Women's Sexual Health Clinic

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Postpartum Sexuality

After the birth of a child, changes in sexuality are common, leaving many women with unanswered questions such as wondering when it’s safe to have sex, why is sex different after childbirth and why they do or don’t feel like having sex.

Sex After Baby

Fatigue, pain, vaginal dryness and decreased libido are common issues after childbirth. Having a low sex drive is especially common in the initial four to six weeks. Although there’s no “normal” or “right” time period in which to resume sexual activity, most healthcare professionals recommend waiting at least four to six weeks. Abstinence is especially important during the first two weeks following delivery because the risk of complications is greatest. It’s important you give your body time to heal. If you have a vaginal tear or an episiotomy, you may need to wait even longer.

Intercourse will most likely feel different following the birth of a child. Pregnancy, labor and vaginal delivery may have stretched and/or injured your pelvic floor muscles. Giving yourself time to heal and doing Kegel exercises to tone these muscles will help them return to normal.

Hormonal issues can cause a woman to be fatigued, emotional and have less interest in sex. Because certain hormones have dropped, the vagina produces decreased levels of natural lubrication which can make intercourse painful due to vaginal dryness. Breastfeeding continues to affect hormones. Non-breastfeeding women’s hormone levels typically return to normal in four to six weeks after childbirth.

It’s normal for women to have a lower sex drive than they did prior to their pregnancy. Hormonal changes, lack of sleep, physical changes to their body and adjusting to the needs of a new baby all contribute to a reduction in libido. These issues may lead to postpartum depression as well.

If you find yourself struggling, be on the alert for the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression — lack of joy, overwhelming fatigue, mood swings and loss of appetite. If you suspect postpartum depression, contact your healthcare professional immediately. Early treatment can speed recovery.

Since most healthcare professionals recommend waiting 12-24 months before attempting another pregnancy, all women need to consider their birth control options following childbirth.

Women who have not resumed menstruation and those who are breastfeeding can still become pregnant. Despite old wives’ tales, the contraceptive effectiveness of breastfeeding varies and should never be relied on for birth control. Various birth control options are available. Your healthcare professional can help you determine which one is best for you. As you adjust to life with a new baby in the house, remember, there’s more to intimacy than sex. If you’re afraid sex will hurt or you don’t feel sexy, have an open and honest discussion with your partner. Find other ways to maintain intimacy and demonstrate affection until you’re ready to resume sexual relations.

When to Speak to a Doctor

Following the birth of a child, it’s normal to have questions and apprehensions. Our female providers at the Women’s Sexual Health Clinic, located near Detroit, will address all your concerns and answer your questions concerning postpartum sexuality. If sex continues to be painful, discuss it your healthcare professional. Although the birth of a child changes your life, it doesn’t have to have lasting effects on your sexuality.

For a confidential appointment at the Henry Ford Health System Women’s Sexual Health Clinic located near Detroit, we offer two convenient ways to contact us:

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If this is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department.

For your safety, please select a MyChart video visit on demand or call our MyCare Advice Line at 844-262-1949 before scheduling if:

  • You currently have a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
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Henry Ford Health System is committed to ensuring our Deaf or hard-of-hearing patients and visitors have equal access to all services. We provide the appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified sign language interpreters, TTYs and other assistive listening devices, at no cost. To request assistance, call 313-916-1896 or email CommunicationAccess@hfhs.org.

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