Navigating Postpartum Sex: physical recovery & intimacy.

July 11, 2024

Photo by Ebony Forsyth via Dupe.


Postpartum sex is a deeply personal journey that encompasses physical, emotional, and psychological changes. It can feel overwhelming, and that's perfectly normal. This post is here to help guide you through some of your most commonly asked questions and concerns, offering gentle and supportive guidance to help you (and perhaps also your partner/s) rediscover intimacy in this beautiful, yet maybe also challenging, new chapter of your life. With advice and insights from our resident health experts.



Pregnancy and childbirth both bring significant physical changes, some of which can impact sexual activity post-birth. For those who had vaginal deliveries and may have experienced perineal tears or episiotomies, these will need time to heal. C-section recoveries also involve healing from major abdominal surgery.  "We recommend waiting six (6) weeks prior to having intercourse, after any birth," says Sydney-based OBGYN, Dr. Nicole Stamatopoulos. "It takes that long for the body to return to its non-pregnant state," she adds.

Either way, you'll likely experience postpartum bleeding (a.k.a 'lochia') for the first 6 - 8 weeks post-birth, so you may not feel like doing much of anything intimate during that time anyway.

Beyond your health practitioner's recommendation, it's really up to you (and your partner, if you're partnered), as to when you re-commence sexual activity. Everyone's timeline will be different, as will their individual circumstances. Either way, patience, compassion and gradual progression is key to a positive and pleasurable experience.



The emotional landscape postpartum can be complex. Many new parents experience fluctuations in mood, anxiety, fatigue, or even postnatal depression, which can impact their desire for intimacy. It's important to address these feelings openly, either with your partner or medical practitioner.

Physically, your body has undergone a myriad of changes that may also impact intimate desire or activity. "Postpartum vaginal dryness can occur due to the drop in estrogen levels and can leave your vaginal tissue feeling dry, thin, fragile or uncomfortable," says Clinical Naturopath, Danni Bichler, who specialises in women's health. She recommends using a good quality, pH balanced personal lubricant to help avoid excess friction. "Alternatively, Seabuckthorn oil and Vitamin E oil are great options for vaginal dryness and can be used both topically and taken orally to support natural lubrication, helping increase the plumpess and moisture of vaginal and vulval tissues," she adds.

If you're breast feeding, you'll likely experience tender breasts and even mastitis, which can be painful to the touch. "Cabbage leaves can help soothe, and breast massage in a hot shower can also help blocked milk ducts, providing some relief from tenderness," says Danni. "If you're prone to mastitis, reach out to your lactation consultant for feeding tips, and drink teas such as calendula, echinacea and chamomile," she adds. "Remember to keep fluids up, which also aids in vaginal lubrication."



Physical sexual activity is just one aspect of intimacy; rebuilding emotional and physical closeness can take many forms, and that might even start with intimate pleasure play with yourself! If you're choosing partnered intimacy, "you might consider other forms of intimacy, such as massage, cuddling, kissing, or simply spending quality time together with your partner," says Danni. These actions can strengthen your bond and reduce pressure for sexual intercourse. Planning small, intentional moments together can help rebuild your relationship's foundation, paving the way for a more comfortable return to sexual activity.



Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy can sometimes significantly affect libido. If you're breastfeeding, that can lower estrogen levels, leading to decreased sexual desire. It's also not uncommon for partners to have mismatched libidos during this time and so open and honest communication is vital. "Relax, take it slow and communicate with your partner," suggests Danni. Discuss your needs and listen to eachother's feelings, and if you're struggling with a lack of desire, give yourself time and be patient. Experiment with different forms of intimacy to find what feels right for both of you.



If you experience persistent issues, such as painful sex or a complete lack of sexual desire, seeking professional help can absolutely be beneficial. Pelvic floor therapy or pelvic physiotherapy can help address any physical discomfort you may be exeriencing, while counseling can help with emotional and relational challenges. There are also numerous online resources and support groups where you can share experiences and gain advice from others going through similar situations, some totally anonymously if that's what you prefer. Remember, it's okay to ask for help, and prioritising your sexual health is an essential part of overall wellbeing.



Navigating postpartum sex is a journey that requires patience, understanding, and open communication - between you, your partner/s, your health practitioners and maybe even your extended support network (like close friends). Every new parent's experience is unique, and there is no "right" timeline for resuming intimacy. By addressing physical, emotional, and psychological factors, you can nurture and deepen your intimate connections. Remember that rediscovering intimacy post-birth may be a gradual process, so go easy on yourself.


A PSA about this piece...

The information provided here and anywhere on our site is to inform and educate only - this does not constitute, nor should it replace, a personalised medical diagnosis from your own doctor or health practitioner. If you have any queries or concerns relating to your your health in any way, please consult your own trusted health practitioner for advice. 

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