Sex During & After Pregnancy

There are no medical reasons to avoid sex during a normal, healthy pregnancy. Still, you may have reservations about it. As your partner's body changes, you may feel fluctuations in desire and attraction. Because she will be experiencing emotional mood swings it may be difficult to know exactly where you stand.

During the first trimester of pregnancy, she's likely to feel nauseated and fatigued, and her breasts may be quite tender. She may not look like she's pregnant, but these are the months when she may feel the worst. Be patient the second trimester will be better.

The middle three months of pregnancy are often the most comfortable time for a woman, and many women report feeling their highest sexual desire during pregnancy at this time. However, her physical changes are becoming more obvious now, and you may not feel as attracted to her. Some partners worry about hurting your baby, or feel like you are in bed with a third person. If you two have had a previous pregnancy with preterm labor, miscarriage, or other complications, you may be trying to be especially sensitive and protective.

The last trimester of pregnancy can be challenging simply because of the size of the growing baby. Finding positions for intercourse that are comfortable can be an adventure. Your partner may feel unattractive and gigantic. She may worry that an orgasm might bring on labor, and she probably has little energy for intercourse.

How Intercourse Affects the Fetus

The sound and motion of intercourse can cause your baby to move around and kick. This doesn't mean that your baby is in distress. Your partner's cervix is tender and can bleed easily in late pregnancy. Sex or even a vaginal exam may cause light spotting. If the spotting lasts more than half a day or is bright red, your partner should call her health care provider for advice.

Foreplay, intercourse, and orgasm can cause uterine contractions. In a normal pregnancy, this is not harmful. Women with preterm labor are among the few pregnant women who are advised to avoid intercourse, orgasm and sexual stimulation.

Sexual Intercourse After Pregnancy

Some women desire sex just a few weeks after giving-birth. Others need more time. Whether giving birth vaginally or by cesarean-section, her body will need some time to heal before having intercourse again. Most doctors recommend a 6-week waiting-period so that postpartum bleeding can cease, the cervix can close, and any tears or lacerations can heal.

Be aware that her vagina may be dry or tender (especially if she's breast-feeding), so begin with cuddling, kissing or massage and build stimulation slowly. Muscle-tone in the vagina is decreased by vaginal deliveries, reducing pleasurable friction. A woman can practice the Kegel exercises to help with this.

Use a lubricating cream or gel if dryness is a problem. It may also be helpful to try some different positions. Communicate openly with your partner about what feels good, and what does not.

Birth Control Options

Unless you're hoping to become pregnant right away, use a reliable method of birth control. Barrier methods like condoms and spermicides are preferred by many, but hormonal birth control is ok too.

Important Note: If she is breastfeeding, be certain to select a hormone method which doesn't interfere. She may ask the doctor or nurse-midwife about the options during her postpartum check-up.

Your Sex Drive

It is important to note that her sex-drive may be affected by fatigue, changes in body-image and even mild depression. If she seems uninterested in having sex, it may be a perfectly natural phase. Remember that there's more to sexual intimacy than intercourse. You and your partner are both adjusting to life with a new baby, so open communication is critical. If you're afraid sex will be painful for her, or if one of you feels undesirable, share your concerns with your partner. Intimacy can be shared in other ways, until you're ready to have sexual intercourse again.

Improving Intimacy

One of the most important things you can do is to spend time together without the baby, even if it's just moments in the morning or after baby's bedtime at night. Brief phone-calls during the day are helpful, and taking a bath together might be an additional way to express affection. More than anything else, we recommend taking it easy. Allow yourselves space to adjust to parenthood.

Resuming Sex After Birth

When to resume sexual activity after the birth of your child is a personal matter. Following these general guidelines may be helpful.

  • The earliest you should have sex is after your vaginal discharge has changed from brownish-red to white or clear. This is an indication that your uterus has healed.
  • If you have sore stitches or a tear, you may not be ready for sex until after your 6-week checkup.
  • The hormones of pregnancy and breastfeeding reduce normal vaginal lubrication. Use a lubricant (such as K-Y Jelly) if you need an additional lubrication.

If your stitches tear or make your vagina very tender, try these suggestions:

  • Sit in a warm tub of water and stretch your vagina with your fingers.
  • Try some Epizyn™ topical ointment to aid in healing.
  • Use a generous amount of lubricant during sex.
  • Try sexual positions like side-to-side or you-on-top to put less strain on your incision.
  • Try feeding your baby before sex. Baby may sleep and give the two of you some time alone!

More information related to sexual activity after birth:

  • If you are breastfeeding, your milk may leak out when you have an orgasm.
  • Remember even though you have just given birth and may be breastfeeding, you can still get pregnant.
  • If you find that sex is still uncomfortable after a few months, talk to your health care provider.
  • Discuss your feelings and concerns with your partner.