While sex may not be the 1st thing on your mind after giving birth, intimacy is essential for new parents. But just how long should you wait once baby is born? We found out EVERYTHING you need to know.
Getting busy in the bedroom may not seem like it should be a priority when you and your partner have a newborn baby at home. But, according to experts, remaining intimate is actually super important — especially for new parents! And while it may take some time to feel sexy again after giving birth, the good news is, post-baby sex won’t necessarily be any different from pre-baby sex. There are, however, a few things you need to keep in mind. For example, you can’t dive right into bed as soon as you get home from the hospital (not that you would want to anyways…). In fact, some doctors recommend waiting up to 12 weeks! But easing back into things can serve as a beautiful way to reconnect physically with your partner, thus helping to ease some of the stresses of parenthood. Here’s what you need to know.
“Sex after a child is introduced into the family helps keep the bond between the man and woman,” Dr. Melody T. McCloud, M.D., obstetrician-gynecologist, author, and founder & medical director of Atlanta Women’s Health Care, told us EXCLUSIVELY. “Yes, there’s a new baby, that will demand and require a lot of your time and attention. But the child must not totally detract from intimacy between the loving parents. Keep it going. Take time to love.” We couldn’t agree more! Dr. McCloud recommends waiting six weeks to have sex again after giving birth in order to avoid “risk of infection, bleeding, and pelvic pain.”
“In pregnancy, the uterus stretches to accommodate the growing fetus. After birth, the uterus gradually returns to normal size. But during that time of ‘involution,’ blood vessels and muscle fibers are not fully returned to their pre-pregnancy state, and they are ‘open,'” Dr. McCloud explained. “Having sex, or putting anything into the vagina, can introduce bacteria that courses upward through the cervix, potentially infecting the uterine lining, causing much pain and sometimes very serious infection not only in the uterus, but perhaps extending to the fallopian tubes and into the pelvis, resulting in a peritonitis.” Yikes!
The OBGYN’s advice? “It’s best to let the healing progress, uncontaminated. There will be plenty of time for good — great — sex, once the body has fully healed. During that time, find other ways to please your man.” Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway, OBGYN, agrees, but she thinks in some cases a woman may only have to wait four weeks. She explained that even something as seemingly harmless as sperm, can pose a problem for a mother who recently gave birth. “[You have] an increased risk of infection because the protective mechanisms in the uterus are gone after the birth of a baby and have to be replenished through the growth of a new lining,” Dr. Burke-Galloway said.
“Sperm can cause an inflammatory reaction as well as undiagnosed sexually transmitted infections. The vagina is also very inflamed for the first three to six weeks after a delivery. Also, if there are sutures (stitches) they can be disrupted during intercourse, which can increase the risk of bleeding and infection.” Just to be safe, Dr. Tara Solomon, OBGYN, advises her patients to wait a full 12 weeks before sex! “Sex after having a baby can be very painful, as a woman’s hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone drop precipitously after delivery,” Dr. Solomon told us. “This leads to vaginal dryness and tightness. Mood swings and irritability from hormone changes and lack of sleep lead to a low sex drive. I hear this a lot from my new mothers.”
Donnica L. Moore, MD and President of Sapphire Women’s Health Group, revealed another reason doctors may tell women to abstain from sex right after giving birth. “The other reason many physicians recommend abstinence for six weeks is because it’s a good time to resume oral contraception. You can start the mini-pill (progestin only) or IUD immediately postpartum, but should wait six weeks to start a combination pill if you
have chosen not to breastfeed,” she said. “Breastfeeding moms can safely take the mini-pill, but should NOT rely on breastfeeding itself as reliable contraception unless you don’t mind having another child soon after.”
However, all the doctors we spoke to insist that the actual act of sex — whenever you decide to go for it — shouldn’t be too different from what you and your partner experienced pre-baby. “If you wait, and allow the uterus and vagina to heal properly, sex should pretty much be the same,” Dr. McCloud explained. “Some women state they have decreased sensation; this might be due to the baby’s passage through the vagina causing stretching of its nerves, and/or muscles. Others might have bladder issues, if the vaginal wall is stretched so much as to cause a drop of the bladder.”
Of course there’s always those nightmare stories we’ve heard from our girl friends about becoming “loose” down there after giving birth. Sadly, for some women those aren’t just old wives tales. “Depending on the size of the baby, the vagina can become patulous which is a medical term for “loose,” and the male partner might complain of decreased physical sensation,” Dr. Burke-Galloway said, while pointing out that for a while after childbirth, “a woman might not be in the mood for sex because the level of estrogen is low after giving birth.”
But even if you still don’t feel like having sex after six weeks, Dr. Moore says that’s totally normal. “Even after six weeks, many new moms may not feel like having sex and may not feel very sexy,” she explained. “Most new moms are exhausted and stressed; this can have a devastating effect on libido as can fear of pain. Breasts and nipples may still be engorged and painful. Vaginal dryness may persist. Vaginal and pelvic floor muscle tone may
decrease, which may reduce arousal or satisfaction. Communication with your partner — who may not understand all of these factors and may confuse your feelings with rejection — is more important now than ever.”
So what should your partner be aware of when it comes to easing back into sex after giving life to a human? “Mainly, encourage him to just be patient during that six-week post-birth period,” Dr. McCloud suggests. “Also, at first attempt, he should know that you might be anxious, so he should be gentle and allow plenty of time for foreplay; that’s always a good thing. And if you experience pain, say so. Things will get better with time.”
Dr. Moore stressed similar sentiments. “Sex doesn’t have to be different, but for many couples it is. The primary difference is that most new moms are exhausted — they want to go to bed, but they want to sleep,” she said. “Being worried about being interrupted by a crying baby is a buzz kill for many women… And psychological factors (for both partners) about recent role changes may have unexpected effects. Sex after child birth may require more thought and planning than before childbirth. You may need to be creative about having sex at different times of the day, in different positions, using lubricants, or using pillows. Things that were previously stimulating may no longer be. Frequency may change markedly. And babysitters may be required!”
Dr. Burke-Galloway agrees. “The level of physical activity might have to change, as well as positions due to discomfort,” she said. “A couple might have to ease back into rigorous sexual activity slowly. Some women may have increased fatigue and may be too tired to perform. Many women experience undiagnosed postpartum depression, which might be mistaken for disinterest in a partner.”
In the end though, all doctors agreed that intimacy is worth it — and you’ll soon feel like yourself again! “Having sex at the right time, reestablishes physical intimacy, which strengthens the partnership and promotes happiness,” Dr. Burke-Galloway said. “Happy parents in turn, usually raise happy children and form strong family bonds.”
Tell us, HollywoodLifers — are you surprised by what the doctors had to say?