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Pregnancy Bliss | Reproductive Health Hub

Resuming Sexual Intercourse after delivery

When is it OK to resume sexual intercourse after delivery?

This depends on the newly delivered mother's particular concern. The general answer is, therefore, whenever she is physically and psychologically ready.

Is there any risk in resuming sex soon after delivery?                           

There are two main concerns. Firstly, the area around the birth canal is likely to be tender after delivery, making it difficult to have satisfying coitus. There is also the post­delivery vaginal discharge (lochia), which may be rather off­-putting. This takes a few weeks to stop completely.

From the medical point of view, there is the theoretical risk of precipitating an infection of the raw womb lining. This is because the bacteria that reside in the vagina may hitch a ride on the sperm, ending up in the womb and even the pelvis. If one has to have intercourse in this early period, the use of condoms is therefore recommended.

It is said that sexual desire is quite low in the period after delivery and takes vaginal lubricanttime to come back, especially if one is breast-feeding. Why is this?

This is not universally true. However, a mixture of psychological adjustment to the new role as a mother and the sheer physical exhaustion that this role engenders may place sex low on the list of priorities. It is thought that the role of hormonal changes in this state of affairs is minor.

However, it is true that levels of the sex hormone oestrogen are low, especially for those who are fully breast-feeding. This may cause relative dryness of the vagina, which may make sex uncomfortable or outright painful. This is easily overcome using an oestrogen vaginal cream or a vaginal moisturiser or lubricant such as Sylk or Replens MD®  

What is the average interval before newly delivered mothers resume sexual intercourse?

This differs widely among different cultures. Experience in the Western world shows that most women have resumed sex by the end of six weeks.

How soon can a woman conceive after delivery?

This depends on a number of factors. The most important among the natural factors is whether she is breast-feeding or not. A fully breast-feeding woman has a 90 per cent chance of not ovulating and not having a period, at least in the first four to six months. In developing countries, this has proved to be a fairly reliable form of contraception on its own. However, emphasis has to be put on the fact that it is not 100% reliable and if a breast-feeding woman does not want to conceive, she has to use a supplementary form of contraception.

Is frequency of feeding of any relevance in increasing the effectiveness of breast-feeding in preventing ovulation?

Yes. Intervals between feeds should not exceed four hours, especially during the day and certainly not longer than six hours during the night. This is why breast-feeding is less reliable as the baby grows and starts demanding feeds less frequently and probably sleeps through the night.

Is re-commencement of periods of any significance, regarding fertility?

Once the periods start again after delivery, the woman should assume that she is ovulating and therefore capable of conceiving. This is regardless of whether she is breast-feeding or not.

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