Wondering how soon you can have sex after giving birth? Here are some questions you should ask yourself to figure out what’s right for you.
1. Do I feel ready for sex?
This is pretty important. One study found that 65% of couples had tried to have sex eight weeks after birth, followed by 78% of couples at 12 weeks (McDonald and Brown, 2013). Yet most couples don’t go back to their pre-pregnancy sex frequency until closer to 12 months after their baby’s birth (Jawed-Wessel and Sevick, 2017). The timing is very much up to you.
2. Am I worried that my partner wants to have sex?
If you aren’t ready but your partner is, reassure them that you’re not pushing them away. This is just a temporary situation while you get your head around the demands of a small human and letting your body recover from the birth.
Your partner’s moves over to your side of the bed are likely because they still love and fancy you and want you to know it. Still, never feel under pressure to do anything you are not 100% ready for.
It might sound like a cliché but communication and a mutual understanding of each other's needs can help keep a loving relationship alive. You might also want to remind your partner that your focus on your baby doesn’t take away from your love for them. That you’re not pushing them away.
"If you’re tense and worried about sex, your vaginal muscles may not relax, making it painful, difficult and sometimes even impossible (NHS Choices, 2018). Sex is more likely if you make time to relax together" (NHS Choices, 2016).
3. Am I worried about having sex post-baby?
You might be thinking ‘Will it feel different?’ or ‘How will we ever find the energy to do anything more than collapse on this bed?’
You might start by gently exploring for yourself first your vagina to discover whether there is any pain or change (NHS, 2016). You could then discuss the changes to your body with your partner and how you want to be touched. You might want to use a lubricant and make sure you are fully aroused before penetration (NHS, 2016) and try positions that limit penetration.
You could also grab a chat with your health visitor or GP to go through your questions about post-baby sex. If you experience any pain, see your GP (NHS, 2016).
4. Am I rushing into post-baby sex because I’m worried I’ll lose closeness with my partner?
If that’s the case, there are plenty of other ways to maintain that bond. With everything from cuddling up in front of a film to doing anything else you fancy in bed that doesn’t involve intercourse.
5. How will the type of birth I had affect sex?
If you had an uncomplicated vaginal birth, you can pick up your sex life whenever you want (NHS, 2016). Although if you feel tired, bruised or have some grazing that may sting, you may want to take it gently. Your health visitor will probably check in with you about pain or difficulties around sex about two to six weeks after the birth (NICE, 2006).
If you had a caesarean section, you should wait until you’ve fully recovered to have intercourse (NICE, 2011). If your scar is still sensitive, you could find some positions that don't put pressure on it.
6. Will my tear or cut (episiotomy) affect sex?
Let yourself recover first. Your stitches should dissolve after 10 days and by two weeks you should be healing well.
If you had stitches after an episiotomy or a first- or second-degree tear, it can take up to a month to heal (NHS, 2017a). For third and fourth degree tears, wait until you’ve stopped bleeding and your tear has healed before having sex again (RCOG, 2015).
With stitching, when you’re ready to have sex again, you’ll want to take things slowly and gently. You could try positions that limit penetration or reduce the pressure on the stitched area. If sex is painful or difficult when you do try, speak to your GP. Any initial pain is likely to fade quickly.
7. Will how I am feeding my baby affect sex?
This may seem unrelated but actually, if you’re breastfeeding, hormones can cause vaginal dryness and a dip in libido (Riordan, 2005; NHS, 2015). See our Breastfeeding and sex article for more details.
Your breasts may be less of an erogenous zone than they used to be and you may find that the oxytocin released during breastfeeding means you crave affection less elsewhere. On the other hand, as our bodies are never simple, you may find that breastfeeding actually increases your arousal levels.
8. Have I thought about contraception?
Very important information: you can get pregnant soon after the birth of your baby. This can happen even if you are breastfeeding and your periods haven’t reappeared. So make sure you look into your options for contraception and discuss it with your health visitor, midwife, GP or contraception clinic (NHS, 2017b).
