Sex After a C-Section

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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About to kiss

It takes at least six weeks to get past the pain and discomfort of a C-section delivery. That’s why your doctor will tell you that sex is off-limits for a while. It may take even longer for you to feel emotionally ready for sex after a C-section. But your desire and ability will return. Follow these steps to help you get there.

Allow Your Body to Heal

A C-section is major abdominal surgery. Women who have this type of delivery are usually in more pain afterward than women who deliver vaginally. C-section recovery takes longer than a vaginal birth. 

Right after delivery, your doctor will tell you how to heal and avoid infection:

  • Avoid rigorous activity

  • Don’t place anything inside your vagina including a tampon. Use sanitary pads instead.

  • Don’t have sex until your doctor says it’s safe

After a C-section, your interest in sex may be low, especially if you are breastfeeding. And your body goes through many changes that could make sex uncomfortable. These changes include: 

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Mild cramping

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Pain at your incision site

  • Temporary loss of bladder control

Estrogen levels are low after childbirth and while breastfeeding. This is one of the reasons for vaginal dryness after childbirth and during breastfeeding. Normally, estrogen keeps the vaginal tissues lubricated and moist. This promotes healthy tissue and makes sex more enjoyable because it reduces friction. 

Don’t Rush

A low sex drive is common after a C-section. If you still don’t feel ready to have sex, even after your doctor says it’s safe, then wait till you do. Besides, both you and your partner may be exhausted from adapting to your baby's arrival and unpredictable schedule. It may take a few months or more to regain the level of sexual desire and enjoyment you had before pregnancy. 

If you are hesitant to become sexually active again, here are a few ways to make the transition a little easier:

  • Try a vaginal lubricant: Vaginal dryness is common after a C-section. It could make sex painful. This problem could be worse if you are breastfeeding. Try a vaginal moisturizer or a water-based lubricant. Do not use petroleum-based products. They can be irritating. They also can cause condoms to break.

  • Strengthen your pelvic muscles: You may have bladder-control problems after a C-section. This can make you not want to have sex. Rest assured that this usually is a short-term problem. Ask your doctor about exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles inside your pelvis. That could help you regain bladder control.

  • Talk with your partner: Having a C-section may be stressful. If it was unexpected, you might also feel disappointed and overwhelmed. Talk with your partner about how you feel and the extra healing time and care you may need. Your partner can best respond when clear and honest feelings are shared.

Consider Your Fears and Concerns

It may be hard to talk about topics like bladder control. If you don’t get enough sleep or don't quickly adjust to your new routine, an open discussion may be even harder. But it could help.

You might also want to talk about other factors that affect physical intimacy. These could include:

  • Fear of waking your baby or not hearing your baby

  • Concerns that sex will cause injury or be painful

  • Poor body image or feelings that you are less attractive

  • Fear of getting pregnant again

If are worried about having sex, start slow. Try to regain a sense of physical closeness without sex. Touch, cuddle and kiss. This can be a pleasant way for you and your partner to start over.  
Be sure to let your partner know if you are nervous about having sex. This can help you both feel more secure.

And if you're worried about getting pregnant again, talk with your doctor about birth control options. Even if you are breastfeeding, there are safe and effective ways to prevent pregnancy.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 5
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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