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Elena Donovan Mauer

Sex After Baby: What The First Time Is Really Like

You probably know when you'll be allowed to have sex again, but what’s going to happen when you finally get back in the sack?

When can you start having sex after birth? The best answer to this question is simply to make sure you’re ready—physically and mentally—and make sure your partner understands your feelings and concerns. You may face some challenges as you consider your “first time” all over again. But being prepared is half the battle. Here, some important guidelines on sex after vaginal and c-section births—and, to set your mind at ease, stories about their first-time experiences of postpartum sex from real-life moms.

Sex After Baby

Most OBs tell their patients to wait at least four to six weeks to have sex after birth, but the truth is, moms are waiting anywhere from a couple weeks to, well, months and months to have sex after baby. Whether you’re ready right now or choose to wait, that’s perfectly okay! Just think carefully before you make the decision to have sex again. The trouble with jumping into sex after pregnancy before six weeks postpartum is that you might cause further injury to lacerations that haven’t healed yet or you can risk infection. “You really should wait until your six-week postpartum visit and have an exam,” says Laura Riley, MD, Director of Labor and Delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of You & Your Baby: Pregnancy. “You should be completely back on your feet, no longer bleeding, have had a conversation about birth control and started taking birth control.”

Another major consideration? Birth control. After birth, many new moms haven’t gotten back on birth control. This is risky because even if you haven’t had your first postpartum period yet, you could still get pregnant, and that takes a toll on your already exhausted body.“Studies have shown that women who have babies too close together may be at higher risk for some complications, such as low birth weight,” says Riley. “And you probably want to be in a better psychological state before you go back to being pregnant again.”

Painful Sex After Baby

We know you’re dying to know what sex after baby is going to feel like, but no one can answer that with total certainty. Some moms report painful sex after birth. Others have no pain. Chalk it up to the same reasons some women breeze through pregnancy without morning sickness or hemorrhoids: Everyone is different.

Painful sex after baby can be caused by a number of different factors. “Things shift around,” says Riley. “Your uterus and cervix may be lower than it used to be. You might have had a repair that is a little bit tight.”

Heightened levels of estrogen can lead to dryness, especially if you’re breastfeeding. It’s smart to arm yourself with water-based lubricant just in case when preparing to have sex. (Riley says the non-water based lubricants can actually dry you out!) You should also ask your partner to focus on the foreplay to help you get in the mood for sex after pregnancy.

Sex After C-Section

Since a cesarean birth doesn’t include the birth canal directly, you may be wondering, “When can I have sex after a c-section?” Well, it’s not a great idea to rush into sex after c-section. Oftentimes the cervix is dilated after delivery despite the fact that baby wasn’t born vaginally. Many women begin to dilate weeks before their due date, and with a dilated (or open) cervix, bacteria from the vagina can travel directly into the uterus and cause an infection (and that really doesn’t sound fun!) if you engage in postpartum sex too early.

Painful Sex After C-Section

And get ready to experiment with positions—your tried and true ones might make you a little uncomfortable (for now), if you’re experiencing sensitivity in certain places. This is especially true with having sex after c-section, since you’ve just been through major surgery. Even though you may feel fine, you may find that painful sex after c-section is mostly related to your healing incision rather than vaginal tears or stitches.

Bleeding After Sex Postpartum

Another not-so-fun thing about sex after baby is that it may cause you to start bleeding again. We know—been there, done that. After four to five weeks of postpartum bleeding, that’s the last thing you want to deal with, but rest assured it won’t last long, and it’s completely normal. There are two main causes of bleeding after postpartum sex:

  • Irritated cervix. Regardless of how you gave birth, you can be sure that your cervix has been through a lot over the past nine months, so sex after giving birth will likely cause some light bleeding due to this irritation.
  • Uterine cramping. If you’re one of the few lucky enough to experience an orgasm from sex after pregnancy (or even postpartum masturbation), you may experience some light bleeding since the orgasm will cause your uterus to contract.

No Sex Drive After Baby

Don’t feel like having sex at 6 weeks postpartum? There’s nothing wrong with waiting even longer. For a host of reasons—some obvious and some not as much—many moms find that they have a low sex drive after baby. But don’t worry, you'll get your mojo back. Trust us—you’re not destined for uncomfortable sex forever. Here are some of the top reasons for having no sex drive after baby.

