Sex After Giving Birth: What Should You Expect?

happy couple in bedEvery woman's birth experience is unique, but there's a common question many of us want our health care provider to answer ASAP: How soon can I have sex after having a baby? (The answer: Approximately six weeks if you've delivered vaginally and up to eight if by C-section, notes Jennifer Ashton, M.D., F.A.C.O.G.) But it can be even more helpful to know exactly what you should expect sex to be like once you actually do get back into the swing of things with your partner.

Here, 6 things to know about sex after baby.

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  1. You'll want to make sure the "road is clear," so to speak. When it comes to postpartum vaginal discharge, known as lochia, that is. Regardless of how you delivered, you'll have to contend with lochia for a few weeks after the birth, and having sex before it stops puts you at risk for infection.
  2. If you had a vaginal delivery, you'll get your groove back. Although your vagina will always be a bit larger than it was before the birth, it begins to shrink back and regain muscle tone within a few days. You can strengthen and tighten vaginal muscles by doing Kegels every day or cultivating "body awareness and range of motion in the vaginal muscles" with a kind of yoga called Mula Bandha, recommends Sara Gottfried, M.D., author of The Hormone Cure.
  3. Hormone flux could mess with your libido. The amount of estrogen circulating in the body tends to be on the low side for most women after giving birth, explains Dr. Ashton. In turn, you might experience baby blues, anxiety, irritability, etc. -- likely compounded by the typical lack of sleep that comes with a newborn -- which may take a toll on your libido. If this is the case, know you're not alone, and feel free to bring it up with your health care provider.
  4. You may need a little extra "help" in the bedroom. Low estrogen -- which continues for as long as you continue to nurse -- may also cause vaginal dryness, which can lead to painful intercourse, says Dr. Ashton. "Using natural oils (like coconut oil) as lubricants may help." If not, you could talk to your gynecologist about a vaginal estrogen cream. "This can help significantly, does not reach the blood stream, and can make a big difference in comfort and pleasure," explains Dr. Ashton.
  5. You'll want to think about birth control. Even if your body is consumed by breastfeeding and hormone flux, you'll ovulate before you get your first postpartum period, so you could definitely get pregnant if you have unprotected sex. "Remember that even if exclusively breastfeeding, it is possible to get pregnant, and therefore, if that would be undesired, a form of birth control is recommended," Dr. Ashton says. You could use the method you used in the past or you may want to explore different options, depending on your plans for future children and whether you're breastfeeding (as contraceptives that contain both estrogen and progestin can cause you to produce less milk).
  6. Your breasts might leak during sex. Having an orgasm can trigger leaking or spray of milk from the breasts, because hormones released during orgasm are also linked to letdown. If you're concerned about this happening, you can nurse your baby or pump to empty your breasts before having sex.

How soon did you have sex after giving birth? How did it go?

 

Image via iStock/annebaek

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