Once their child is born and the difficult challenges of pregnancy are
behind them, many couples look forward to having a normal sex life again.
Unfortunately those expectations may not be realistic -- at least not
immediately. Following childbirth, one partner may just not want to have sex.
The possible reasons -- some physical, some psychological -- are many.
Fatigue is one. The period of caring for a newborn -- especially if it's the
first child -- can be the most tiring and difficult phase in a couple's life.
For many a new parent, fantasies about sex are supplanted by fantasies about
By Keith Ablow, M.D.
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A happily married woman told me recently that she has a secret way of recapturing the feeling of being in love that she had as a young bride. When she and her husband go out to dinner, she'll watch how other people — a waitress, a friend they're out with that night, an acquaintance who stops by their table — are responding...
A woman might be self-conscious about her shape, and if she had a cesarean
delivery, she may be experiencing extra discomfort or feel unattractive.
Both partners may be having trouble adjusting to their new roles as parents.
A new mother could have postpartum depression (in which case she should consult
A woman who is breast-feeding may feel that her body "belongs to the
baby." The father in turn may become jealous of the time and attention that
his wife devotes to the new baby.
There may be concern, too, that sex won't be the same as before delivery.
Childbirth can leave soreness or bruising, and the couple may fear that sex
will hurt, or cause harm.
In addition, one or both partners may be wary of starting a new pregnancy,
especially if the delivery of the baby was traumatic.
On the other hand, some women find they have unusually strong sexual desires
during this time.
There's a broad definition of what constitutes a normal length of time
before resuming sex. In a recent study published in the Journal of Family
Practice, fewer than 20% of participating couples returned to sexual activity
in the first month after childbirth. More than 90% had resumed relations by
four months after birth. The average time before resuming intercourse was seven
Most health care providers suggest waiting about four to six weeks before
resuming intercourse, to allow the woman's body to heal. The uterus and vagina
must return to their prepregnancy size, a process that usually occurs more
quickly in breast-feeding women.
There are health reasons for not engaging in sex too soon. "The biggest
risk of postpartum sex, particularly too soon, is infection," according to
Robin Weiss, the pregnancy guide at About.com. Bleeding is normal for up to six
weeks. First-time intercourse can increase bleeding, and it's not a reason for
alarm. If bleeding persists beyond six weeks, though, it would be best to
consult a health care professional.
Intercourse after childbirth can be quite painful. If the woman has had an
episiotomy or laceration, there may be discomfort for weeks or even months
after the stitches have healed.