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Sex after having a baby

6-minute read

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

Every woman recovers from pregnancy and birth differently, so listen to your body and 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 take weeks or even months until you feel ready to have sex again.

Unless your doctor has recommended otherwise, you don’t need to avoid sex. But you don’t have to have sex until you feel ready.

Pregnancy, childbirth and becoming parents are all enormous 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.

What is impacting my desire for sex after having a baby?

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

  • Your physical recovery — every woman 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 bottle-fed. Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable or painful 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 again, your estrogen levels are low. This may cause vaginal dryness and make sex uncomfortable. If you breastfeed, your prolactin levels will also be high. This can also cause vaginal dryness. A vaginal lubricant may help in these circumstances.
  • 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. Many women experience ‘baby blues’ in the first few days or weeks after their baby is born. Baby blues may peak around the fourth day and get better within 2 weeks. Baby blues is not the same as postnatal depression. The blues will pass naturally, but if you are still feeling low after a few days or have thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, call your doctor right away. Postnatal depression needs to be treated promptly.

How can I rebuild intimacy and sex after I have a baby?

It is hard to get in the mood 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. 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 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 spending time together can feel challenging, it is still important to make time for each other. Try and go for a walk, have a meal together or cuddle while the baby is napping.

You might explore different ways to give and receive sexual pleasure without the pressure of having sex. Discuss these with your partner, and start with simple things such as cuddling, holding hands and massage. When you feel ready to have sex, 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 are having 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 getting pregnant, 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 the 6-week check-up 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 maternal health nurse or doctor.

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: October 2021

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Intimacy and sex after baby and birth | Raising Children Network

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

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