February 14, 2022

Sex After Having a Baby: A Pelvic PT’s Guide to When and How

When Can I Start Having Sex Again? It’s a common question after having a baby, only second to “When can […]
couple

When Can I Start Having Sex Again?

It’s a common question after having a baby, only second to “When can I start working out?” There are a few things we want to get back to make us feel like normal human beings after having a baby, and being intimate and having sex with our partner is one of them.

Most women wait until after their 6-week physician check up to get the okay to return to intercourse. Some women may want to start having sex sooner than that, but I highly encourage you to let your body heal during that time. 

It Takes Time To Heal

After pregnancy, labor, childbirth, and possibly nursing, our bodies (vaginas in particular) often are just not the same afterwards. So, whether its leaky boobs, saggy skin, stretch marks, weight gain, or a more relaxed vagina, body image issues are legit. You may never get to the point of viewing your new body as a badge of honor of motherhood, but take some time to allow it to recover and to accept some of the changes in this new season of life. Talking to other moms, staying active, and returning to a regular exercise routine can help the process.

Bleeding, Scars, and Tears

Here are a some common factors that determine when it is safe to return to sex explained:

You want to make sure vaginal bleeding has stopped and any scar tissue from an episiotomy or tear has healed. More severe tears or scars can take up to 6-12 months to heal. So, be patient with your body and don’t push through any pain. Learning how to perform gentle scar massage on the area starting 6 weeks after your delivery can help soften the tissue and promote faster healing. You can consult a pelvic physical therapist for advice.

Tips For Returning To Sex After Giving Birth

What If Sex Is Painful?

Even if you did not have a vaginal delivery, C-section scars can often be the culprit of painful intercourse. The vaginal muscles have decreased blood flow and may get too tense causing pain with sex. Seeing a pelvic physical therapist who can perform external scar massage and internal massage to the vaginal muscles can help improve blood flow. Using vaginal dilators (they look like tampons of different sizes) also can help retrain the vaginal wall muscles to relax and promote blood flow to the area to help decrease pain. 

What To Do About Vaginal Dryness Postpartum?

Pain also can occur during sex because your vagina feels dry, like really dry. Like Sahara desert dry. Estrogen levels may not have returned to normal yet, especially if you are nursing or pumping, causing vaginal tissue to be thin, dry, and even prone to tearing. Use a water-soluble lubricant or natural oil like coconut oil (and lots of it!) during intercourse to help decrease friction. Staying super hydrated and performing gentle kegel exercises to help promote blood flow to the area can also help.

What If I Have No Desire For Sex Postpartum?

Lastly, you may have nooooo sex drive. You are exhausted, irritable, emotional, and in desperate need of a shower. Doing your partner a solid by getting busy is low on the list of priorities. Don’t push yourself to do something you don’t feel ready for, but do try taking small steps to stay connected with your partner. A frequent complaint from new moms is they often feel lonely and less connected to their partners. Being intimate is a great way to connect and can just entail having outercourse. That can be anything from holding hands or cuddling to other forms of foreplay or fondling.

The takeaway here is to be patient with yourself and your body as it heals. You should return to sex at the pace that is comfortable for you. And remember, painful intercourse is NOT normal. Talk to your doc and request to see a pelvic physical therapist who can help guide you on the path to pain-free and enjoyable sex.

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Are you currently pregnant or planning to conceive? If so, make sure to download my FREE resource — 5 Myths We’ve Been Told About Pregnant Bodies!  I correct common pregnancy myths and give you tons of tips to help you feel strong and healthy for 40 weeks and beyond.
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Sara Reardon PT, DPT, WCS is the owner of NOLA Pelvic Health and founder of The Vagina Whisperer, a resource for online pelvic health education and therapy to help women worldwide with pelvic health conditions. She is a board certified women’s health physical therapist with a special interest in treating pelvic pain and pregnancy and postpartum conditions. She is a mom, wife, Saints fan and wanna be yogi.

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