However much the pregnancy books sugarcoat it, childbirth can often mean carnage in the downstairs department.
Even if you have a ‘normal’ birth with minimal or no intervention, the chances are that you will feel as though your nether regions have done ten rounds with a particularly vicious bare knuckle fighter.
The fighter in question may well be tucked up in its cot looking like perfection in human form, but, in-between marvelling at the tiny human you created, you’re probably still sitting down very carefully and wondering how long it will be before you can feel anything when you go for a pee.
Nevertheless, humans are a predictable species; at some point instinct will kick in and you’ll start fancying your partner again enough to consider hopping on to check whether everything still works.
But how soon is too soon for sex after childbirth? And what happens if you decide that you’d actually prefer it if no-one touched you in that region ever again, thank you very much for asking. Opinions certainly differ.
Dr Clare Morrison, GP at MedExpress, says: ‘There are no fixed rules about when to resume sexual intercourse after childbirth. ‘It’s very much up to the couple.
‘For the first ten to 14 days, most couples will find sex is the last thing on their minds. ‘There will be quite heavy vaginal bleeding and soreness, not to mention the demands of looking after a tiny baby.
‘Even with bottle-fed babies, Mum’s breasts are likely to be swollen and leaking and she will be sleep-deprived. ‘Many women prefer to wait until the six-week check to ensure that any complications have settled, stitches have come out and suitable contraception is organised.
‘However, it doesn’t always take this long for all that to happen, particularly if there wasn’t a tear or cut and Mum feels comfortable.
‘Likewise, some couples delay longer, sometimes by several months. ‘Looking after a young baby takes up a lot of time and energy, even if there aren’t any major problems, and it’s very common for mums to suffer from reduced libido, fatigue, and lack of vaginal lubrication.
‘Some will need even longer. ‘These may include those who have had a very difficult birth, or who felt traumatised by the event and are frightened of getting pregnant again, and also those suffering from postnatal depression or other health problems.
‘Although it’s rare, I occasionally see couples who have had such a bad experience that they are put off intercourse for a considerable length of time.
‘This may be because the women can’t bear sexual contact, or occasionally because the man can’t come to terms with his partner suffering during the process of childbirth. ‘I would recommend couples in this situation to be patient, and take things slowly.
‘Spend time together as a couple and enjoy intimacy in non-penetrative ways. ‘Communicate with your partner and discuss your fears frankly. ‘Intercourse may be easier when the woman has more control, so try positions that facilitate this, for example, woman on top. ‘Consider using a water-based vaginal lubricant. ‘If the problem is very persistent talk to you GP, who could refer you to a Psychosexual Counselling clinic.
Alison Edwards is senior lecturer in Midwifery at Birmingham City University. ‘There is no evidence to stipulate when couples can re-engage with full sexual activity and of course there are other ways to satisfy each other without it,’ she says.
‘We generally recommend that couples abstain for at least the first six weeks, however it is entirely up to them. ‘It can take this length of time for stitches to heal and the body to return to what would be considered a ‘pre-pregnancy state’.
Women do need to rest and place a focus on their newborn to develop feeding patterns and relationships. While not hindering sexual activity, in itself it can make women tired and needing support more than anything else. ‘And women are very fertile just after childbirth even if fully breastfeeding.’
As for me – well, I was single by the time I gave birth to my eldest child, so it was a moot point. But my second was born in a long-term relationship and my libido somehow kicked back in within days.
This is how I found myself crying at my postnatal check-up because the nurse refused to let me have a coil fitted. She was right to do so: the uterus takes a while to settle down after birth and things need to be properly back to normal before having an intrauterine device fitted in order to ensure that it’s in the right place and not likely to wriggle its way back out again.
And she was also right to tell me to just use condoms if I was that desperate: they work, they’re safe and they help keep things hygienic.
But, mostly, she was just surprised that I was even considering it. She muttered about ‘letting things settle’ and not ‘being coerced’, but I genuinely wanted to get back to it. There’s nothing quite like the power of post-birth hormones.
Liz Halliday, Deputy Head of Midwifery at Private Midwives thinks this approach is fine, so long as care is taken. ‘Sexual activity is a normal part of adult relationships – once you both feel ready it can be good for your relationship and remind you that you’re not just Mum and Dad.”
‘There’s no rush. Intimacy can be found in hugging and kissing, or just spending time together. ‘Don’t judge yourself against other couples – if you feel something is wrong, speak to your doctor, midwife or health visitor for advice.’
Some new parents find childbirth a really positive experience on an emotional level. There is no right or wrong, just what is right for you.
Take all the time in the world or no time at all, just go at your own pace. Just be prepared for that pace to be ‘hurriedly, in-between feeds’.