• Dr Peter Chew

Sex after delivery

The thought of having intimacy after birth may make many mothers cringe in pain. This is because most mothers are tired, anxious and exhausted. They are also deprived of sleep from nursing the newborn baby.

Many couples may resume sex  between one to six months postpartum. Most obstetricians would advise them to wait at least six weeks to allow tissues to heal. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG), there is no set "waiting period" as long as the stitches of the wound have healed and the lochia has cleared. The most important thing is that the couple must be physically and emotionally ready.

Some new mothers may experience pain during sex. According to a study, almost 9 out of 10 mothers who had sex by 12 months postpartum experienced pain during their first encounter. The highest numbers were seen in women who had sex three months post-delivery.

Painful sex may be due to one or more of the following factors:

· Vaginal dryness from low levels of female hormones due to breastfeeding

· Lack of lubrication from anxiety, tiredness  and /or low sex drive

· Tenderness in the wound that is healing

· Vaginal infection

· Thick scars in the perineum from tears during delivery

There are few things that may help minimize the pain:

· Communication: the couple should communicate well so that the husband can allay any anxiety the wife may have. His support and patience are important in making sexual intimacy a pleasurable experience.

· Use lubrication.  This can help with vaginal dryness

· Sexual positions: Experiment with a few until a pleasurable position is attained

· Go slow. Take it easy, especially during the first few times.

· Kegel exercises: The postpartum period is an important time to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Having the muscles tight may help in relieving the pain.

· Pain relief: A pain killer can be taken prior to having sex. A warm bath beforehand can also help relax the body.

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