Giving birth is a natural and common process. However, not everyone understands just how traumatic it can be to a woman’s body. Men are often notorious for lacking awareness of the huge strain childbirth can exert, and do not always understand why women need time before they can engage in sex routine again.
Midwives and doctors recommend that a new mother should not engage in intercourse until after her postnatal check-up, which is usually around 6 weeks after birth. While no real scientific basis exists for the six weeks prohibition period, the nature of childbirth itself does not allow a woman to bounce right back into their sex lives.
A medical journal issued in 2016 revealed that about 85% of new mothers who undergo natural birth can experience mild vaginal damage or even tears that can last for a number of weeks before healing. After channelling out the baby, it is expected that the vaginal tissues will be strained, bruised and sometimes even torn. Even with a Caesarean delivery, a mother’s body is still exhausted and needs some time to heal from the surgical wounds. Moreover, there is the inevitable discharge of lochia, a mixture of residual blood, uterine tissue and mucus that are expelled from the body after birth; this process may last for 2 to 6 weeks. Breastfeeding also makes it difficult for new mothers to resume having sex.
There is the hormonal aspect as well, where the body is forced to produce low estrogen to prevent ovulation. The effect of this is vaginal dryness, reduced sexual desire and a less sensitive clitoris, which all make it difficult to enjoy sex. At this time, testosterone will also be produced in low levels (which contributes to low libido) to allow for the production of prolactin, the milk-supplying hormone, in sufficient amounts.
Besides the physical changes that a new mother has to deal with, there is the emotional aspect childbirth has on a woman. A new mother is subjected to the overwhelming responsibility of caring for a newborn and has to readjust to the physical changes brought about by pregnancy, childbirth and maternity. All these can feel too much for her to come back to her regular sex life right away. Exhaustion from delivery and the huge responsibility of caring for the baby usually interfere with sleep and, as a result, negatively affect a new mother’s mood to have sex. Without the right support system, a woman may even fall into post-partum depression. So men need to understand that it may take quite some time for a new mother to gain control of all these factors before they can comfortably and safely engage in sex again.