After your pregnancy and birth of your baby, you want to return to your normal routine, which includes resuming sex with your partner. You’re worried whether it will hurt or be different or cause any other issues now that you have delivered your baby. Will you have to wait and if so for how long?
The fact is that you will enjoy sex the way you did before your pregnancy but you will have to wait for four to six weeks till your reproductive tissues have healed and your postpartum bleeding has stopped.
Postpartum bleeding (Lochia)
Most women experience blood loss after giving birth. This is called postpartum bleeding or lochia. This can last anywhere between two to six weeks and usually starts immediately after delivery. It can come and go.
The amount of blood lost in the first 24 hours through the vaginal delivery of a single baby is about 500 ml. In the case of a cesarean delivery, the vaginal blood loss can be 1000 ml.
This bleeding occurs from the wound in the uterus that occurs from the placenta coming out and is due to the poor contractions of the uterus.
Other reasons why you should not indulge in sex right after your pregnancy:
- You are not going to enjoy it
- Intercourse will be painful because your vaginal tissues are still unhealed after the delivery more so if you’ve had an episiotomy to facilitate delivery.
- Your breasts are still tender and you’re still lactating
- You are still conscious about your size because soon after delivery you do look like you are six months pregnant. The uterus takes about six months to return to its original size.
After your pregnancy and the delivery, sex will have to wait for about one to two months depending on when the postnatal checkup (which is done usually after 6 weeks) gives the thumbs up.
This waiting period for sex after giving birth to your baby is required due to the physiological, hormonal and emotional changes in the woman after childbirth.
The waiting period can extend to weeks as mentioned above or even months. It varies from woman to woman due to the healing time factor.
Secondly, giving birth to a 7-pound baby through her vagina, which normally accommodates only a six-inch or so penis is a traumatic experience, both physically and psychologically. Tearing of the delicate vaginal and perineal tissues is inevitable.
And this waiting period varies from woman to woman and your obn/gynaec is the best person to advise you.
Do not feel shy to ask as he or she has faced and answered innumerable such questions from other patients before, and it has become standard practice for your gynecologist to face such questions about sex.
The new father must look at this from a woman’s perspective and show understanding during this period.
Why wait for sex after childbirth – Complications that may arise
The waiting period to have sex after pregnancy is necessary because the delivery of the baby either normally through the vagina or with the help of an episiotomy or by cesarean section does involve damage to your genital parts and around. Time for these delicate vaginal tissues to heal must be allowed or else infection can set in.
Secondly, the cervix is slightly open after childbirth and should be given time to close.
Thirdly, you could have had an episiotomy (a surgical cut) or suction to facilitate your vaginal delivery and the wound and stitches have to heal completely. Sex at such times will cause trauma to these delicate and raw surfaces and prevent healing. It can even lead to infection.
Lastly, having sex before the wounds have healed can cause fatal air embolism in which air can enter the blood stream through the raw unhealed surfaces. This can have fatal consequences.
Deaths due to immediate sex after childbirth
According to an issue of OCT, 1998 from The Postgraduate Medical Journal, British Medical Association publication, two young women died while having intercourse within eight days of giving birth by normal vaginal deliveries.
They died of air embolism occurring in the major arteries to the heart and brain. An air embolism is an air bubble that gets lodged in an artery and can block blood flow to a major organ.
These are just two examples and there are more on record. The need to wait and have patience, therefore, cannot be overstressed.
Sexual desire in women after childbirth
The emotional mindset of the new mother with the newborn may not be conducive to sex – the newborn taking priority over everything else in addition to a feeling of fatigue.
After childbirth, there is vaginal dryness due to hormonal changes, which can cause painful sex and therefore, loss of sexual desire.
Even women who breastfeed, experience painful sex due to reduced estrogen hormone levels leading to vaginal dryness.
Postpartum depression can affect about 5% to 25% of women after childbirth and is seen in men too after their spouse delivers a child. In such women, this depression does cause loss of libido and they require treatment for their depression.
A possible solution to have sex after pregnancy and to keep the sex starved husband happy is to resort to a hand job or to oral sex by the woman.
Kindly note that this is not to be resorted to by the husband on the wife as it can cause complications, such as trauma (due to the introduction of fingers in the vagina) or air embolism due to cunnilingus (oral sex by the husband on the wife).
The father’s role: The right perspective
As mentioned above, it is necessary for the husband to have a proper attitude and look at the situation from the woman’s perspective. He should show understanding and exercise patience.
Affection for his wife and the new mother must be showered in abundance. She must be made to feel wanted and important.
In spite of the need for sex, the father must allow the mother of the newborn to spend adequate time with the baby and must not let her feel that she is neglecting spending time with the father.
At this postnatal time and during pregnancy, a woman requires all the support she can get and it is the husband’s duty and responsibility to see that she gets it.
Sex after pregnancy, when started, must be gentle and no demands should be made of the woman. In case of discomfort to the woman, the man must stop and follow the needs of the woman.
Management post pregnancy
You must resort to pelvic floor exercises under the guidance of the your doctor. This will improve your sexual function besides toning up your pelvic muscles.
You can fight the vaginal dryness and the pain of sex after pregnancy by using lubricating gels during sexual intercourse.