Postpartum Sex

A couple talking about postpartum sex and what it might be like now.
Catherine Falls Commercial/Moment/Getty Images
10 Things To Talk Through Before Having Sex Postpartum

Life has changed. Your feelings about sex may have changed, too.

by Autumn Jones
Originally Published: 

Remember those steamy nights when you and your partner ripped off your clothes and got busy in the middle of the living room? Sure you do. In fact, that's probably how you ended up with a new baby. And now that the baby’s here, you're going to go right back to all that X-rated business, right? Well, maybe not right away. Having a baby changes more than just your sleeping schedule — that little bundle’s arrival will probably influence your sex life as well. Open communication is key when it comes to postpartum sex. But it can be hard to know how or when to even broach the topic. “It’s best to keep an open line of conversation and discuss concerns and expectations before the baby is born, as well as after,” says Dr. Jill M. Krapf, an OB-GYN who specializes in female sexual pain and a member of The Body Agency's Body Board.

How to talk to your partner about postpartum sex

When broaching the subject of postpartum sex, use your best communication skills, and make time to have the conversation outside of the bedroom rather than during a sexual encounter, suggests Dr. Laurie Mintz, Professor of Psychology at the University of Florida and author of A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex and Becoming Cliterate and a member of The Body Agency's Body Board. “The best time to have the talk is before a problem emerges to prevent it or, if a problem emerges, as soon after as possible,” Mintz urges. “Start with a meta-communication (or a communication about communication) and then own your needs with a clear ‘I’ statement. Then, ask the partner’s reaction with curiosity.”

Mintz offers a simple example that you could use as a template for starting a conversation about what you and your partner should expect from postpartum sex:

I want to talk to you about something that is a bit difficult to talk about, yet I need to do so because I love you and our relationship. I hope you will listen and not get defensive or worried. I want to have this conversation because I want us to stay connected, emotionally and sexually, as we transition into parenthood.

The chaos of pregnancy doesn't end after you get that baby out of your belly. Body changes, emotional or hormonal fluctuations, and physical realities (hello, next-level exhaustion) may cause you to feel less like yourself than ever before. Krapf emphasizes the importance of letting your partner know about everything that’s going on with you as you adjust to your new life, saying that “the 6-week postpartum check is not meant to be an ‘all clear’ for sexual activity. It is a time to check healing and ask questions about expectations moving forward based on your individual birth experience and breastfeeding plan.” Here are 10 things to talk about as you find your footing, together.


Birth control

Carol Yepes/Moment/Getty Images

Even though it may take some time before you start having a regular period again, your body starts ovulating after your delivery — many times without you even realizing. Talk with your partner about what type of birth control you will use during this interim time.



The right time to resume sexual activity and vaginal intercourse depends on many different factors, explains Krapf, including length of labor and pushing, vaginal delivery versus cesarean section, severity of perineal tear, rate of healing, breastfeeding, how fast the menstrual period returns, motivation, relationship, and so forth. “Most new mothers are not ready to resume vaginal intercourse at the 6 week mark,” she says. “It is best to discuss with the OB-GYN at a postpartum visit. It is possible to get pregnant, even in the postpartum period. It is important to discuss birth control options with your OB-GYN to be able to optimally space out pregnancies, or prevent pregnancy, if desired.”



“Pain after childbirth is very common,” says Krapf. How common? Nearly a third of women report pain with intercourse at three months postpartum, she explains. The reasons for discomfort or pain during sex postpartum may vary a lot person to person, and can depend on how your delivery went. Perhaps you have a tear? That will take up to 8 weeks to fully heal, Krapf reminds. Hormonal changes may be to blame, too. “Hormones decrease in the postpartum period and breastfeeding can keep these hormones suppressed, leading to decreased libido, less natural lubrication, and pain with insertion.”



Olga Shumytskaya/Moment/Getty Images

Speaking of pain, if the spirit is willing but the body is uncooperative, lube may be the answer you’re looking for. While lube may not have played a role in your sex life before, for postpartum sex, it’s a must. “It is important to take it slow when you resume intercourse and use plenty of lubricant, even if you never needed lubricant before,” echoes Krapf. “Levels of estrogen decrease after childbirth and stay low with breastfeeding. This affects the glands of the vagina and vulvar vestibule that produce natural lubrication.”

