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Recovering after a C-section is tough, especially since you’re also adjusting to your new routine (or lack thereof) as a parent. In the thick of postpartum stress, when you’re sleep-deprived and sore, you might wonder when you’ll feel “normal” again — or at least back to wanting the things you used to crave, like regular sex with your boo.
There’s no set timeline for when you’ll be ready to have sex after a C-section. A lot of it depends on how your body feels in the first few weeks postpartum. But when you do start getting horny again, sexual activity may feel a bit different since your body has changed.
Certain positions you used to love might not be your jam right away, while others that never appealed to you could be your new go-to moves. By paying attention to what feels good, you can start having (and enjoying) great postpartum sex sooner rather than later.
For most people, 6 weeks postpartum is the sweet spot for getting back to sex, but that doesn’t necessarily mean diving straight into full-on intercourse.
In a 2013 study with 1,500 participants, 53 percent of women resumed sexual activity within 6 weeks of giving birth — but only 41 percent had attempted vaginal sex by this point. By 8 weeks postpartum, 65 percent of women had attempted vaginal sex.
The major thing to be aware of with post-C-section sex is making sure your incision is healing properly. Your core muscles have just been cut open — to retrieve a literal human being from inside you — so doing vigorous core movements too early could irritate or reopen the incision.
This is why talking to your doctor is crucial. They will give you the go-ahead when it’s safe to get busy again.
“Basically, you are waiting for the uterus to come down in size and for most bleeding/discharge to stop,” explains Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, OB/GYN.
She notes that the 6-week mark is usually OK for women who have had vaginal deliveries as well as those who have had cesarean deliveries. But if you’ve had complications from surgery, you may need to wait a bit longer.
Minkin cautions that yes, you *can* get pregnant right away if you aren’t using birth control.
“Remember that babies can be born 9 months apart, even if mom is breastfeeding,” she says. “So contraception is very important to use, even the first time you have sex after the baby.”
She also notes that most doctors recommend that women not get pregnant immediately after a C-section. “There is an incision in the uterus that needs to heal, and you want to give that time,” she says. “So many obstetricians would recommend a wait of 6 to 12 months before trying again.”
There are several things you can do to make recovery easier after a C-section. They won’t be miracle fixes, but they can help your body heal without additional time or complications.
Get lots of rest
With a new baby in your life, this is way easier said than done. But try your best not to exert yourself beyond what’s absolutely necessary. Lean on your family and those around you to help care for your child as you sneak in as many naps as you possibly can.
Walk it off
As long as your doctor has given you the go-ahead to walk, it’s good to get some laps in to get your body moving.
“Women should be up walking right away, as this will help them with bowel movements and general conditioning,” explains Heather Jeffcoat, DPT, a physical therapist who specializes in women’s health.
Do (doctor-approved) pelvic floor-strengthening exercises
It’s going to take some time for your muscles to regain strength, but you can speed that process along by gently flexing your abdominals as often as your doctor says is OK.
Consider seeing a pelvic floor specialist or physical therapist
The physical demands you’re dealing with — carrying your child around, maneuvering strollers, and maybe caring for older children, too — will likely make your recovery from surgery more difficult.
“Women are at a vulnerable stage postpartum, as they have a ‘stretch weakness’ in the abdominal muscles, which essentially makes them less effective at supporting their posture and can result in injury,” Jeffcoat explains. “A trained physical therapist can help with practical modifications that will keep moms safe and pain-free in the postpartum period.”
Supplement with vitamin C
Dr. Kecia Gaither, OB/GYN, explains that recovery will take time no matter what. “The body requires time to do what it does best,” she says. “In the interim, vitamin C supplementation helps to facilitate healing.”
Remember that your body has changed since the last time you did this and you’re still in recovery mode. Take it slow, and don’t be afraid to switch positions or take longer on foreplay.
Use lots of lube
Wetness reduces friction during sex, and it can make the whole thing feel a helluva lot more enjoyable. It’s especially important to use lubricant after your body has experienced hormonal shifts post-pregnancy.
When you’ve just had a baby, your estrogen and progesterone levels decrease dramatically, which can make it tougher to get wet. Your erratic sleep schedule might also mess with your hormones. Stick to water-based products, which won’t irritate your vag or break down a latex condom.
Try to steer clear of the incision
Missionary is fine as long as it doesn’t hurt you, but having your partner’s body rubbing up against your scar might not feel very good. If that’s the case, try spooning, standing doggy-style, or other positions that don’t put pressure on your stomach.
Take the lead
Positions that put you in the driver’s seat (😏) will be your BFF as you readjust to having sex. Positions where you’re on top let you control the depth and speed of sex to find a rhythm you enjoy.
Do your (doctor-approved) Kegels
You may lose some control of your pelvic area after you’ve had surgery, but this can be restored by re-engaging your muscles (once your doctor has given you the green light, of course).
Kegels are a great way to strengthen your pelvic floor, which can help with bladder control and arousal.
Stop if it hurts
You should never have to endure painful sex, even if you’ve just had a baby. (Louder for the people in the back!) The pain could even indicate that something isn’t right.
If you’re noticing pain, hold off on sex until you talk to your doctor. They can help you figure out the root of the problem and get you back in the saddle.
Like we just said, sex does not have be painful! But it’s not unusual to experience discomfort when you’re starting to have sex again postpartum.
According to a 2015 study, 85 percent of women experienced pain the first time they had vaginal sex after childbirth.
But there’s a difference between sex that hurts because you’re slightly tender and pain that indicates damage to your body. Jeffcoat urges anyone who experiences painful sex to talk about it with a professional to prevent the problem from getting worse over time.
“Once the body experiences pain, it starts to guard in anticipation of that pain occurring again,” she says. “This creates a no-go zone for penetrative intercourse.”
Translation: Your body has changed, your hormones have changed, and sex might not look the same as it used to. You just have to give yourself time to adjust and find a routine that works for you and your partner.
Dr. Tristan Bickman, OB/GYN, also encourages patients to see a doctor if sex is consistently painful.
“You should talk to a doctor if it’s painful while having sex, if it’s associated with bleeding or doesn’t feel normal,” she explains. Your doctor can help you figure out solutions that will make sex more enjoyable for you and your partner.