9. Am I putting it off as I’m worrying about my baby being in the room?
Such a common one, trust us. Yet your baby won’t understand what’s going on. Your noises are completely familiar to them from their time in your womb and hearing them from outside will not upset them. Plus they won’t care what you’re up to.
Just be careful if your baby is in the bed with you or move them into their cot. You might also want to choose a time when your baby is less likely to interrupt things, like after a feed.
10. Am I ready to be honest?
Dryness may contribute to sex being painful, and oestrogen levels after childbirth are partly to blame (NHS, 2018b). But probably the most important reason for dryness is that you’re knackered and adapting to your post-birth body, so you’re not sexually aroused enough to produce lubrication.
If sex hurts, say it. If you need your partner to be gentler, say it. If you need extra foreplay, say it. If you need to nip to the chemist and buy some lube, say it. If you just want to chill out in front of the TV, say it. See a GP and say it to them if something doesn’t feel right.
This page was last reviewed in February 2018
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
Jawed-Wessel S, Sevick E (2017) The impact of pregnancy and childbirth on sexual behaviors: A systematic review. The Journal of Sex Research, 54(4-5): 411-423. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00224499.2016.1274715 [Accessed 1st February 2018].
McDonald EA, Brown SJ (2013) Does method of birth make a difference to when women resume sex after childbirth? BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecolog. 120(7): 823-830. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1471-0528.12166/full [Accessed 1st February 2018].
NICE. (2006) Postnatal care up to 8 weeks after birth: CG37. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg37/resources/postnatal-care-up-to-8-weeks-after-birth-pdf-975391596997 [Accessed 1st February 2018].
NICE. (2011). Caesarean section: CG132. NICE. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg132/evidence/full-guideline-pdf-184810861 [Accessed 1st February 2018].
NHS. (2015). Vaginal changes after childbirth. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/vagina-health/Pages/vagina-after-childbirth.aspx [Accessed 1st February 2018].
NHS. (2016). Sex and contraception after birth. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/sex-contraception-after-birth/ [Accessed 1st February 2018].
NHS. (2017a). Episiotomy and perineal tears. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/episiotomy/#recovering-from-an-episiotomy [Accessed 1st February 2018].
NHS. (2017b). When can I use contraception after having a baby? Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/when-contraception-after-baby/?tabname=methods-of-contraception [Accessed 1st February 2018].
NHS. (2018) Vagina changes after childbirth. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/vagina-health/Pages/vagina-after-childbirth… [last accessed 22nd February 2018].
Riordan J (2005) Breastfeeding and human lactation. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishing
RCOG (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists). (2015). A third- or fourth-degree tear during birth (also known as obstetric anal sphincter injury- OASI. RCOG. Available from: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/pi-third--or-fourth-degree-tear-during-birth.pdf [Accessed 1st February 2018].
Convery KM, Spatz DL (2009) Sexuality & breastfeeding: what do you know?.
MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing. 34(4):218-223. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19587565 [Accessed 1st February 2018].
Deave T, Johnson D, Ingram J (2008) Transition to parenthood: the needs of parents in pregnancy and early parenthood. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 8:30. doi: 10.1186/1471-2393-8-30. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18664251 [Accessed 1st February 2018].
De Souza A, DwyerPL, Charity M, Thomas E, Ferreira CHJ, Schierlitz L (2015) The effects of mode delivery on postpartum sexual function: a prospective study. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. 122(10):1410-1418. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1471-0528.13331/full [Accessed 1st February 2018].
Polomeno V (1999) Sex and breastfeeding: An educational perspective. The Journal of perinatal education, 8(1), 30. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3431754/ [Accessed 1st February 2018].
Robinson, M. (2008). Child development 0-8: A journey through the early years. Berkshire: Open University Press.
von Sydow, K. (1999). Sexuality during pregnancy and after childbirth: A metacontent analysis of 59 studies. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 47(1), 27–49: Available from: http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1999-11060-003 [Accessed 1st February 2018].