Dear MKE SEX,
I had my first baby about two weeks ago. Pretty basic birth through the old vagine—it wasn’t as traumatic as I thought it would be. You know what was traumatic? When I was leaving the hospital and the nurse told me I shouldn’t have sex for six weeks. She said I’d see my doctor for a check up around then, and he’d give me “the go-ahead” to “resume intimacy,” whatever that means. I asked her why I had to wait that long, and she said it was because I might bleed that long. First of all—yuck! I better not bleed that long, because she also said I can’t use tampons right now and six weeks of pads is a real problem for me. But also, even if I am bleeding, I don’t care about that! My husband and I have sex on my period all the time. We just put down a towel and plan a shower afterward.
Since you always encourage people to be safe, but also to be sexually fulfilled, I thought I’d ask you. I don’t really have to wait six weeks, do I? I miss my husband and our sex life already, and it seems like a long, long time!
Been A Long Time
Dear Long Time,
Congratulations on your new bundle! I hope you’re adjusting to your new sleep (or lack of sleep) schedule, and getting to shower occasionally. This can be a challenging time in a person’s life. It can also be difficult to find a new routine in your relationship that keeps you connected. It’s wonderful that you’re already interested in sex (and intimacy, I’m guessing), and it’s a real bummer that you have to wait a little while.
Most people are told to wait until six weeks, but it’s kind of an arbitrary number. The important thing is to wait for penetration until the bleeding has stopped. Postpartum bleeding lasts between three and eight weeks (though some are done sooner, and some bleed even longer). If you had a tear in your perineum or vulva (with or without stitches), you also want to wait for penetration until the tissue has had some good healing time. A minor tear (first or second degree) will take about three weeks to recover most of its integrity. Anything more severe than that (third or fourth degree), and you really should give it a full six weeks. And if that’s the case, it’s also a good idea to have your sutures checked out by your healthcare provider before resuming all the kinds of sex.
Since you’re an adult, you ultimately get to decide what you’re doing with your body. In order to do that, you should know why it’s a good idea to wait until the postpartum bleeding stops. (HINT: It’s not because of the mess!) When you’re pregnant, your baby’s placenta is attached to the inside of your uterus. It’s about the size of large salad plate. And after your baby is born, the placenta detaches and is expelled from your body. The place inside your uterus where your placenta was attached is now like an open wound. As your uterus shrinks, the placental site also shrinks, but it doesn’t close completely for a while. That’s where the blood is coming from in those postpartum weeks. So as long as you’re bleeding, the placental site is still a wound, and your cervix is still at least a little open (similar to how it is when you have your period every month). Until your wound has healed and your cervix has closed, you run the risk of getting an infection if you put anything in your vagine.
But you know what? Even if you choose to skip penetration, there’s a whole lot of other sexy stuff you can do in those first few weeks. Clitoral stimulation (with fingers, toys, or a mouth) are all safe. Orgasm is also safe, as long as you’re listening to your body. Mutual masturbation can be a very sexy and safe activity for you and your husband. If you feel up to swapping hand-play or oral sex, give it a try. If it doesn’t feel great the first time, wait a few days or a week and try again. You’re probably going to want to use lube to make things more comfortable.
For folks who give birth via c-section: the same guidelines about penetration and bleeding apply to you, too. When you do resume sex, try to pick positions that minimize external pressure on your abdomen. Also, it’s a good idea to wait until at least three weeks postpartum before trying for an orgasm. There’s no way to visually monitor the healing of the internal sutures, so better safe than sorry. When you do try, be sure to stop if you have sharp pain in your incision. Wait a full week before trying again.
Curious about cunnilingus? Anxious about anal? Do you have questions about queefs or problems with your prostate? Lucky Tomaszek is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee’s only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll get back to you with an answer.