How long after giving birth can you have sex?

How long after giving birth can you have sex? Photo | Photosearch

What you need to know:

It also is important to understand that sex should only resume when the woman is comfortable with it.

Annete came to the Sexology Clinic three days after delivery. She had given birth to a bouncing baby boy, her second born. She was discharged from the hospital on the second day after delivery and had only been home for a day when she came to see me at the Sexology Clinic. Her reason for the consultation was the unbearable pain in her private parts. She was also still bleeding. Her husband brought her to the clinic but opted to stay out of the consultation room which I found unusual.

"He is welcome to be with you in the room unless you feel uncomfortable with his presence," I advised.

"No, let him not be near here, I hate him," Annete replied weeping. The pain was unbearable. I could understand her. Some women naturally get closer to their men during pregnancy, and after delivery. Some, on the other hand, find the man repulsive. I explained this to Annete.

"No, it is not about that," she said, "I have been quite close to him until last night when he behaved like a beast!" 

I nodded, encouraging her to say more. I needed information to help me arrive at a diagnosis. She however went quiet and fixed her gaze on the horizon, her eyes welling with tears. I went ahead and examined her and to my dismay, her episiotomy was badly torn and bleeding. An episiotomy is a cut that is normally made around the vaginal area during vaginal delivery to facilitate the passage of the baby. Once the delivery is completed, the cut is stitched back nicely to stop bleeding and facilitate healing. In Annete's case, the stitches had fallen apart leaving a gaping wound. 

"So what happened?" I asked in shock.

"Well, John decided that we should have sex, that he had missed me and that he could not wait any longer," she explained, "I feared it would be dangerous but he insisted and forced himself in!"

The consequences were catastrophic.

"I felt a sharp unbearable pain, I screamed but he thought I was having fun. I have never suffered that much in my life!"

Like Annete and John, many couples do not know when and how to resume sex after delivery. Some start too early, others stay for months on end, fearing that problems can happen if they try.

In some cultures, the resumption of sex after a baby is an important ceremony. It may be linked to beliefs around cleansing or myths about facilitating quick healing for the woman. In one culture, a man cannot have sex with other women without first having sex with his wife who has delivered. This, they say, can cause the death of the baby if not strictly adhered to. 

Culture aside, couples go through a difficult time emotionally during delivery. The arrival of the newborn baby can draw them closer, increasing their intimacy. The desire to try sex early, especially for the man, can therefore be quite strong.

But when is the right time to resume sex after delivery? Medically it is known that complete healing of the reproductive system occurs within about six weeks after vaginal and even cesarean delivery. Some women may feel better earlier while others may need a little longer to get back to normal. Overall, however, six weeks is a good average to work with. 

It also is important to understand that sex should only resume when the woman is comfortable with it. That may mean that post-delivery bleeding is over and the wounds caused by delivery have also sufficiently healed and that emotionally the woman is open to indulging. 

It is known that even after complete healing, some women just do not know how to resume sex again. They fear that it might be painful or uncomfortable and so may evade it. At the same time, the arrival of the baby brings in new demands, and nights can be stressful. 

For some men, the bodily changes in the woman during pregnancy and immediately after delivery may be stimulating. For others, the changes cause the opposite effect. Whatever the case, an understanding of what the woman is going through during this time is important so that catastrophes like Annete's are avoided.

I had to take Annete to the theatre and stitch the torn episiotomy. She had to be on medication for some time to reduce pain and prevent infection.

 For feedback to the editor write to [email protected]