Health Library
Health Library

    Why does sex hurt after having a baby? 5 reasons to consider

    Updated 15 March 2021 |
    Published 12 November 2018
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Natalia Viarenich, MD, Obstetrician-Gynecologist, Lithuania
    Flo Fact-Checking Standards

    Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

    Lots of people may wonder if they’ll experience painful sex after delivery. Let Flo answer all your questions and provide suggestions to minimize discomfort.

    When can I have sex after giving birth?

    Pregnancy and delivery ask a lot from your body. Some people are eager to get back to sex after healing from birth, while others are content to wait.

    Of course, if you’re recovering from stitches, your health care provider might advise you to wait. Usually, your doctor or midwife will advise abstaining from having sex during the first six weeks after delivery. 

    Each person’s body heals at a different pace, so it’s important to monitor how you’re feeling physically and mentally. When possible, keep your partner informed so they can support you. 

    There are different reasons why postpartum sex hurts. Let’s take a closer look at the most common ones.

    5 causes of painful intercourse after giving birth

    Here are the five most common reasons why postpartum sex is painful. 

    Tears and stitches

    People who deliver vaginally may experience tears and cuts, some of which may need stitches. A perineum stitch takes about four to six weeks to heal, and any discomfort around the perineum will usually fade by 12 weeks. In this case, your health care provider will advise you to wait to resume penetrative sex until the stitches have healed.

    Resuming sex after episiotomy stitches (a minor incision) can also cause significant pain if done too early. It’s important to allow the stitches to heal before penetration.

    Once your health care provider clears you to resume sexual activity, you can take certain steps to promote comfort, such as emptying your bladder beforehand and taking a warm bath or shower to relax. If you experience pain after sex, apply ice wrapped in a small towel to the area.

    Vaginal dryness

    After having a baby, a person’s oxytocin level rises, causing their estrogen level to fall. This drives the bonding between a parent and their newborn. For many parents, their sex life after having a baby might look different for a few weeks or months due to this new responsibility. 

    This drop in estrogen can lead to vaginal dryness, causing intercourse to be painful. As a result, you and your partner may need to wait on penetrative sex. Low estrogen can also decrease a person’s libido. This helps explain why an estimated 17–36 percent of women report dyspareunia (painful intercourse) at six months postpartum.

    If you feel ready to resume penetrative sex, using water-based lubricants and vaginal moisturizers can help make the process more comfortable. Low-dose vaginal estrogen can address vaginal atrophy, with only minimal systemic absorption. Check with your health care provider before using vaginal estrogen, especially if you are breastfeeding.

    Cervical dilation

    Having sexual intercourse with a dilated cervix can increase the risk of infection and pain. To minimize painful postpartum sex, give yourself time to rest and heal, which may take around four weeks. 

    Pelvic bone problems

    Pregnancy and childbirth stress the pubic bone. In some cases, it can become weakened or injured, leading to pain during intercourse.

    C-section delivery

    After a C-section delivery, you will have healing incisions covered by stitches on your uterus and lower abdomen. 

    A C-section can lead to persisting pain during or after sexual intercourse. Just like in vaginal deliveries, bleeding also occurs in cesarean deliveries. Health care providers mostly advise their