What a taboo subject! No-one ever talks about this before you have babies. Maybe you might tentatively ask a close friend what she thinks, but do we really want to know or is denial preferable? I also suspect most women will almost certainly not discuss post natal sex with their partners. In my experience people just expect it to be horrible. But what is it actually like? How long should you wait? What about body image issues? How will I find the time for sex, especially with a newborn to look after? Will I even feel like it?
If you had a vaginal birth, there are obviously some physical changes that your anatomy has gone through. If you sustained any perineal trauma that required suturing, you probably would’ve been advised by your midwife or doctor to wait 6 weeks until resuming sexual intercourse. This is to reduce the risk of infection or reopening the wound. It is also sensible to wait until your post-birth vaginal bleeding has stopped, which is usually around 6-8 weeks. Of course your vagina may still feel too tender or even painful to consider sex for even longer than the suggested waiting time. Even if you didn’t have stitches, you will most likely still feel uncomfortable for some length of time. After all you did just miraculously birth a baby! Follow your body, take time, you are the best guide as to when is the right time.
If you had a caesarean, you may be surprised to learn that it is probably best to wait the same amount of time as for a vaginal birth. A caesarean is major abdominal surgery, which requires time to heal the many muscle and skin layers that are cut during surgery. 6 weeks is a good guide to wait for healing and for post-birth bleeding to cease. Again follow your body and stop if you have any signs of discomfort.
One of the most sad and misguided jokes I have ever heard regarding post natal sex, was out of the mouth of a man who had just watched his wife give birth vaginally – “It’s like watching your favorite pub burn down – you think, ‘I used to go in there and have fun'”. Although I really don’t like this horribly crass joke, I think the core of the matter is that the man obviously had concerns about sex in the future, concerns which needed to be discussed and addressed. Talking with our partners is so important, not just with regards to sex after babies, but for all aspects of life. If a couple has a reasonable expectation of the how’s, what’s and when’s of post natal sex, then it shouldn’t be such a scary or unknown event.
I have had intimate conversations with many of my friends regarding their experiences of post natal sex. One friend said she did not have sex for 9 months after her child’s birth, as she had very bad perineal tearing and was in too much pain until then. But she still went on to enjoy sex and have more children. I also had another friend who, after having four children, said her sex life had never been better. It can take a while for you and your partner to relearn the new form your body has taken and what positions might be the most comfortable, but it is definitely possible to have a very fulfilling sex life after babies.
There are a few things you can do to help make the first time more enjoyable. Firstly, foreplay. Do not overlook this. It will help you to relax and get your mind off stressing about what it’s going to be like. It will also help release vaginal secretions to reduce friction. Secondly, lubrication. It can be helpful to use water based lubrication to also aid in reducing friction and pain. Thirdly, position. Usually, the most comfortable position is with the woman on top as she is able to control the speed and depth of penetration. Fourthly, go slow. Take it easy, go very slowly. Make the aim of the experience be to see what everything feels like. Don’t expect or plan for either of you to climax, but instead think of orgasms as a bonus (this will of course be different for everyone and will come back with a bit of time and practice). During the waiting and healing time, keep in mind, there are other ways to achieve sexual satisfaction that don’t include penetration. Fifthly, plan the timing. Your first post natal sexual experience is not the time to be spontaneous. Planning ensures that the baby is fed, sleeping and in another room so you are not distracted and worrying about the baby’s every noise. It also ensures that you have adequate contraception.
We need to get talking. Talk to your close friends. Talk to your mum. Talk to your partner. One of the best things you can do is be prepared. Loving partners WILL understand and want to do only what your feel comfortable doing. Sex after babies can be fun and exciting and sometimes even better than pre-baby sex. Take your time and if you have continuing concerns make sure you see a GP or sexual health professional.