Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Sex after childbirth?

Posted on: January 3, 2009

This has always been a subject that fascinated me, and one that I think we ought to speak more about.

Many women do not realise that they will bleed for some time after the birth; the “books” I believe talk about a couple of week, or perhaps up to a month, but in my experience the bleeding or “lochia” often lasts much longer than this.  This is not to say heavy bleeding, more like the end of a period with bleeding stopping and then starting again (often when the woman has been very active – I usually feel that this is nature’s way of encouraging more rest).  I really am unsure whether women bleed less after a caesarean – you can reply and tell me your thoughts – but I think this may be the case.  What I do know is that it is far from unusual for women to still have occasional bleeding at six weeks postpartum.

So … sex …. many books and professionals imply that the six week postnatal check with the GP is checking that “everything is back in place” and that you are ready to resume your sex life; I have also heard that in the past some doctors actually “expected” that you should have resumed sex by six weeks (your poor husband!).  I don’t believe it is as simple as that.  I know that there are some couples who resume sexual activity very early after the birth, and I also know that there are others who wait many months.  There is no RIGHT time, the time is right when you are both ready.

If the birth has been difficult, if you have stitches you will obviously need to wait until these are healed and you are comfortable; this combined with feeding a baby, lack of sleep and leaking breasts is not conducive to lovemaking. Some women also report feeling “touched out” because they are spending so much time touching their baby that they don’t want to be touched by their partner.  Take heart – all things are temporary and things will get back to a new kind of normal eventually.

If you continue to feel perineal (the area between the vagina and the anus) discomfort or pain then TELL SOMEONE – tell your midwife, your health visitor or your GP.  There is much that can be done to get you back to normal; you should not have long-term discomfort.

The first time you will need to take things slowly and gently and perhaps use some lubrication and you will need to consider contraception as, even though you are unlikely to fall pregnant whilst fully breastfeeding, it is still possible.  The six week postnatal check is an obvious time to discuss contraception, but if you do resume relations before then it would be wise to use a condom unless you know you wouldn’t mind another pregnancy.  As a midwife I do see clients who return pregnant sooner than expected, but I am also very aware that exclusively breastfeeding a baby (particularly if the baby feeds a lot at night) gives a high degree of protection. www.brook.org.uk/content/M2_1_12_familyplanning.asp and www.fpa.org.uk/information/leaflets/documents_and_pdfs/detail.cfm?contentid=159#4 are just two of the many websites offering information about natural family planning and contraception in general.

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4 Responses to "Sex after childbirth?"

Thanks for this – this topic interests me. Although we resumed activities before the 6-week PP green light, it took much, much longer for me to feel normal again. Breastfeeding had a lot to do with it, for me. Plus being self-concious about the “new” body.

Great article… I hear from women all the time about sex before the 6week postnatal check, panicking because they think they may have done something wrong. Personally after my first child I felt finealmost immediately and my second child was concieved before 6wks… But having just had my 6th child I am definately in the “touched out” category. But I think I’ve been everywhere inbetween too. I tend to be of the opinion that I know my body best and if it feels OK then it probably is…

Thanks Sarah and Sarah-Jean – this is definitely a subject that touches a nerve for a lot of women and one that I feel we should be talking more about, thanks for sharing your experiences.

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