Ironically, the question of when it's safe to have sex after giving birth can be awkward to ask, even of the doctor who was with you every step of the way during your pregnancy and was the first person to hold your baby.
Your doctor, however, knows your body as well as you do, and she is the best person to ask for advice about intimacy.
Typically, we'll advise new moms to wait six weeks after delivery to have full intercourse.
- Dr. Natasha Withers, primary care physician
Your Body Knows
"The most crucial thing is to listen to your body: Do you feel ready to have vaginal intercourse?” asked Dr. Natasha Withers, a primary care physician at the One Medical Group in Manhattan. “If it feels uncomfortable or at all painful, definitely don't proceed.
"Typically, we'll advise new moms to wait six weeks after delivery to have full intercourse. That's the point when you have your follow-up checkup if you've had a normal vaginal birth, so you can ask your doctor if you are healed enough to proceed." For women who've had a C-section, if there is no pain and you're healing well, waiting six weeks is her advice as well.
The good news for you -- and your partner -- is that gentle, non-penetrating sexual activity can resume as soon as two weeks after delivery if you feel ready for it, Withers said.
Several issues can delay a woman's readiness for intimacy. "If you've had significant tearing or abrasions during delivery and needed sutures, or you have any swelling, you may need to wait longer," Withers said.
Post-birth, many women also experience vaginal dryness, often for the first time in their lives, because of a hormonal change. Estrogen levels drop post-birth and while you’re breastfeeding, leading to a lack of natural moisture. There is no cause for alarm, Withers advised; simply use extra lubricant. Generally, after you stop breastfeeding, your moisture levels will return to normal.
Don’t Forget Contraception
Interestingly enough, Withers said that for women who use family planning methods, "the most important sexual subject to discuss with your doctor post-pregnancy is contraception."
Though many people think that it's not possible to get pregnant right after birth or while breastfeeding, that's not true. "Talk to your doctor about your contraception before or immediately after you have your baby,” Withers said. “The idea that you can't get pregnant right away is a myth. Breastfeeding is not a barrier. You should leave the hospital with contraception.”
Since the demands of newborns often overwhelm new moms, Withers advised using a method that requires a minimum of maintenance. She recommended a contraceptive injection, which lasts eight to 12 weeks; hormone-releasing rings, each of which is effective for three weeks; or an IUD, which can stay in place for years. "Oftentimes, contraceptive rings are placed into the uterus in the delivery room," Withers said.
Ultimately, keeping your body healthy while maintaining a happy sex life is all about being open and honest with your physician.