After you give birth, your body, your relationship, and your life undergo profound changes, so it's no wonder that your sex life might change, too. At first, sex might feel a little strange, or even painful, as your body heals and you learn to relax into new motherhood. But it's not forever. So when will sex feel normal after giving birth? There's a pretty good guideline to follow before you should see a doctor. After baby, OB-GYNs and sex therapists will be more than happy to help you get your sex life back on track.
"Typically, we see women for a six-week postpartum follow up, and that’s usually where they get that clean bill of health and we say it’s OK for them to start having sex again — if they feel comfortable with it," explains Dr. Kristin Lyerly, OB-GYN, of the Park Nicollet Maple Grove Clinic & Specialty Center, in an interview with Romper. "Most women at that point are healed enough and comfortable enough. However, some women have prolonged healing." Reasons you might take longer to heal include a bad laceration sustained during delivery, or extensive bruising.
When childbirth wounds take longer than expected to heal, it's a good idea to give your doctor a call — you don't want to risk an infection, and you shouldn't have to put up with pain during intercourse. While it's different for each woman, Lyerly explains that by the six-month mark, sex should feel comfortable again. But there's one caveat: when you're breastfeeding, estrogen levels plummet, which can lead to vaginal dryness, according to What To Expect. Luckily, lubricants and prescription estrogen creams can be a big help, says Lyerly, so don't be afraid to ask your doctor for whatever you need.
If you've just had a baby, I'm sure you're not shocked to learn that as far as your vagina's concerned, it's not in Kansas anymore. "Postpartum sex could feel very different for some women because of temporary changes to the muscle elasticity around the vaginal walls," observes Dr. Laura Deitsch, aka Dr. Shameless, resident sexologist at Vibrant. According to Self, it may take 12 weeks to a year for your vagina to return to its former shape, and it might never be quite the same. (Not necessarily worse where sex is concerned — just different.) "Also, depending on if a woman had an episiotomy, she might have a very different sensation around the vaginal opening if the stitches created a differently-shaped space or are still healing," notes Deitsch.
Psychology can also affect your experience in the bedroom. In the months after baby is born, you might behave differently out of a fear of pain, says Deitsch. For instance, you might unconsciously tense up, causing muscles to tighten. Then there's your ever-changing postpartum life. "The variety of factors which could lead to changes are endless," writes Deitsch. "A woman might suddenly feel unsure of her role and have a change in identity now that she's a mom, and the same for her partner. The partner might view the new mom differently and demonstrate subtle, even subconscious, changes in attitude or treatment which could impact how the mom reacts."
A postpartum sex life is a complex stew. Hormones, fatigue, stress, body image changes, role shifts, and nursing can all impact the way sex feels to you and to your partner. Whatever's going on, if you're not happy with your sex life after six months, reach out to your OB-GYN. They can lay out your options, or refer you to another doctor or therapist. Yes, life is changing fast, but there's no reason that comfortable, satisfying sex shouldn't be a part of your new world.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.