If you’re not sure how to bring this up, Mintz offers this conversation starter template, which based on the concept of broaching these topics from a place of curiosity, and starting with ‘I’ statement:

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about postpartum sex. I’ve learned that when breastfeeding, I won’t produce lubrication like I used to and that without this, intercourse can hurt. I want us to prepare for this in advance. I don’t want to hurt and I know you don’t want to hurt me. So, I am going to buy some lube and will need to put it on my genitals and your penis before penetration to make it more comfortable. What’s your reaction?



Your body has been through a lot of changes since the moment you conceived, and more bodily surprises can pop-up after childbirth as well. Breastmilk can leak during sex, which may come as a surprise in the heat of the moment. Although it doesn't happen in every breastfeeding mother, discussing the possibility will help with any potential awkwardness.

Other things that may surprise both of you about what postpartum sex looks and feels like, according to Krapf, may include the fact that a breastfeeding partner may not want their breasts to be touched because of sore nipples or engorgement and a new need for lubrication during sex.



Caia Image/Collection Mix: Subjects/Getty Images

Before hopping back in the sack, you need to be clear about what you expect, and discuss those expectations with your partner. If you want to take it slow, not use penetration yet, or try positions that might be more comfortable for you, make these things known before getting down to business. This sets the tone and allows you to monitor how far your body is ready to go.



It's no surprise that having a baby takes up a gigantic piece of mental real estate. So when it's time to shift gears and get into your sexy mood, you may feel a little distracted. Listening for the baby and worrying if she's OK will take you out of a lusty moment, so let your partner know up front that it's nothing personal. In time, you'll be able to let go more and enjoy your adult time.


‘Touched out’

Gary S Chapman/Photodisc/Getty Images

Snuggling, holding, and nursing a baby all day can leave a parent feeling touched out, meaning the last thing they want is more hand on their body after the baby is asleep. Talking about these feelings and exploring other ways to be intimate may be best until you start feeling like more human contact. “Taking care of a baby is exhausting, both physically and mentally. Sleep is interrupted, the body is healing, breastfeeding requires extra energy, and hormones are often low. The feeling of being ‘touched out’ is very common,” Krapf explains, adding that sometimes, sex can feel like yet another obligation. “The body is changing in the postpartum period as well and can continue to do so for over a year. This affects body self-image after having a baby. These feelings and changes are very common and expected.”


Turn ons & turn offs

What turned you on before may be different now. For example, if you're breastfeeding, you may have the urge to keep your breasts off limits during sex. You may not feel this way forever, but it's important to let your partner know how you're feeling before hopping between the sheets.



Oleg Breslavtsev/Moment/Getty Images

With so many changes happening at once, it's likely to feel the whole continuum of emotions in just one day. “Hormones, lack of sleep, overwhelm, and many other factors can lead to emotional changes after having a baby. In addition, it is important to be aware of postpartum depression and anxiety,” Krapf stresses. “If you or your partner are concerned, it is important to discuss this with your doctor.” Explain to your partner that if your feelings about sex change often, it has nothing to do with them. Having the support of your partner during this time will allow you to get through it as a team and bring you closer (which will probably lead to better sex).

The first few times you have sex postpartum may feel a bit unfamiliar and — let’s be honest — awkward. Remember that it’s super normal to feel a little confused and clumsy as you try to find your groove again. Time and patience will likely get you right back to more familiar territory. Waiting until you’re really ready, stocking up on lube, and talking through what to expect with your partner, should help make it a better experience for all.


Dr. Jill M. Krapf, M.D., MEd FACOG IF, Associate Director, The Center for Vulvovaginal Disorders and Clinical Associate Professor, The George Washington University

Dr. Laurie Mintz, Professor of Psychology at the University of Florida and author of A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex and Becoming Cliterate

As part of our Shameless initiative, BDG has partnered with The Body Agency health platform and its non-profit TBA Collective to aid in their mission of empowering women and people of all genders with health resources, products, and education. You can support their non-profit work by donating Dignity Kits to those in underserved communities across the world here.

This article was originally published on