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Intimacy After Childbirth: What to Expect

By Akwaowo Akpan

Most couples assume that intimacy after childbirth will be the same as before, but the reality is somewhat different. Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding can significantly impact a woman’s body and attitude toward intimacy. In addition, hormonal changes, physical discomfort, and the stress of becoming new parents can all affect sex life after having a baby. As a sexual health expert, I will discuss what to expect after having a baby and tips to make intimacy more comfortable.

What to Expect Sexually After Childbirth

It is common for couples to experience a decrease in sexual desire after childbirth; this might be attributed to the hormonal changes and fatigue associated with delivery. It could also result from focusing on the baby’s needs, leaving little time for intimacy. New parents might find it challenging to stay silent and undisturbed with a newborn who needs regular attention in the house. Additionally, postpartum bleeding, soreness, and other physical or emotional Changes could make it uncomfortable to engage in sexual activity.

Physical Changes 

 For women, these changes may include: 

  • Vaginal dryness is caused by reduced estrogen levels, making sex uncomfortable or painful.  
  • Women who have undergone vaginal delivery may experience pain or discomfort in the perineum due to torn or stretched muscles, tissue, or stitches. 
  • Women who are breastfeeding may experience hormonal changes that can reduce vaginal lubrication and affect libido.  
  • Pregnancy and childbirth can cause women’s bodies to change (shape and weight) significantly, affecting body image and sexual confidence. 

 For men, physical changes after childbirth may include: 

  • Men may experience fatigue, stress, or changes in their body shape or weight, which can affect sexual performance and desire.  
  • Men may experience reduced desire for sex due to hormonal changes, stress, or worries about the baby’s care.  
  • Men may feel anxious or concerned about their partner’s physical health after childbirth, which can impact their sexual confidence.  

Emotional Changes 

For women, emotional changes after childbirth may include:  

  • Women may experience mood swings, anxiety, or depression due to hormonal changes or the stress of caring for a newborn.  
  • New mothers may experience difficulties getting enough sleep, making them more irritable or fatigued. 
  • Women may feel self-conscious about their bodies after childbirth, affecting sexual confidence. 

For men, emotional changes after childbirth may include:  

  • Men may also experience a lack of sleep during the early weeks of parenthood, which can affect sexual drive and interest.  
  • Men may feel overwhelmed by new responsibilities associated with caring for a baby, which can impact their sexual confidence.  
  • Feelings of distance from their partners due to the demands of caring for a newborn can affect their emotional and physical intimacy.

How Long to Wait After Childbirth

It’s critical to wait until your body can handle sex, even if you’re looking forward to it. There is no set time frame for a woman to resume sexual activity after childbirth; every woman is different. Doctors generally advise waiting until after the six-week postpartum checkup to ensure the body has fully recovered. Sexual activity should be postponed if bleeding, pain, or other physical symptoms persist.

 

Tips for resuming sexual activity after childbirth

  • Women and men need time to recover from childbirth’s physical and emotional stresses. Don’t feel pressured to resume sexual activity before you feel ready. It is essential to take it slow after childbirth. You may need to focus on intimacy and foreplay before moving to intercourse.
  • To feel more comfortable and supported, talk openly with your partner about any concerns or issues about resuming sexual activity. This can help you both. If sex is painful or uncomfortable, stop immediately. Listen to your body and only proceed when you feel ready.
  • If you experience vaginal dryness, using a water-based lubricant can help make sex more comfortable and enjoyable.  
  • Try different sexual positions that may be more comfortable for your body after childbirth. Finding comfortable positions can make sex more enjoyable. Positioning can aid in avoiding pain or discomfort. 
  • Pelvic floor exercises, also called Kegels, can help strengthen the muscles that support the bladder, uterus, and bowel, which can help improve postnatal recovery and sexual function.  
  • If you are not ready to have another baby, consider using safe and appropriate contraceptives for you and your partner.  
  • It is critical to avoid sex during menstrual cycles, particularly after childbirth. The risk of infection is higher during this time.
  • If you are experiencing persistent physical or emotional discomfort after childbirth that affects your sexual health or well-being, seek help from your healthcare provider or a professional counselor.

The bottom line

Intimacy can feel different after childbirth. Every woman is different, with no set time frame to resume sexual activity. The stress of having a new baby, hormonal changes, and in some cases, physical discomfort can all impact intimacy. Resuming sex after childbirth may require waiting until your body is ready, using contraception, and using lubrication as needed. Pelvic floor exercises can improve sexual activity after childbirth. Remember to take it slow, find comfortable positions, abstain from sex during menstruation, and don’t force yourself. Finally, keep the lines of communication open with your partner to avoid misunderstandings and receive support if needed.

Akwaowo Akpan is a talented health writer on the topic of sexual health. You can reach him here.  

Here are some resources to learn more about intimacy after childbirth:

Further Readings 

National Childbirth Trust: https://www.nct.org.uk/life-parent/sex-after-baby/sex-after-baby-10-questions-ask-yourself

NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/support-and-services/sex-and-contraception-after-birth/

Raising Children Network: https://raisingchildren.net.au/grown-ups/looking-after-yourself/your-relationship/sex-intimacy-after-baby

Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/sex-after-birth

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