Your sex life post-baby can be a totally different experience from what you remember prior to pregnancy. Instead of worrying about the strap on your lacy bra getting tangled, suddenly you’re worried about things like bleeding after postpartum sex. Especially considering you just bled for weeks on end after giving birth, seeing more blood once you’re able to have sex again can definitely cause some concern.
Read on to understand why this happens, how much is normal, and when to call your healthcare provider.
When Is It Safe To Have Postpartum Sex?
“The first 6 weeks are commonly considered the postpartum period and bleeding, regardless of intercourse, is expected for at least 2 of those weeks but commonly lasts through 6 weeks after first births,” birthing expert and doula Sara Lyons tells Romper. “That said, it’s normal for some women to continue bleeding for months postpartum. In the U.S., women are coached to wait until 6 weeks to start having intercourse again; by then most women aren’t bleeding anymore or are at the end of bleeding.”
To be honest, physical intimacy may be the last thing on your mind even after your OB/GYN has cleared you for sex. As Lyons puts it, “Frankly, most women aren’t having sex at 6 weeks postpartum — the physical healing, hormone shifts and exhaustion rarely make for a sexy combo.”
But, if you do decide to go for it once cleared by your doctor, it’s possible to see some bleeding afterward.
Why Does Bleeding After Postpartum Sex Happen?
As you might have figured out in the nine or so months you carried your baby, a small amount of superficial bleeding during pregnancy sex is pretty common. The same thing is true of postpartum sex.
“There can be many reasons that you may experience bleeding after sex. 63% of women experience postcoital bleeding — or bleeding after sex,” Dr. Michael Geria and Dr. Neely Elisha, obstetricians at Inspira Health tell Romper in a joint interview. “When you have an orgasm, the uterus contracts and if it is not completely healed, you may experience bleeding. The tissues of the vagina and uterus may still be inflamed from the delivery.”
Poor lubrication or dryness — which can totally happen post-pregnancy — can also cause a bit of spotting after postpartum sex.
“Superficial skin at the entrance can catch with penetrative intercourse if not lubricated well and tiny tears can happen which would lead to some blood seen after,” pelvic physiotherapist Kate Roddy tells Romper. “It may be common to have a couple streaks of blood on toilet paper if lubrication was inadequate or the postpartum person was tolerating pain during intercourse such that tiny friction tears did occur.” Roddy explains how both of these situations can be avoided below.
How Much Blood Is OK After Sex?
While any amount of blood after postpartum sex can be alarming, obstetrician Dr. Kim Langdon tells Romper that what you see “should only be spotting, not like a period and no clots.”
More blood than just a streak or two can be cause for concern. “If you have wet underwear or feel the need to put a pad in after sex due to the volume of blood, you should consult a doctor right away, especially if the bleeding continues,” Lyons tells Romper.
Can You Do Anything To Help Bleed Less After Postpartum Sex?
Taking care of your body during the postpartum period may sound like a no-brainer, but with a newborn to care for, sometimes self-care goes by the wayside. Geria and Elisha tell Romper that there are a few ways new moms can care for the intimate areas of their bodies to help aid in your body’s recovery and potentially decrease the potential for bleeding after postpartum sex.
“For you to recover as quickly as possible, use the perineal bottle to rinse after you urinate rather than wiping with toilet paper,” they explain. “When wiping after a bowel movement be gentle and always wipe from front to back. If you have stitches from an episiotomy or a tear, prevent constipation by taking a stool softener and avoid foods that are binding. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to help your digestive system.”
Roddy explains that you can also prepare your perineum to help prevent superficial tears. “Proper postpartum preparation for penetrative intercourse should be undertaken,” Roddy says. “In one study, they found 86% of women experienced painful postpartum sex on their first attempt.” Following her 5-step protocol on how to physically prepare your perineum for penetrative sex — including testing light touch before going for full-on penetration — may help.
Should You Call Your Doctor?
While noticing a bit of blood on toilet paper after sex or perhaps a streak on a bedsheet likely isn’t cause for concern, more blood may mean it’s time to check in with your doctor to see if there is a bigger problem to address. “Bleeding that saturates a pad in 2 hours or associated with clots the size of a quarter or larger are reasons to call your health care provider,” Geria and Elisha say.
Langdon tells Romper that if bleeding after sex “persists beyond 2 or 3 times or is heavy,” or if you experience pain, these would be reasons to contact a physician. Remember, your body is still healing after giving birth. Pay attention to your body, and reach out to your doctor if you’re concerned.
Sara Lyon, birthing expert, doula, author of The Birth Deck and You’ve Got This: Your Guide to Getting Comfortable with Labor
Dr. Kim Langdon, OB-GYN with Medzino