  • Your hormones are out of whack. We all know that pregnancy and birth bring on a roller coaster of emotions and hormones, and as a result, you may find yourself uninterested in sex. Not only that, estrogen levels plummet after birth and during breastfeeding. This is what prevents ovulation, but it also leads to vaginal dryness, which can exacerbate painful sex after birth.
  • You’re exhausted, overwhelmed and need physical space. “Some new moms are physically and mentally fatigued, and not feeling sexy,” says Riley. After having a baby attached to you quite literally all day and most of the night, you may just want two seconds of peace and quiet when you hit the sack for the night. Many moms find that they feel incredulous and even a bit angry that their partner feels justified in delaying their sleep, even for a few minutes!
  • You’re afraid it will hurt. “[New moms are] anxious about their vaginal area being ready,” Riley says.“Some are still leaking urine. If you’re tense, sex is more likely to be uncomfortable.” Sex after baby can definitely be a bit painful. Not only that, if you’ve had stitches it can be downright scary! Waiting the recommended six weeks will give your body plenty of time to heal, so as long as your partner is gentle, you shouldn’t have to worry about tearing or causing further damage to the area.

Some women say postpartum sex gets back to normal within a few times. For others it takes a little longer—sometimes up to a year, says Riley—but they do get there. If your libido is lagging, try these tips to rekindle the intimacy with your partner, which is more important than ever now that you’ve started a family together.

  • Plan a date night that leads up to the main event.
  • Take a bath together.
  • Engage in plenty of foreplay, focusing on both partners.

Does Sex After Baby Get Better?

So what do other mamas say sex after pregnancy was like? Some loved it. Some hated it. Some waited a while—and some simply couldn’t help themselves when having sex after baby.

“Our first time was really bad physically speaking, but it was nice to reconnect with my husband. I'll be honest: It did not feel comfortable, even going slow and using lots of lube. My advice to you would be to not try for your first time on your anniversary—that's really just going to add a lot of pressure to something that can already be a little difficult.” — vanillacourage

“We did it five-and-a-half weeks postpartum, and it was awesome. It didn't hurt at all. I don’t know if it was because it had been so long, but man, oh man, was it good!” — wifey~n~mama

“We waited 10 weeks. We had some wine, used some lube and it didn’t hurt a bit. I couldn’t believe it, since I had two episiotomies and was really swollen. I was totally scared at first, but it was great!” — Bakler

“I don't know if I'm a bad person, but I couldn't wait the four weeks the doctor told me to wait. I won't lie—it was around two weeks. We took it easy, so as not to cause any pain. Use a condom!” — lizzmac21

“I can tell you that if you delivered vaginally, it may help to go on top.” — cmumama

“I gave birth a little over a month ago. I had a c-section so I didn't expect any pain, but it hurt! I totally felt like I was a virgin all over again! It hurt so much at first that I thought we were going to have to stop, but after a lot of deep breaths and having my husband go very slowly, it turned out to be okay. The odd thing is, that after the pain subsided, and we kept going, I ended up having one of the best orgasms ever.” — zyas

“We waited about eight weeks because I was so sore. I had fourth-degree tears. It was painful, but we used a ton of lube. After the first couple of times, it didn't hurt anymore, and sex felt the same as it had pre-pregnancy. For me, it felt like losing my virginity again.” — mommy510

“My husband and I have only done it two times postpartum. It’s so hard for me to get in the mood. I lost all my baby weight, but I feel so flabby and I have so many stretch marks. I’m breastfeeding and my boobs are so off limits to him. I have never been the self-conscious type, but it's so hard to feel sexy when I’m not comfortable with the way my body looks.” — BeachBlondie456

“I don't remember it being crazy painful. And things were back to pretty much business as usual after just a few attempts. I'd had a second-degree tear, and I could feel where that had been. There is also a position that we pretty much can never do again—ever—because of a weird sensitive spot I'd never had before.” — redjetta22

“We didn't put expectations on our first time back in the saddle. It had been 10 months for us, because I was put on pelvic rest, and the goal was to just have it with as little pain as possible. And it wasn't bad for me at all. I was all afraid for nothing. If you're feeling self-conscious about your body, remember that your husband loves you. If he's anything like mine, he won't care at all [about the changes]. If you want to do something to feel better, get some babydoll lingerie that covers your breasts and midsection and makes you feel pretty.” — toriwc

PHOTO: Getty Images