Sex and contraception after birth
It’s normal to feel like you never want to have sex again after giving birth.
At some point you probably will want to have sex, so it’s good to be prepared and to think about contraception.
Your fertility can come back quickly even if you’re breastfeeding so it’s a good idea to talk to your midwife about contraception.
You can speak to your midwife about contraception before your baby is born.
Take your time
Physically, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have sex as soon as:
- any bleeding has stopped
- cuts or tears have healed
If you have sex before then:
- it can hurt
- there’s a chance you may get an infection if cuts and tears haven’t healed
Doing pelvic floor exercises can help your body recover.
Many couples wait longer – it’s entirely up to you. The important thing is that you only have sex when you’re ready to.
Having sex after birth
There are many different ways to have sex. After giving birth you may feel you want to try something other than penetrative sex. As everybody's different, talk to each other about how you feel.
You and your partner may feel too tired for sex, and you may feel bruised after the birth or not ready emotionally.
When you do decide to have sex again you’ll both probably be a bit nervous, so use some lubrication and don’t rush it. If you’re finding sex hurts, stop and talk to your partner.
Choosing a contraceptive
There's a large choice of contraceptives available. What you choose will depend on whether:
- you’re breastfeeding
- you want to have another baby and, if so, when
Ask your midwife, health visitor or family nurse to give you information about:
- the different kinds of contraception
- how effective they are
- any side effects
If you decide not to use contraception, talk to your midwife, health visitor, family nurse or GP about what this could mean for you.
Types of contraceptive
The main types of contraception are:
- long-acting, reversible contraception (LARC), such as implants, intrauterine devices (IUD or the coil) and injections. These are the most effective forms of contraception.
- the pill (combined and progestogen-only)
- permanent contraception, such as sterilisation and vasectomy
- natural family planning
More about the different types of contraception
Breastfeeding as a contraceptive
Some women use breastfeeding as a method of contraception. This method isn't as reliable as other forms of contraception such as LARC.
If you choose to use this method you need to start it straight away or within 3 weeks of birth.
How effective is it?
Breastfeeding as a contraceptive is likely to be most effective if you’re:
- using it in the first 6 months after your baby's born
- not having any periods
- fully breastfeeding and not also giving infant formula
It becomes less effective:
- when your periods start again
- when your baby's 6 months or older
- if you start reducing the number of times you breastfeed, for example if you stop night feeds or start using infant formula feeds
Trying for another baby
You can get pregnant as little as 3 weeks after the birth of a baby, even if you’re breastfeeding and your periods haven’t started again.
If you’re planning on having sex that could lead to pregnancy, you should start using contraception no later than 3 weeks after your baby's born.
There are lots of benefits to leaving a gap of at least 18 months between one baby and the next.
More about having another baby
Translations and alternative formats of this information are available from Public Health Scotland.
12 August 2021
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