or perineal tear stitches.
Your healthcare provider will examine your wounds, or incisions if you had a C-section, at your six-week checkup to make sure they’re healing correctly. They will also check if you are bleeding at all, which is normal during the postpartum period.
If you and your partner are ready to resume intimacy, it’s a good idea to start by using a lubricant and only when both of you are fully aroused. If the initial sex doesn’t feel comfortable, try other positions like oral or mutual masturbation until it does feel right. It’s a good idea to use lubricant even if you’re breastfeeding, as lower levels of estrogen can cause vaginal dryness and affect elasticity.
If you had a C-section, your doctor may advise you not to have sex until your incision has healed. This is a good idea to avoid complications, such as infections.
In the weeks immediately after delivery, a woman’s uterus is still healing and bleeding. This can cause pain during sex. Women who have a vaginal birth sometimes experience lacerations or stitches in the area from their vagina to their anus (the perineum). These are usually minor but they can also be painful during sex.
For both vaginal and cesarean deliveries, your hormones can make your vulva feel tight or dry. This can also cause pain during sex, especially during penetration. You can use a lubricant to help decrease friction and make it easier.
A drier vulva can make it more difficult to perform oral sex, as well. This is a problem that can be eased by using a water-based lubricant.
Even with these tips, it’s important to go at your own pace when resuming sexual intimacy after a childbirth. Your sex drive and energy will return, but it’s best to wait until your body is ready. Be patient with your partner and try to find other ways to show affection until you are both feeling more confident. For now, cuddling and kissing are healthy and acceptable alternatives to sex.