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If you’ve just had a baby, sex is probably the last thing on your mind. But when you do start having sex again, here’s everything you need to know
‘Many new parents get the shock of their life when they discover how having a baby affects their sex life,’ says Dr Sarah Brewer, GP and author of Overcoming Low Sex Drive. ‘Research shows it takes half of all couples over a year to get their sex life back to anything like it was before.’
For a start, Dr Brewer says you’ll both feel exhausted, especially if you’re breastfeeding and doing night feeds. ‘For women, there are also many physical changes occurring in their body after birth. If you’ve had stitches, an episiotomy or a Caesarean, you may also feel uncomfortable for many weeks. For one in 12 women, stitches can cause discomfort when making love up to a year later. Your hormone levels will also change, which can affect your sex drive. Lastly, you may have put on weight during pregnancy, which can make you feel a little self-conscious.’
Feel your way
So how can you get things back on track? ‘Penetrative sex is usually off the menu for around six weeks after the birth, to allow any tenderness, swelling or discharge to settle down,’ says Dr Brewer. ‘However, if you feel like doing it before this time, go ahead as there’s no medical reason to wait six weeks. Studies show between 30% and 60% of couples have had sex at least once by the six-week medical check.’
Dr Brewer also advises using plenty of lubrication, like KY jelly, and to go slowly. ‘The woman-on-top position is often the most comfortable, especially if you’ve had a Caesarean,’ she says.
She also says to expect a bit more mess! If you’re breastfeeding, your nipples may spurt milk when you become aroused or if they’re stimulated. You may have a little bloodstained discharge after sex, too. ‘You may feel larger inside, but you’ll tighten up as your muscle tone improves. Ask your midwife for advice about pelvic floor exercises, which will help.’
Lastly, Dr Brewer advises treating the first time after birth as a trial run, and to agree in advance to stop if it doesn’t work, if it hurts or if it doesn’t feel right. ‘If any of those happen, don’t worry: just stop and agree to try again another day!’ she says.
By Maria Lally