Most people agree that having a baby changes your life, and giving birth is not easy. Depending on how you give birth—naturally or by Caesarean section—can have an impact on how long you take to recover. That recovery time impacts how quickly you can return to normal activities, including having sex with your partner.
If you’re wondering how long you should wait before having sex again after having a C-section, 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.
Recovery from C-section
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 will have 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 afterwards.
“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.”
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 say to wait 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 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
Before engaging in sexual activity, Dr. Puls says it is important to talk to your OB. You should also know that the first time you have sex after a C-section could be uncomfortable. Couples may want to consider using a lubricant to help improve the experience. Your OB may suggest certain sexual positions that can help. Additionally, be sure to watch your incision site for bleeding and increased pain.
“Discuss concerns with your partner 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 giving birth are an important time to listen to advice.
“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:
- Kegel Exercises: the importance of strengthening your pelvic floor
- Birth Control Options: what to know
- Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression: your risk and recognizing the symptoms
- Diastasis-Recti: a potential cause for that baby "pooch" that won't go away