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Resuming sex after pregnancy

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While your sex life during pregnancy may continue normally, sex after the birth is probably going to be the last thing on your mind.

A number of things contribute to a decline in sex drive after the birth of your baby. Labour is a physically exhausting and highly emotional process, so it's only natural that your body will need some time to recover! In addition, your hormone levels change significantly after birth, and of course you will also need time to adjust to your new baby.

Why won't I feel like having sex?
It's only natural to overlook sex for days or more likely weeks, after you have your baby. Some of the reasons you may not feel like, or enjoy sex include:

- Tiredness and feelings of general discomfort

- Pain due to an episiotomy - this can sometimes take months to subside

- Feeling unattractive because of a flabby stomach - exercise will help!

- Anxiety about your new baby and the new world of motherhood

- Distractons, such as a crying or unsettled baby

- Fear of getting pregnant - conception can still occur while you're breastfeeding.

When should we start having sex again?
There are no hard and fast rules about when desire will return or when to resume your sex life - it varies for different people. While the general opinion is that sex can resume straight away, it's probably best to seek the advice of your doctor or obstetrician.

It's not just you that might not feel like making love! Your partner's sex drive can also be affected by the new baby. You need to talk about any problems together, and should also talk about when each of you is ready to resume sex.

Resuming sex has its advantages. The hormones released during sex cause contractions that will help the uterus to return to it's normal state, and of course, returning to a physical relationship can be good to renew the physical closeness between you and your partner.

What about contraception?
After you have given birth ovulation could occur at any time, even when you are breastfeeding. You and your partner will need to think about contraception and discuss the options with your doctor.

Contraceptive pills that contain oestrogen are not prescribed for breastfeeding women. Progestogen-only pills are available but their long-term side effects are unknown at this stage. Until your six-weekly check-up, the only other alternative is condoms, used with a contraceptive gel or cream. At your six-weekly check-up you can discuss the use of a diaphragm or IUD with your doctor.

Tips for sex after pregnancy

- Talk to each other about how you feel.

- Be gentle with each other and build up to things gradually.

- Avoid penetration and concentrate on caressing and oral sex the first few times.

- Spend more time on kissing, caressing and foreplay to aid arousal.

- Until your hormone levels are back to normal your vagina won't lubricate itself very well, so try using a water-soluble lubricant.

- If you have had an episiotomy, let your partner know if you experience pain.

- You may also find a warm bath and lubricant will help.

- Try different positions if you feel discomfort.

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