Most people agree that having a baby changes your life, and giving birth is not easy. Depending on how you give birth—naturally (vaginal birth) or by Cesarean section (Cesarean delivery) —can have an impact on how long you take to recover. That recovery time impacts how quickly you can return to normal activities, including resuming sex with your partner.
If you’re wondering how long you should wait before having sex again after having a C-section delivery, you’ve come to the right place. David Puls, DO, a Family Medicine/OB physician at the Banner Health Clinic in Greeley, says it’s important for women to listen to their OB provider after giving birth—especially if they had a C-section.
“A C-section is a major abdominal surgery and has a much different expected recovery time and unique set of issues compared to a vaginal delivery,” Dr. Puls said.
Dr. Puls notes that patients can typically spend 2-3 days in the hospital after a C-section if there are no complications. Women can expect to feel back to normal after 3-6 months.
After the surgery, women can expect to have pain at the incision site, some mild cramping and discharge for about 4-6 weeks. While recovery really varies from woman to woman, most women experience decreased mobility and a decreased ability to use their abdominal muscles.
When it comes to returning to normal activities after a C-section, Dr. Puls notes there are no specific guidelines. However, a lot depends on the woman and any complications she may have after the procedure.
Generally, doctors will recommend not lifting anything from the ground in the first week or two—other than the new baby, of course. Some surgeons may recommend not to lift anything heavier than 13 pounds for 4-6 weeks postpartum.
“In general, we want the incisions to be well healed before adding additional stress,” Dr. Puls said. “Often, there will be increased soreness and discomfort if women overdo it.”
When is it safe to have sex after C-section?
According to the American Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology, you should not place anything in the vagina or have sex for a few weeks after a C-section. Dr. Puls says most OBs will give the green light for resuming sexual activity after 6 weeks.
“In general, we want the uterus to be able to clean itself out and for surgical incisions to heal, so there is less risk of infection,” Dr. Puls said.
What can happen if you don’t wait? According to Dr. Puls, the woman would likely experience pain or discomfort from vaginal dryness and changes of pubic symphysis or other musculoskeletal changes from pregnancy. Additionally, Dr. Puls says wounds that have not totally healed could reopen.
In some cases, a woman may have to wait longer to return to sexual activity. Dr. Puls says some reasons include:
- Significant trauma to the vagina from an instrument-assisted delivery or the baby getting stuck, called dystocia, that requires vaginal reconstruction
- A Cesarean hysterectomy, which is when the uterus is removed during the C-section
- Any wound or organ infections
- Having a drain placed after the surgery
If you feel ready, Dr. Puls says it is important to talk to your OB before engaging in sexual activity. You should also know that the first time you have sex after a C-section could be uncomfortable and may not feel good. Couples may want to consider using a lubricant to help improve the experience. Your OB may suggest certain sex positions that can help. Additionally, be sure to watch your C-section incision site for bleeding and increased pain.
“Talk to your partner about concerns as well,” Dr. Puls said. “Patience and understanding are part of a good relationship.”
The stress of having a newborn coupled with the extent of the surgery means the first few weeks after you give birth are an important time to listen to advice and give yourself time to heal.
“Women need to listen to their bodies and their providers with regards to increasing physical activity, as well as when to return to sexual activities,” Dr. Puls said.
For additional information regarding your post-pregnancy health, check out our articles on the following: