Pregnancy comes with a lot of questions. Some of them get asked but many are left unspoken. One question often left unasked is, how soon is it safe to have sex after childbirth? A team of researchers in Australia asked and answered the question.
The research team at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne found there’s no one-size-fits-all kind of answer. Many factors contribute to safety and comfort level so, barring health complications, it’s safe to resume sexual relations as soon as a couple is comfortable with the idea.
Ellie McDonald, a member of the research team, says knowing when it’s safe to resume sex after the birth of a child is information that comes in handy even before the baby is born. It “may help reduce feelings of anxiety and guilt about not resuming sexual activity sooner,” according to McDonald.
The research team surveyed 1,507 women in Melbourne who had given birth to their first child the previous year. Survey questions focused on the new mothers’ sexual activities in the first year after childbirth.
Most of the women in the survey said they engaged in some form of sexual activity between six and eight weeks after having their babies although not all sex play included vaginal intercourse in the beginning. For a return to vaginal sex, survey respondents reported:
- 41 percent engaging in vaginal sex within six weeks after delivery
- 65 percent by eight weeks
- 78 percent by twelve weeks
- 94 percent by six months
When delivery included cesarean section (C-section), forceps, and tearing or incision of the perineum, the numbers changed a bit:
- C-section: 45 percent had resumed vaginal sex within six weeks
- Assisted birth procedures (forceps): 32 percent
- Incision: 32 percent reported vaginal sex
- Tearing: 35 percent
Tears to or an incision of the perineum to aid childbirth is common, especially during a first delivery. Only about 10 percent of first-time mothers deliver a child with no trauma to the perineum.
The decision to return to a fully active sex life is a decision best made by the individual couple but doctors do recommend a delay of four to six weeks to allow the cervix to close, tears to heal, and bleeding to stop. Birth control is recommended for the health of future children. When there’s only a short time between pregnancies, the risk of pregnancy complications rises and pre-term births and low birth weights are more likely.
It’s important to note the survey involved Australian couples. Social and cultural norms in other locales may influence sexual relationships after the birth of a child in ways not reflected in this study.
Source: Rettner, Rachael. “Most Women Wait 6 Weeks to Have Sex After Childbirth.” LiveScience. Tech Media Network. Feb 27, 2013. Web. Dec 29, 2013.