Blog – Postpartum sex: when to start and what it looks like

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There are no rules and standards for postpartum sex.

In general, women should wait four to six weeks after giving birth to allow their bodies time to heal. Most women are allowed to have sex again around six weeks, although some are advised to abstain from sex for longer depending on their health and recovery.

For some, six weeks may seem too early. The body goes through many important changes during pregnancy and childbirth, and it may take some time to feel empowered and comfortable in your new role as a parent.

Listen to your body and go at your own pace. Baby steps and seek other forms of intimacy if you need more time before trying to have sex immediately after giving birth.

When can you start having postpartum sex?

According to Dr Maria Keating, an obstetrician / gynecologist at Riddle Hospital in Main Line Health, most women can have sex six weeks after having a baby.

The date you can start having sex after childbirth varies depending on your medical history and whether you have any complications with childbirth.

Within four to six weeks of giving birth, women experience lochia, or bleeding that heals after birth. Keating does not recommend having sex if you are still bleeding after giving birth.

Having sex in the first few weeks after giving birth carries some health risks:

  • Have an infection
  • Slow or impaired healing after birth (especially if you have vaginal stitches that might tear during sex)
  • Cause increased bleeding

“If you’re having sex and it’s causing bleeding, you should discuss it with your doctor,” says Keating.

How long after childbirth can I get pregnant?

According to Keating, women can get pregnant before their period returns after giving birth, so it’s important to be aware of your fertility when having postpartum sex.

Some women choose to use contraception immediately after giving birth. Others may choose to wait while their bodies heal during those first six weeks.

Will postpartum sex be physically different?

Many women find that it takes a while for sex to return to normal after having a baby due to all the physical changes their body went through during pregnancy and childbirth.

Pregnancy and childbirth can also have an impact on libido, Keating says, noting the many changes that come with childbirth, including physical, hormonal and emotional. Other postpartum challenges that can affect the desire to have sex include:

  • Breastfeeding
  • Pain
  • Tired
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Sleep deprivation

Eventually, sex should start to feel normal again. “Over time, and as you adjust to your new life as a mother, your libido should return to normal,” says Keating. If not, talk to your doctor.

Will postpartum sex be emotionally different?

Samantha Hunsicker, LCSW, a psychotherapist at Main Line Health’s Women’s Emotional Wellness Center, says many women feel intimidated and nervous about having sex soon after having a baby.

“Not everyone feels ready to regain that level of privacy after childbirth,” says Hunsicker.

Childbirth comes in all forms, and recovery after childbirth seems different from person to person. Trust your body and be gentle with yourself. Take it easy as you re-acclimatize to sexual intimacy after birth.

When recovering from childbirth, prioritize personal care:

  • Hydrate
  • Nourish Your Body With Healthy Foods
  • Be active

Also connect with your support system. Together, all of these things can help you feel empowered and comfortable in your new role as a parent.

For those who have a partner, Hunsicker recommends having open and honest conversations about how you are feeling. These conversations can increase emotional intimacy and connection.

“Learning how to make sure both parties feel supported and loved is so invaluable,” says Hunsicker.

Find privacy differently

Having sex after childbirth isn’t the only way to foster intimacy in a relationship, and as your body heals, Hunsicker recommends looking for other forms of intimacy.

Intellectual intimacy can be nurtured by speaking deeply and openly about meaningful and emotional topics such as politics, literature or history. There is also spiritual intimacy, which can be explored through faith, religion and shared values.

By doing activities that you and your partner enjoy, you can develop experiential intimacy.

You can build physical intimacy not only through sex, but also through cuddling and cuddling.

Intellectual intimacy can be nurtured by speaking deeply and openly about meaningful and emotional topics such as politics, literature or history. There is also spiritual intimacy, which can be explored through faith, religion and shared values.

By doing activities that you and your partner enjoy, you can develop experiential intimacy. “Try to intentionally set aside time for yourself to do something – whether it’s just the two of you or something the two of you really enjoy – which can also be very helpful,” Hunsicker says.

Eventually the time for sex will come and you will feel great. “It’s about preparing a couple and their ability to do it together in a respectful and loving way,” says Hunsicker.

Main Line Health serves patients in hospitals and health centers in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. For an appointment with an OB / GYN Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.

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