Sex after pregnancy: what you need to know

The first few months after having a baby are tough. Not only are you settling into a routine that involves feedings, diaper changes and a lot of sleepless nights, you’re also recovering from the birth itself. With everything going on, sex is probably the last thing on your mind—and that’s okay. When you’re fully recovered and ready to be intimate again, there are ways to reconnect with your partner in a safe, loving way that’s personal to you. 

How long to wait: think “safety first”

Most doctors recommend waiting six weeks after giving birth to have sex again. This allows for general healing and for your body to recover from specific birth-related issues, such as:

  • Vaginal tear or episiotomy (an incision that enlarges the vaginal opening for the baby to come through)
  • Cesarean incision
6 Weeks

Everyone heals at a different pace, so listen to your body. If you’re not ready for sex in six weeks—either physically or emotionally—be patient with yourself. Talk to your partner about your feelings, and find other ways to bond. Cuddle under the covers, give each other a massage or go for a walk—just the two of you—while someone watches the baby.

How will it feel: expect some physical issues

Think about it: you just labored and delivered a baby into this world. It’s normal for your body to take some time to recover. As a result, you might experience some physical discomforts during sex, including:

  • Vaginal soreness or pain
  • Vaginal dryness, especially if you’re breastfeeding
  • Discharge
  • Nipple soreness
  • Backaches and joint pain
  • Cesarean incision pain or numbness 

Most of these issues go away on their own, but there are things you can do to make sex feel better as your body heals.

What you can do: take these steps as you heal

  • Seek pain relief. Before having sex, empty your bladder and take over-the-counter pain medicine. If you feel burning afterwards, apply ice wrapped in a towel to the area.
  • Use a lubricant. Vaginal dryness is a common problem as your hormones readjust, so apply a lubricant to make the area wetter. Look for a water-based option since oil-based ones can irritate sensitive tissue.
  • Increase foreplay. Give your vagina time to produce its own natural lubrication. Stretch out foreplay, try mutual masturbation or engage in other activities that arouse you and your partner.
  • Practice Kegel exercises. Kegels can rebuild your pelvic muscles and help with common post-delivery issues, like increased urination. Exercising the muscles can also help you regain strength and sensation in your vagina.
  • Make time for sex. With a new baby in the house, you don’t have much “alone time” for your partner—so schedule it on the calendar! This way, you won’t feel rushed or anxious.
  • Communicate with your partner. Sex after pregnancy is different—but different can be exciting. Talk with your partner about what feels good and what doesn’t. Be patient and understanding with each other. Honest communication can help put you on the path to a healthy, fulfilling sex life.

What you should know: getting pregnant again

Believe it or not, you can get pregnant again within a month or two of giving birth—even before your first period. Doctors recommend waiting at least eighteen months before getting pregnant again, which gives your body enough time to prepare for another pregnancy. Getting pregnant too soon after childbirth can open you up to a lot of pregnancy-related issues, like preterm birth or a baby with a low birthweight.

18 Months

To prevent getting pregnant too soon, it’s important to use a safe, reliable form of birth control. There are many factors to consider when choosing birth control, like lifestyle, medical history, long-term family plans and impact on breastfeeding.

Ask yourself these 3 questions when choosing birth control

How much effort will it take?

Each form of birth control requires different amounts of effort from you to be effective. For example, IUDs and implants are low maintenance since you don’t need to do anything once your doctor implants them. Other methods require more conscious effort, like the Pill (which needs to be taken at the same time each day). Learning how to use birth control correctly can take time and practice. If you use them wrong, they may not work and you could become pregnant.

2. Is it safe for breastfeeding?

Some types of hormonal birth control options aren’t safe to use when breastfeeding, so it’s important to discuss them with your doctor before using them.

3. Does it support my birth spacing plan?

If you plan on having another baby, think about how long you want to wait before getting pregnant again (after the 18-month safety period). Certain birth control methods prevent pregnancy for longer periods of time than others. For example, IUDs and implants can work for years, while barrier methods can be easily started and stopped. So timing is something you should consider if life circumstances (like your age) are a factor.

What to consider: selecting birth control

Birth control is a personal decision—and one that only you can make after discussing the various factors with your doctor. There are a variety of methods to choose from, including:

  • SIUDs and implants. Your doctor places these plastic devices in your body to prevent pregnancy for long periods of time. You can breastfeed while using  a non-copper IUD or implant. When you’re ready to get pregnant again, your doctor removes them.
  • Hormonal methods. The popular Pill and the patch contain hormones that prevent you from ovulating and getting pregnant. If you’re breastfeeding, discuss these options with your doctor to make sure they’re safe.
  • Barrier methods. Condoms and diaphragms are examples of common barrier methods. They work by blocking or killing your partner’s sperm from reaching and fertilizing your egg. Condoms also help protect you from sexually transmitted infections and diseases.
  • Natural family planning. With this method (also called fertility awareness or rhythm method), you track your menstrual cycle to figure out when you’re ovulating in order to avoid having unprotected sex.

Download our birth control comparison chart here.

Reviewed March 2023