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Sex and contraception after birth
Sex and contraception after having a baby, including advice on how to make sure sex is pleasurable.
Sex and contraception after birth
There are no rules about when to start having sex again after you have given birth.
You'll probably feel sore as well as tired after your baby is born, so don't rush into it.
If sex hurts, it won't be pleasurable. You may want to use a personal lubricant, available from pharmacies, to begin with.
Hormonal changes after birth can make your vagina feel drier than usual.
You may be worried about changes to your body or getting pregnant again. Men may worry about hurting their partner.
It might be some time before you want to have sex. Until then, both of you can carry on being loving and close in other ways.
If you or your partner have any worries, talk about them together. You can talk with your health visitor or GP if you need some more help.
Tips for starting sex again after birthIf penetration hurts, say so. If you pretend that everything's all right when it isn't, you may start to see sex as a nuisance or unpleasant, rather than a pleasure. You can still give each other pleasure without penetration – for example, by mutual masturbation.Take it gently. Perhaps explore with your own fingers first to reassure yourself that sex won't hurt. You may want to use some personal lubricant. Hormonal changes after childbirth may mean you aren't as lubricated as usual.Make time to relax together. You're more likely to make love when your minds are on each other rather than other things.Get help if you need it. If you're still experiencing pain when you have your postnatal check, talk to your GP.
Contraception after having a 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.
Unless you want to get pregnant again, it's important to use some kind of contraception every time you have sex after giving birth, including the first time.
You'll usually have a chance to discuss contraception before you leave hospital after your baby is born, and again at your postnatal check.
You can also talk to your GP or health visitor, or go to a family planning clinic, at any time.
Read more about contraception after having a baby.
Sexual health charities Brook and FPA have interactive tools that can help you decide which method of contraception is best for you:
Brook: my contraception tool
FPA: my contraception tool
You can also search for your local NHS contraception service.
Contraception and breastfeeding
You're unlikely to have any periods if you breastfeed exclusively (give your baby breast milk only) and your baby is under 6 months old.
Because of this, some women 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 known, but it may make it less effective.
Video: when can we have sex again after birth?
This video explains when you can start to have sex after birth.
Media last reviewed: 23 March 2020
Media review due: 23 March 2023
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Page last reviewed: 13 December 2018
Next review due: 13 December 2021
How Soon Can You Get Pregnant After Giving Birth?
Find out how soon it's possible to get pregnant after giving birth, plus learn why pregnancies that are close together can be risky.
BABIES POSTPARTUM CARE
Risks of Getting Pregnant Right After Giving Birth
By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH Updated on September 13, 2021
Medically reviewed by Rachel Gurevich, RN
Science Photo Library - IAN HOOTON./Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
Are you wondering how soon you can get pregnant after birth? The answer is sooner than you probably think. Do you ever wonder if anyone shows up at their six-week checkup pregnant? The answer is a resounding yes! Many moms are led to believe that they cannot get pregnant soon after delivery, but this is a misconception.
The Possibility of Getting Pregnant Soon After Giving Birth
Whether you had a vaginal birth or c-section, your body is capable of getting pregnant very shortly after giving birth. You can ovulate before having your first postpartum period,1 and as soon as you ovulate, you can conceive.
Despite the fact that it is not recommended that you have sex prior to your six-week checkup, it happens. If you don't use a form of contraception, you can get pregnant. Consider alternatives to sexual intercourse for reasons of healing from giving birth but also to prevent pregnancy.
Breastfeeding, while it may delay ovulation in some women, is not an effective method of birth control unless you are following the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM).2 This is a very specific method of birth control. It means that you never use a breast pump, your baby never gets a pacifier, and your baby does not sleep through the night. This is a standard that is difficult for most women to achieve.
Risks of Pregnancy Within Six Months of Giving Birth
There is good evidence that women who have babies closer together have riskier pregnancies the second time.3 This is because their bodies have not yet fully healed from giving birth. Even when you feel physically healed, your body is adjusting to changing levels of hormones and nutrients.
If you have a pregnancy within six months of giving birth, you increase the risk for complications such as:3
Growth restriction in the baby
Premature rupture of membranes (water breaking)
While outcomes are slightly better if you wait at least six months between pregnancies, waiting at least 18 months is best.3 This gives the body time to heal and reduces the risks of complications. It also gives you time to plan your next pregnancy and receive preconception counseling, which reduces the risks of complications even further. (Pregnancies more than five years apart also carry risks.)
