You already know that it takes time to slim down after a pregnancy. But new moms should expect delays in the bedroom department as well. Most women wait at least six to eight weeks after giving birth to have sex again, according to a new study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Researchers at the Murdoch ChildrenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Research Institute in Australia collected data from 1,507 first-time moms at 3, 6, and 12 months after giving birth, asking when they first attempted vaginal sex. The results: 41 percent of women had sex by 6 weeks, 65 percent by 8 weeks, and 78 percent by 12 weeks. Whether they had complications during the birth was a big factor in how long they waited. New moms whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d had a C-section, episiotomy, or other complications were far less likely to resume having sex at the six-week mark.
The study shows that thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no universal cutoff for when you should start to ease back into your old sex life. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is very important to dispel the myth that everything will be Ã¢â‚¬Ëœback to normalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ by six weeks,Ã¢â‚¬Â Stephanie Brown, an associate professor at The Murdoch ChildrenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Research Institute and lead author of the study, wrote in an email. Recovery is mental as well as physical: according to Brown, many new moms are too busy or too tired for sex while attending to the demands of a newborn. Others are afraid of the pain of trying to have sex again. These concerns are normal, she says, and you shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel guilty about having them.
Whether or not youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re contemplating having a baby any time soon, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no reason to walk around with bad information that will only freak you out. Alyssa Dweck, M.D., co-author of V is for Vagina, dispels the biggest myths surrounding sex and pregnancy.
Myth #1: Your Libido Will Tank ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s totally normal for pregnant women to feel a dip in their sex drive, says Dweck, especially in the side-effect-heavy first trimester. But thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not true for everyone. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The good news is that plenty of other women have a soaring libido when theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re pregnant,Ã¢â‚¬Â she says. The hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause some women to feel a pleasant spike in sexual desire. And donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be surprised if your newly arrived curves make you feel irresistibly hot. Plenty of couples manage to maintain an active sex life for all nine months, says Dweck. Just donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get caught up in whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“normal.Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is no normal,Ã¢â‚¬Â she says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“A lot of it has to do with what your sexual activities were before pregnancy.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Myth #2: Sex Can Hurt the Baby If you remember that scene from Knocked Up, you probably know that sex during pregnancy canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t damage a fetus. But this myth still stubbornly lives on. Ã¢â‚¬Å“A lot of times the male partners are more frightened to have sex than the women,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Dweck. In most cases, sex is 100% safe for mom and baby. There are some exceptions, which your ob-gyn will warn you about. Among other issues, if you have an incompetent (or weakened) cervix, unexplained bleeding, or suffer from a condition called placenta previa, your ob-gyn will advise you not to have sex while pregnant. If you have concerns, just ask your doc, but chances are sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll give you the green light.
That said, not all positions are fair game. You may have to switch up your routine, as some of your old standbys may not be as comfortable for you. At 15-20 weeks, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll want to avoid lying flat on your back (the weight of your uterus can compress your vena cava, causing a dangerous drop in blood pressure)—which means traditional missionary is out, says Dweck. Doggy-style and side-by-side are popular alternatives.
Myth #3: You Should Be Having Sex By 6 Weeks Postpartum If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going at it at the 6-week mark, congratulations! Just know that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in the minority. Six weeks is the bare minimum for how long you should wait to heal fully after giving birth. Many women will need more time than that. Basically, after you give birth, your delicate bits are raw, exposed, and vulnerable to infection. Plus, your cervix needs time to close up again, says Dweck, and it typically takes about six weeks for that to happen. If you had an episiotomy, it needs to heal completely. (In fact, the Murdoch ChildrenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Research Institute study indicates that only 10% of first-time moms will give birth with an intact perineum.) Having sex too early increases your chances of pain and infection. Dweck recommends external play instead: cuddling, kissing, and general adorableness with your partner. Just make sure to hold off on any activity in or near your vagina until youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re fully healed.
Myth #4: The First Time You Do It Will Hurt Ã¢â‚¬Å“Most women are really afraid of pain with sex after pregnancy,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Dweck. But if you allow enough time for your body to heal completely, sex wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be a problem. Keep in mind that new moms become ready for sex at very different rates, as the study shows. When you decide that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re ready, it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hurt to be extra-careful. Your estrogen levels dip while youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re nursing, which can cause vaginal dryness, so Dweck recommends using plenty of lube when you decide to take the plunge. Communicate with your partner about your fears, take it slow, and go easy on yourself. And donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t forget to use contraception, says Dweck—youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll need it even when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re nursing.
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