You've had a baby and you're trying your best to settle into a new routine. Between constant feeds and lack of sleep, you're also trying to maintain a semblance of a relationship with your husband. And this also involves the elephant in the room – sex.
Let's Talk About Sex
While there's no set rule, from a medical point of view, the best time to get back in the saddle is after the post-partum period. “Physically, you can resume sex after delivery once your wound (C-section or episiotomy wound) has healed well and the lochia (bleeding after delivery) has stopped,” says Dr Watt Wing Fong, Specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology & Consultant, Raffles Women Centre. “Usually, this is around six weeks after giving birth, as that is the time required for the body to get back to the pre-pregnant state.
“The most important thing before regaining sexual activity is that one must feel 'ready' for it. Some women recover faster and may start sexual activity after about one month.”
Not Too Soon
Engaging in sexual activity too soon after delivery carries the risk of infecting your wound – and even your womb. “If you have sexual intercourse too soon, it could affect the wound healing and could lead to an infection of the uterus as the wound left behind by removing the placenta after delivery needs to heal as well,” Dr Watt explains.
While there are no positions to avoid, it's best to find one you're both comfortable with and that avoids pressure on the more sensitive or painful areas. “When you're both ready to have intercourse after the birth, you should begin gently,” advises Dr Watt. “If possible, try to find a time of the day when you're not too worn out. Also, try to find a time when the baby is not likely to wake up – so you can have some peace and quiet.”
No Pressure, Please
Being in the right place mentally is equally important. “For some couples, feeling comfortable physically and emotionally could be about four to six weeks after, for others it may be several months,” says Dr Adrian Wang, Psychiatrist, Gleneagles Hospital Singapore. “There shouldn't be a sense of pressure to resume physical intimacy. In fact, the more pressured one feels, the more difficult psychologically it might be.”
And if your husband is pestering you for sex, don't just brush him away. “It's important to be able to communicate well with your husband to help him understand that it's not that you love him less, it's that you're not ready physically or emotionally,” says Dr Wang. “Get him involved in caring for the baby – the joy of parenthood can bring a couple closer emotionally and this can help with intimacy.”
Don't forget contraception once you resume having sex. “Some couples believe that breastfeeding is good enough contraception,” says Dr Watt. “However, some women may still ovulate despite breastfeeding. In fact, sometimes after a pregnancy, the return of ovulation may be a little unpredictable, so contraception becomes even more important. There are a few options such as condoms, oral contraceptive pills (special ones catered to breastfeeding mothers) and intrauterine contraceptive devices.”