Sex and contraception after birth
There are no rules about when to start having sex again after you have given birth.
You'll probably feel sore as well as tired after your baby is born, so don't rush into it.
If sex hurts, it won't be pleasurable. You may want to use a personal lubricant, available from pharmacies, to begin with.
Hormonal changes after birth can make your vagina feel drier than usual.
You may be worried about changes to your body or getting pregnant again. Men may worry about hurting their partner.
It might be some time before you want to have sex. Until then, both of you can carry on being loving and close in other ways.
If you or your partner have any worries, talk about them together. You can talk with your health visitor or GP if you need some more help.
Tips for starting sex again after birth
- If penetration hurts, say so. If you pretend that everything's all right when it isn't, you may start to see sex as a nuisance or unpleasant, rather than a pleasure. You can still give each other pleasure without penetration – for example, by mutual masturbation.
- Take it gently. Perhaps explore with your own fingers first to reassure yourself that sex won't hurt. You may want to use some personal lubricant. Hormonal changes after childbirth may mean you aren't as lubricated as usual.
- Make time to relax together. You're more likely to make love when your minds are on each other rather than other things.
- Get help if you need it. If you're still experiencing pain when you have your postnatal check, talk to your GP.
Contraception after having a baby
You can get pregnant as little as 3 weeks after the birth of a baby, even if you're breastfeeding and your periods haven't started again.
Unless you want to get pregnant again, it's important to use some kind of contraception every time you have sex after giving birth, including the first time.
You'll usually have a chance to discuss contraception before you leave hospital after your baby is born, and again at your postnatal check.
You can also talk to your GP or health visitor, or go to a family planning clinic, at any time.
Read more about contraception after having a baby.
Sexual health charities Brook and FPA have interactive tools that can help you decide which method of contraception is best for you:
You can also search for your local NHS contraception service.
Contraception and breastfeeding
You're unlikely to have any periods if you breastfeed exclusively (give your baby breast milk only) and your baby is under 6 months old.
Because of this, some women use breastfeeding as a form of natural contraception. This is known as the lactational amenorrhoea method, or LAM.
It's important to start using another form of contraception if:
- your baby is more than 6 months old
- you give them anything else apart from breast milk, such as a dummy, formula or solid foods
- your periods start again (even light spotting counts)
- you stop night feeding
- you start to breastfeed less often
- there are longer intervals between feeds, both during the day and at night
The effect of expressing breast milk on LAM isn't known, but it may make it less effective.
Media review due: 23 March 2023
Page last reviewed: 13 December 2018
Next review due: 13 December 2021