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Sex after having a baby

9-minute read

Key facts

  • Your body needs time to heal and recover after giving birth.
  • Sex after birth may be impacted by a variety of physical, psychological, and emotional factors.
  • Only return to having sex when you feel ready.
  • Specific strategies and advice are available to assist with your return to a healthy sex life with your partner.
  • If you need assistance, contact your doctor or maternal health nurse.

How long after having a baby should I wait to have sex?

Unless your doctor has recommended otherwise, you don’t need to avoid sex after you have a baby, but don’t feel pressured to have sex until you feel ready.

Everyone recovers from pregnancy and birth differently. It’s important to listen to your body and only have sex when you and your partner are ready.

Physical recovery from the birth, hormonal changes, breastfeeding and exhaustion can influence your desire for sex and intimacy. Whether you’ve had a caesarean section or vaginal birth, it is very normal to need weeks or even months until you feel ready to have sex again.

Pregnancy, childbirth and becoming a parent are all big life changes. Give yourself and your partner the time you both need to adapt to your new routine and the demands of having a new baby.

Why might I have low libido after childbirth?

You may be one of the many people who experience low libido (sex drive) or little interest in having sex after childbirth. This may be due to many reasons, which can include the following:

  • Your physical recovery — your body needs time to recover after childbirth. If you’ve had stitches or a difficult birth, your body may need more time to heal. Don’t rush — only have sex when you feel comfortable.
  • Feeling exhausted or lacking in energy — looking after a newborn and becoming a new parent takes a lot of energy. Your sleep is most likely interrupted and there are new demands on your time that impact your sex drive.
  • Feeding — newborns need to be fed often, whether they're breast or formula-fed. Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable in the early days, and it’s normal to have less interest in sex while you are breastfeeding. You may find that you leak milk from your breasts during sex. To prevent this happening, try feed your baby or express milk before having sex.
  • Hormonal changes — until your period returns, your oestrogen levels are low. This may cause vaginal dryness and make sex uncomfortable. If you breastfeed, your prolactin levels will also be high, causing vaginal dryness. You might find that using a vaginal lubricant can help.
  • Body consciousness — pregnancy and birth change how your body looks and feels. Your breasts, tummy or legs may have changed shape or feel different. This can influence how you feel about yourself.
  • Emotional wellbeing — birth is an emotional experience. It’s common to experience the ‘baby blues’ in the first few days or weeks after your baby is born. The baby blues may peak around the fourth day and get better within 2 weeks. The baby blues are not the same as postnatal depression; the blues pass naturally, while postnatal depression continues. If you still feel low after a few days or have thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, call your doctor right away. Postnatal depression should to be treated urgently. You can also call the Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) mental health hotline on 1300 726 306.

How can I rebuild intimacy after having a baby?

It is hard to get in the mood for sex when you are exhausted, in pain or stressed. It can be easy to get caught up in the needs of your newborn baby and forget about yourself. Check in with yourself and carve out time for yourself every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

If your baby is waking up at night, try and nap during the day.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, other parents can often be a source of help and support. Try reaching out to other new parents or join a local parent’s group in your area.

After having a baby and becoming parents, sex with your partner is likely to change. You might be feeling worried or confused at your lack of interest in sex. You partner may feel rejected or unwanted. It is very normal to experience mixed feelings. If you and your partner have different levels of physical desire, this can add further stress to your relationship. It is important to be honest and talk to your partner about your feelings, worries and expectations.

There are many ways to grow intimacy and feel connected with your partner. Although finding time to spend together can be challenging, it is still important to make time for each other. Try and go for a walk, have a meal together or cuddle while your baby is napping.

You might explore different ways to give and receive sexual pleasure without the pressure of having intercourse. Discuss these with your partner, and start with simple things such as cuddling, holding hands and massage. When you feel ready to have intercourse, using a lubricant can make it more comfortable for you.

Do I need to use contraception after having a baby?

You can still become pregnant after you have your baby if you have sex without using contraception, even while you are breastfeeding. It is possible to become pregnant a month before your period restarts, as soon as 3 weeks after having a baby. If you want to avoid pregnancy, it is best to speak to your doctor or midwife as soon as possible about what contraception you will use after the birth. Most types of contraception are safe and effective after having a baby.

During your 6-week check-up after birth, your doctor or midwife will usually discuss contraception. If you are ready to have sex before then, speak with your healthcare professional about contraceptive options.

When should I seek help?

If sex after having a baby is painful, or you are worried about your (or your partner’s) emotional wellbeing, speak with a trusted health professional such as your doctor or a maternal health nurse.

Birth-related trauma can have an impact on your health and wellbeing, including your return to a healthy sex life. It can be physical or psychological and may be identified straight away or can come up sometime later. Free support services are available through the Australasian Birth Trauma Association.

Sexual coercion is when someone pressures you into sexual activity that you don’t want. Even if you are in a relationship or married, your partner still needs your consent. If you are experiencing this, you should seek help immediately. For help you can contact 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

If you have concerns about behaviour that feels threatening, violent, controlling, or you or your family feel scared and unsafe, you may be experiencing family or domestic violence. Services Australia has resources for more information, referrals, and support.

If you (or someone else) are in danger, or if you have been threatened, physically hurt or sexually assaulted, call triple zero (000).

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Resources and support

Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE) lists a wide range of groups and support services for new parents.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) is a national counselling service that provides information and support (telephone and online) for people who have experienced sexual assault or domestic and family violence.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2023

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