I was talking with my husband the other night about the parade of celebrities who have had back to back babies the past several years. It seems that you can scan through new stories and interviews of these women, and they are always either hugely pregnant, announcing that they are pregnant, or introducing their new baby. It is not so unusual to have babies a year and a half or two years apart. What really stuns me are the women who are pregnant when their babies are only a month or two old. Haven’t they ever heard that they are supposed to wait a full six weeks after delivering a baby before having sex again?
This started a whole new conversation in which my husband proposed that perhaps women don’t really need to wait those six weeks and only claim that they do. I admit that I found this to be a fairly offensive statement on his part, but it did get me thinking about the validity of the advice to wait that long before engaging in sex again. While the idea of having sex within a couple of weeks of giving birth is enough to make many women cross their legs and shudder, I’m sure there are plenty of others who enjoyed fairly easy deliveries and are more than willing to dive back into a sexually intimate relationship with their partners within mere days after the birth of their babies. I began to wonder if the advice to wait for sexual activity is outdated, if it should be made more of a personal choice reliant on how the mother feels, or if there really is something to the 6-week mandate.
For many women, one of the greatest challenges of postpartum sexuality is perineal damage. Whether from an episiotomy or a laceration, damage to the perineum can be incredibly painful and take weeks or even months to heal depending on the severity of the damage and health factors in the mother. Attempted sexual intercourse can lead to worsening of the damage and even introduction of germs into the healing tissue. If a mother is breastfeeding, the tremendous fluctuation of hormones can lead to dampened sex drive, vaginal dryness, and pain during sexual intercourse. While it is estimated that 89% of women have resumed sexual activities with their partners by six months after their babies are born, only a very small number of women will discuss any sexual health problems with their practitioners. Waiting until after the six-week postnatal appointment not only ensures that mothers are checked to see their bodies are healed enough to handle intercourse, but it also gives them the opportunity to discuss the psychological issues associated with resumed sexuality.
- BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. Volume 107, Issue 2, pages 186–195, February 2000
- Wiley Online Library