Six weeks is not a magic number for getting back to sex!
Your postpartum checkup is at six weeks postpartum because at this point, wounds or surgical repairs should be healed and the uterus should have returned to its pre-pregnancy size. You are normal if you are not feeling ready to engage in physical intimacy at this time. If and when you participate in sexual intimacy is your choice. It can happen gradually, at your pace!
Communication and partnership during postpartum sex
Communication and consent are key in any sexual experience. This is even more important when navigating postpartum sex. It is normal to feel major shifts in your body image, desire, and your relationship with your partner. Your partner is also undergoing a major life transition, including their relationship to sexuality! We encourage you to communicate openly and be patient with yourself and your partner. Many find professional guidance (individually or as a couple) to be helpful in navigating this experience.
Have fun and feel good during postpartum sex
Too many people, “sex” means “vaginal intercourse.” If you’re not ready to try it, or it causes discomfort, you can still have sex! We lose out on all the other ways to experience sex when we focus on just one act of physical intimacy. Sampling the rest of the “menu” can be a great way to connect with your partner and your own body. You can use self-touch (masturbation) and/or involve your partner. Consider external sexual touch, oral sex, toys, and any other experiences that feel good.
We also hear from many new parents that even their non-sexual touch with their partner tends to drop off. Keep your connection strong through hugs, hand-holding, and non-sexual cuddling.
Choose a lubricant
Even if you have never regularly used a lubricant, we strongly recommend that you plan to use one when returning to sex postpartum.
Water-based: Most common and affordable, safe with all contraceptive methods. Most likely to contain preservatives and irritants – avoid “fun extra features,” KY, and Astroglide. Choose glycerin-free and preservative-free if possible.
Silicone-based: Good for those with recurrent yeast infections. Lasts longest, works in the shower or bath. Not compatible with silicone toys.
Oil-based: Coconut oil is the most common choice. Can be 100% organic, and hydrates tissues over time. Not compatible with condoms or other barriers made from latex or polyisoprene.
Lactation (producing breast milk) lowers the estrogen level in your body. This change reduces vaginal lubrication and increases sensitivity to friction. You will return back to your normal after you’ve fully weaned. Often, a lubricant isn’t enough to reduce burning/stinging with intercourse. Sometimes, people feel sensitive even with urination and some kinds of underwear. If this is the case, a topical estrogen cream can be extremely helpful! Discuss this with your obstetrics care provider if you’re interested.
Arousal is important for postpartum sex
Sexual arousal triggers changes that make sex more comfortable for female anatomy! When aroused, the body increases vaginal lubrication and increases the length and size of the vaginal canal. Even if your goal is vaginal penetration, foreplay and other forms of sexual intimacy are important to make it more comfortable when you get there!
When postpartum sex hurts
Pain when returning to penetrative intercourse is common and normal. It is common for pain to still be present even when all injuries have fully healed. Those who had more significant perineal tears or emergency cesarean deliveries are at highest risk, but anyone can experience it. If have pain with postpartum sex, and a lubricant does not solve the problem, we recommend seeking guidance.