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24th February, 20215 min read

When can you have sex after birth?

Medical reviewer: Dr Adiele Hoffman
Author: Ana Mosciuk
Last reviewed: 23/02/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

If your new baby arrived a few weeks ago, you might be wondering when you can start having sex again.

One study found that 78% of couples had tried having sex at 12 weeks after childbirth, while 65% had done so just 8 weeks after their baby was born. Of course, this won’t be the same for everyone, and for many couples, it can take a lot longer.

So if you’re interested in learning more about sex after giving birth – including how it might be different, and what you should know about birth control – read on.

When can you have sex after giving birth?

When you first have sex after giving birth is very much up to you and how you feel. There are no rules and there’s no need to rush into it.

You might feel very tired, and/or your vagina might be sore. You may feel that you’d rather wait a little while before having sex.

Whatever you decide, it’s a good idea to keep talking with your partner, so you can understand each other’s feelings.

Ways your vagina might be different after giving birth

You might be worried about changes in your body after giving birth, and whether they will affect your sex life. Your vagina naturally changes after you have a baby and it may feel wider, dry or sore – all of which is totally normal.

1. Dryness

Giving birth causes hormonal changes and your level of oestrogen drops, which may make your vagina feel drier than usual. This is especially true if you’re breastfeeding, as your oestrogen levels will be even lower.

Your hormones will go back to their pre-pregnancy levels, and any dryness should improve when you stop breastfeeding and your periods return.

Until then, you might want to use a lubricant when you have sex, to make things more comfortable, or speak to your doctor about other options such as vaginal oestrogen.

2. Wideness

You might feel that your vagina is looser and softer and looks wider after giving birth.

The feeling of ‘openness’ should start to go down after a few days, but it’s true that your vagina probably won't be exactly the same as it was before you had a baby. In most cases, however, this won’t be a problem.

Pelvic floor, or Kegel, exercises are also an option. These are simple exercises you can do at home to help tone your vaginal muscles and make your vagina feel firmer.

3. Soreness

It’s normal to feel some pain and soreness in and around your vagina after giving birth. This will ease, however, and usually improves within 6 to 12 weeks.

Childbirth can sometimes cause a tear in the skin between your vagina and anus (perineum), which might need stitches. If you’ve had a tear, it’s common to get pain during sex in the first few months after the birth.

Tips for having sex after giving birth

  • try to relax – you’ll probably feel tired after giving birth and in the first weeks of looking after your baby, so make time to relax together before you try having sex

  • check how you feel – try touching your vagina with your fingers first to see if it hurts before you try having sex

  • have more foreplay – this can help you (and your partner) feel more aroused before you have sex

  • use a water-based lubricant – this will help if you feel dry or uncomfortable, and you can apply it in and around your vagina or on a partner’s penis

How soon after giving birth can I get pregnant again?

Getting pregnant might be the last thing on your mind at the moment. But it’s important to know that it's possible to get pregnant as soon as 3 weeks after giving birth – even if your periods haven’t started yet or you’re breastfeeding.

Getting pregnant within a year of having a baby doesn’t give your body much time to recover, so it’s a good idea to try to space pregnancies at least 12 months apart.

Birth control after giving birth

There are lots of options for birth control (contraception) after giving birth. You can talk to your doctor or midwife about when to use contraception and what’s best for you.

If you have no medical risks, you can use these forms of contraception any time after giving birth:

  • condoms
  • progestogen-only pill
  • contraceptive injection or implant

You can also get an intrauterine device (IUD) or intrauterine system (IUS) fitted within 48 hours of childbirth. If you don’t do it in this period, however, you’ll usually need to wait 4 weeks.

It’s important to wait at least 3 weeks before using birth control containing both oestrogen and progestogen. This includes the combined pill, vaginal ring and contraceptive patch.

And if you’re breastfeeding, have certain health conditions or you’re at risk of blood clots, you’ll probably need to wait 6 weeks before using these birth-control options.

If you used a contraceptive diaphragm or cap before pregnancy, you can usually start using it 6 weeks after having a baby – but see your doctor first to make sure it still fits.

Key points

  • when you have sex after giving birth usually depends on how you feel
  • there can be various reasons for not feeling like having sex right away
  • it’s common for your vagina to become wider and feel drier or sore after childbirth
  • tips for sex after childbirth include checking for pain, trying to relax and using more foreplay and lubricant
  • it’s a good idea to space pregnancies at least 12 months apart to give your body time to recover
  • some birth control options can be used straight after birth, while you may have to wait a bit longer with others
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