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Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond

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Your recovery at home: Your sexuality

Sex may be the last thing on your mind, especially if you've had a difficult birth, have painful stitches, or have had many sleepless nights. However, after your body heals and taking care of your baby gets easier, you will likely feel more ready for sex.

In the meantime, spend some time each day with your partner. Snuggle, go for a walk, share what is worrying you. Take time to nurture your emotional relationship with your partner.

Resuming sex after birth

These tips may help you when you are ready to resume sexual activity:

  • Before you leave hospital, talk with your health care provider about any restrictions on sexual activity. If you find sex is still uncomfortable after a few months, talk to your regular health care provider.
  • If the skin around your stitches is sore, you may not be ready for sex until after your postpartum checkup or possibly later.
  • The hormones of pregnancy and breastfeeding reduce normal vaginal lubrication. Use a water-soluble lubricant such as K-Y Jelly®. Do not use Vaseline®, baby oil or mineral oil.
  • If your stitches or a tear make your vagina very tender:
    • Sit in a tub of warm water and gently stretch your vagina with your fingers.
    • Use a generous amount of lubricant.
    • Try positions for sex like side lying or you on top of your partner to reduce strain on the healing area.
  • Go slowly.
  • Talk with your partner about your feelings and concerns.
  • Try feeding your baby just before sex. Your baby may sleep and give you some time alone.
  • Consider taking your baby to a relative's or a friend's house so you aren't distracted.
  • If you are breastfeeding, you may have some milk let-down during sexual activity. It may help to breastfeed your baby before sex.
  • Try to use sexual positions that put less pressure on your stomach and sore areas. If you are on top, you may have better control over movements that are uncomfortable.
  • You can get pregnant soon after giving birth even if you are breastfeeding.

What if you want to get pregnant again soon?

If you plan to have a baby again soon, you may want to avoid using the hormone methods of birth control. That way, you will not have to wait for your body to readjust to your normal hormone levels and menstrual cycle. This makes it easier to get pregnant.

Birth control

Because it is possible to get pregnant soon after giving birth, use a reliable form of birth control every time you have sex.

In the hospital before discharge or at your postpartum checkup, talk with your health care provider about birth control choices that are good for you — especially if you are breastfeeding.

No option is 100 percent effective except abstinence (not having sex).

The chart below gives you some brief information about types of birth control.

Birth control

Information

The pill

prescription

female use

The pill contains the hormones estrogen and progestin. This combination birth control pill is not recommended for breastfeeding moms. Certain health conditions may mean you need to use a different form of birth control.

Minipills

prescription

female use

These contain only the hormone progestin, making them safe to use while breastfeeding or when health conditions prevent the use of the two-hormone pills. They must be taken at the same time every day to be the most effective. The minipills can decrease milk supply.

Contraceptive skin patch

prescription

female use

Hormones progestin and estrogen are released into your body through a patch on your skin. You need to change the patch from time to time, based on the schedule for the product you buy.

Injection

health care provider visit

female use

A hormone shot is given once every 1 to 3 months. It may cause prolonged or irregular bleeding. This injection may decrease milk production if given in the first 3 days after birth.

IUD or intrauterine device

health care provider visit

female use

A small, flexible device is placed in the uterus. It can stay in for 8 to 10 years.

Diaphragm

health care provider visit

female use

This is a thin, rubber dome that you cover with a spermicide (sperm-killing jelly), and then insert into the vagina so it covers the cervix. It must be inserted each time before having sex and removed afterward. Note: Do not reuse your diaphragm from before your pregnancy. You must be refitted after having your baby.

Male condoms or "rubbers"

over-the-counter

male use

They are thin sheaths that unroll and fit over an erect penis. One must be used each time before having sex and removed afterward.

Cervical cap

health care provider visit

female use

A soft rubber cap smaller than a diaphragm but works the same way. It is usually used with a spermicide.

Contraceptive foam

over-the-counter

female use

The foam is a spermicide. (It kills sperm.) It both destroys sperm and blocks the opening to the cervix. It is placed in the vagina before sex using an applicator.

Vaginal rings

over-the-counter

female use

Small rings containing hormones progestin and estrogen are placed within your vagina. Some rings can be used only once. Some can be left in place for a period of time, depending on the product you buy.

Essure® procedure

female use

A procedure that blocks the fallopian tubes. Inserts (made out of the same material as heart stents) are put into the fallopian tubes to keep sperm from reaching your eggs. Follow-up testing is needed.

Tubal ligation

surgery

female use

This is a one-time surgical procedure that permanently sterilizes a woman.

Vasectomy

surgery

male use

This is a one-time surgical procedure that permanently sterilizes a man.

Natural family planning

health care provider visit

female and male use

This is a method of monitoring the woman's basal body temperature, estimating the time of ovulation, and timing intercourse to occur when the woman is not fertile. This requires careful personal observation and charting.


 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, preg-ahc-90026, ISBN 1-931876-25-8

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 01/23/2013

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts