Hi Dr Murage
I delivered my baby five weeks ago, I have sought advice from my seniors on when I should resume sexual activity but everyone seems to have different ideas. How long should I wait before I resume my sex life?
Dear concerned mom,
Strictly speaking, there is no defined standard period of time that should elapse before resumption of sexual intercourse after delivery. However, several factors may influence the timing of resuming sexual activity. Your preference and individual circumstances are the most important factors, rather than any arbitrary constraints to your own desires.
Majority of women who go through uncomplicated deliveries will be able to resume sexual activity within six weeks after delivery. It can take up to two weeks for the usual bleeding that occurs after delivery to stop completely. Many couples will find it unpalatable to engage in sexual activity when there is still some bleeding. Once everything settles down, resumption of sexual activity is at your pleasure.
Those who may have had assisted vaginal deliveries or cesarean sections may take longer to recover. Assisted vaginal delivery may require a cut to be made, called an episiotomy. It is best to wait for complete healing to take place prior to engaging in sexual activity. Most episiotomies will heal rapidly, unless an infection ensues. If unsure about the extent of healing, you can always get your obstetrician to assess you prior to restarting sexual intercourse. Ill-timed resumption of intercourse with an incompletely healed episiotomy may cause a breakdown and delayed healing.
It takes longer to recover if your delivery was by cesarean section. When you are nursing a cesarean section wound, you are unlikely to stand the physicality of sexual intercourse. But by the sixth week, you may already be feeling well enough to resume sex. Your body will guide you. Take it easy when you start, any unusual discomfort should be a prompt for giving yourself more time. Or a trigger for a review by your obstetrician if necessary.
The psychological preparedness for resuming sexual activity after delivery also plays a role. The post delivery period has many competing pressures. There’s the baby to take care of, on top of coping with emotional adjustments to a new way of life. Sex may be the last thing on your mind, and this happens to some women. Take it in your stride, the desires will eventually resume. If it takes longer and you start getting concerned, seeking help with a sexual therapist is always an option.
Be wary of an unwanted pregnancy. Resumption of ovulation may occur even before your periods resume. It’s best to use some form of protection, even when exclusively breastfeeding. Some women have surprised themselves by becoming pregnant weeks after delivery. Talk to your midwife or obstetrician about contraceptive options.
If you feel right and are full of desires, go on and resume your sex life. Don’t sit around waiting for an arbitrarily defined interval to elapse before running wild with your erotic impulses.
— Dr Alfred Murage is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist.