Sexual activity after childbirth

by Kaiser Permanente |

After your baby arrives, you might start thinking about when it’s OK to resume sexual activity. There are a lot of factors that go into this decision, including what kind of birth you had, how fast your body heals, and when you feel ready emotionally. Here are some general guidelines:

How will I know when I can resume sexual activity?

When childbirth has gone smoothly and there are no complications, you can usually resume sexual activity whenever you feel ready. Most clinicians suggest waiting between 4 and 6 weeks before resuming sexual activity, but some couples may be ready sooner. Each person’s healing process is different. In general, it’s best to wait until vaginal bleeding has stopped for at least a week. Your clinician will let you know if there was a complication that would make it advisable to wait longer to resume sex.

What does it mean to feel ready?

You may feel ready when:

  • If you had stitches, it feels like they have healed.
  • If you had a cesarean birth, your incision has healed and the pain has gone away.
  • You feel safe and comfortable.
  • You desire being physically intimate with your partner.

Some other things to know in advance

  • Plan ahead and pick a time when you think the baby will be sleeping so that you are more relaxed.
  • If you are breastfeeding, sexual activity, especially orgasm, can cause milk to leak, so have a towel handy.
  • You may experience genital tenderness and less vaginal lubrication due to hormonal shifts after birth.
  • Massage, foreplay, sexual play without penetration, and lubricants may help relieve vaginal dryness.

Give yourself the time you need

Your body may change for a few months or even up to a year after childbirth. Your hormones are “resetting” after all the changes you experienced during pregnancy and your body needs to heal from your birth. Give yourself time to recover.

Having a new baby is very demanding and can stress parental relationships. Open communication about your feelings with your partner and making time for each other is important. Even though it is hard with a new baby, it is worth the effort.

When will I get my period again?

If you are breastfeeding, it could take 2-12 months or longer for your period to resume. If you aren’t breastfeeding, it will usually resume 2-6 weeks after birth. Keep in mind that it can take a few cycles for your period to become regular.

When do I need birth control?

If you are partnered with someone with whom you could become pregnant, you can still conceive a baby, even if your period hasn’t started yet. If you don’t want to get pregnant, it’s important to use birth control every time you have sex. Breastfeeding does not protect you from getting pregnant.

Discuss your birth control options with your clinician at any of your appointments or in the hospital. Your choices may include birth control pills, implants, injections, rings, or condoms.

Start using your chosen method as soon as you resume having sex. Some good choices include:

  • Intrauterine device. This small, plastic, T-shaped device is inserted in the uterus and is effective for 7 to 12 years. IUDs can be removed whenever you decide you want to get pregnant.
  • Nexplanon. This contraceptive implant is inserted in the skin of your upper arm and lasts 3-5 years. It can be removed at any time you want to get pregnant.
  • Depo-Provera. This shot containing the hormone progestin is given every three months. It is safe to use while you are breastfeeding.
  • Birth control pills. Talk with your clinician about the best pill for you. If you are breastfeeding, “mini-pills” containing only progestin may be the best choice.
  • Condoms. These can also be used while you are waiting to start another method.
  • Natural family planning. Talk with your clinician about how breastfeeding can affect this method.

You will be busy when your baby comes, so it is a good idea to think about your options and discuss them with your clinician before you have the baby. Nexplanon and IUDs can be inserted while you’re still in the hospital. A Depo-Provera shot can also be given there.

You can learn more with our Birth Control Guide, available on the Kaiser Permanente website. Feel free to ask your clinician about any questions that you might have.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.

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