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Choosing The Right Contraception For Postpartum Sex

Choosing The Right Contraception For Postpartum Sex

Hey, mama. We know that sex might be the furthest thing from your mind as you recover from giving birth - but this is the time to consider your next form of contraception. Before heading off to start HANX with her BFF Farah Kabir, our Co-Founder Dr Sarah Welsh specialised in NHS gynaecology and obstetrics. She has helped bring thousands of babies into the world - and assisted their parents in getting set up for post-partum sex, whenever they were ready to get back to it.

For many, the prospect of being intimate again can be daunting, especially after a vaginal birth. However, there is no set timeline for having sex after pregnancy and you shouldn't feel pressured into it. Here are your most-asked questions, answered:

 

When is normal to start having sex again after giving birth?

There is no ‘official’ rule for when you should have have sex again after birth and it varies from person to person with many influencing factors. These include your age, general fitness, mode of delivery (vaginal, instrumental or caesarean) and of course, personal preference. Generally, four to six weeks after delivery is about the right time to wait before having sex and around half of all couples start having sex again within 8 weeks after giving birth.

The risk of having a complication after delivery is highest during the first couple of weeks. After six weeks, your body is now not deemed “postpartum", so this is when your hormones return to near normal levels and your body has had time to recover from child-birth/delivery. You’ll undoubtedly have your hands full with your new arrival, but if you feel the flames of desire starting to burn again, there's no reason not to make time for yourself - and your partner, too!

 

What if we want to have sex but my body has not recovered from giving birth yet?

Don’t panic. This isn’t unusual as everyone recovers from delivery in their own time and at their own unique pace. If you are psychologically ready for sex before you’re feeling physically ready, there are many ways you can explore postpartum pleasure by yourself, or with a partner to satisfy this urge without going in for penetrative sex yet.

Start off slowly with kissing, cuddling, touching and even massage to encourage intimacy and closeness with your partner, this helps to keep that bond going for when you are ready to take things to the next level and let’s be honest - isn’t too strenuous when you’re both likely to be exhausted. Oral sex is an accessible way to ease back in and some couples find sex toys can help too, although be sure to go gentle on yourself and don’t reach for anything too sharp, ridged or spiky just yet. 

It is important to communicate with your partner and not feel like you’re being rushed or pressurised to get “back to normal”.

 

When can I use contraception after having a baby?

You usually ovulate (e.g. release an egg) about two weeks before your period starts, which means it is possible to get pregnant before you have a period. Discuss this with your assigned medical professional, be it a GP, midwife or or health visitor and they’ll be able to take you through the options you have at hand.

 

Which contraception can I use postpartum?

There’s plenty of options out there for you to choose from and while this can make it seem a little overwhelming, there are resources available to make this decision process a little smoother. As well as listing all forms of contraception, our friends at charity Brook’s contraception tool can point you in the right direction.

 

Can I get the contraceptive implant after I’ve given birth?

The contraceptive implant is more than 99% effective and if you are fitted with one by day 21 after you give birth, it is an effective contraceptive immediately. However, if you get the implant after day 21, it will not be effective for the first seven days and you will need additional contraception, e.g. condoms. Aim to use gentle, spermicide-free condoms which are less likely to irritate your vagina, such as gynae-backed alternatives like HANX vegan, lubricated condoms

 

After having a baby, should I get the contraceptive injection?

The contraceptive injection is more than 99% effective and it’s considered best to wait six weeks after birth to receive the progestogen-only injection if you are breastfeeding. However, if you are formula feeding your baby, you can get it when you choose but you should expect to see some heavy and irregular bleeding if this is given less than six weeks after birth.

 

Can I get the progestogen-only pill after I’ve had a baby?

You’re in luck: the progestogen-only implant or mini pill can be used right away and is 99% effective if taken correctly. Set those phone alarms to make sure you take it as scheduled!

 

Can I get an IUD as protection after having a baby?

The IUD (intrauterine device) is more than 99% effective but please bear in mind that if an IUD is not inserted within 48 hours, you'll usually be advised to wait until 4 weeks after the birth.

 

How effective is an IUS for postpartum sex?

The IUS (intrauterine system) is more than 99% effective when inserted within 48 hours of the birth. It’s worth bearing in mind that if an IUS is not inserted within 48 hours, you'll usually be advised to wait until 4 weeks after the birth.

 

Should we use condoms after having a baby?

Many people find it a good way to ease back into using contraception, with the bonus of being non-hormonal and non-permanent. External condoms (sometimes known as male condoms) are 98% effective if used correctly and internal condoms (sometimes known as female condoms) are 95% effective. Look for condoms without flavours, numbing gels or tingling sensation gels as these can irritate the vagina or even cause yeast infections.

  

Can I use breastfeeding as a form of natural contraception?

This is known as the lactational amenorrhoea method, or LAM. It's important to start using another form of contraception if:

  • your baby is more than 6 months old
  • you give them anything else apart from breast milk, such as a dummy, formula or solid foods
  • your periods start again (even light spotting counts)
  • you stop night feeding
  • you start to breastfeed less often
  • there are longer intervals between feeds, both during the day and at night

The effect of expressing breast milk on LAM isn't currently known, but it may make it less effective, in which case we recommend you use alternative contraception such as condoms.

 

Why is sex painful after birth? 

Your body has been through a challenging experience and you may well be experiencing pain and other conditions as a result of giving birth. Your body is adjusting and as a result, sex may be painful the first few times you have sex after having your baby. Vaginal dryness is a common cause of painful sex after giving birth and some research has shown that this can be worse for women who are breastfeeding as they have lower levels of oestrogen. Again, this should get better over time or when you stop breastfeeding. If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness, experiment with using a water-based lubricant like HANX.

 

Want more?

  • Share your post-partum sex experience with our community over at HANX Life, our free, anonymous digital safe space.

Slide into our DMs @hanxofficial

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