What to Do If You Think You're Pregnant Again
If you think you are pregnant, talk to your practitioner, even if you don't want to admit that you might be pregnant. If you are, you will need prenatal care to help monitor the pregnancy and baby and minimize risk where possible.
Prenatal Care Schedule During Pregnancy
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How soon can you get pregnant after having a baby?
While it is unlikely, a woman can get pregnant before the first postpartum period. In this article, learn more about how soon a woman can get pregnant after having a baby, how long doctors recommend waiting, and about the possible risks of pregnancies that are too close together.
How soon can you get pregnant after giving birth?
Medically reviewed by Holly Ernst, P.A. — Written by Zawn Villines on October 9, 2018
Myths about postpartum fertility are widespread. From rumors that it is impossible to get pregnant while breastfeeding to beliefs that the body will not get pregnant until it is “ready,” it can be hard to get the facts.
While unlikely, it is possible to get pregnant less than 6 weeks after having a baby. However, it is impossible until a woman ovulates again. The point at which ovulation happens varies from person to person, which means some women could get pregnant earlier than others.
Sometimes, ovulation happens before a period, so it is also possible for a woman to get pregnant before having the first postpartum period.
In this article, learn more about how soon a woman can get pregnant after having a baby, as well as how long to wait, and the possible risks of pregnancies that are too close together.
Ovulation and the first postpartum period?
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Most women resume ovulation between 45 to 94 days after giving birth.
Ovulation occurs when an ovary releases an egg for fertilization. If the egg is unfertilized, the body expels the egg, the uterine lining, and blood in a menstrual period. Ovulation must occur for a woman to get pregnant, and regular periods are a sign that a woman has ovulated.
A 2011 review of previous studies found that women ovulate for the first time between 45 to 94 days after giving birth. Most women did not begin ovulating until at least 6 weeks after childbirth, but a few ovulated sooner.
Usually, women who are not breastfeeding ovulate sooner after giving birth than women who do breastfeed.
However, a woman’s first ovulation cycle might occur before she gets her first postpartum period. This means that it is possible for a woman to get pregnant before menstruation begins again.
Pregnancy causes many hormonal shifts, and it takes the body time to get back to normal. For many women, their first few postpartum periods are irregular.
Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding often prevents ovulation, but this is not always the case. However, women who breastfeed their infants exclusively for 6 months are less likely to ovulate during this time than women who do not breastfeed.
Some women use breastfeeding as a birth control method. Doctors call this the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). Amenorrhea means a lack of menstruation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Trusted Source Trusted Source
, the following three factors must be present for LAM to have the best chance at preventing pregnancy:
The baby must be younger than 6 months old. After 6 months, breastfeeding often becomes less frequent, increasing the risk that ovulation will return.
The mother must be exclusively or almost exclusively breastfeeding. Giving formula or other foods to the baby increases the time between breastfeeding sessions. Breastfeeding on demand with intervals of no more than 4–6 hours between feedings is the most effective strategy.
The woman’s period must not have returned. While not all menstruating women are fertile, the return of a woman’s period suggests the body is preparing to ovulate.
Research on the effectiveness of the LAM is mixed. One major challenge of this method is that it is difficult to use correctly. Traveling away from the baby overnight or spending long days at work can create gaps in breastfeeding that make this method less effective.
According to Planned Parenthood, LAM is about 98 percent effective when people use this method in the first 6 months after the baby is born.
After 6 months postpartum, LAM is less effective. Women who are not considering another pregnancy might think about starting to use another contraceptive method.
How long to wait to try for another pregnancy
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The World Health Organization advise waiting 24 months before trying for another baby.
Getting pregnant again too soon after giving birth increases the risk of adverse outcomes for both the woman and baby. Recovering from birth takes time, especially if there were complications.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the safest option is to wait 24 months before trying for another baby. The charity March of Dimes suggests waiting at least 18 months.
Women who have had a pregnancy loss, stillbirth, hemorrhage, or surgical birth may need to wait longer. Talk to a midwife or doctor for help timing the next pregnancy.
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