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When Do Most First-time Moms Resume Sex After Birth?

Katlyn Joy | 7, March 2013


Doctors generally advise patients to wait until the six week check-up following childbirth to resume sexual relations. But how long do most women wait, and what factors influence the timing for amorous activity? Researchers from Australia revealed in their study published in the latest BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology on February 27, 2013, that most women will wait the full six weeks for sex, but the details of who is likely to wait longer are not all that surprising.

For instance, those who had c-sections, required forceps, had a tear requiring stitches, or received an episiotomy were more likely to delay sex beyond the six week mark.

The study by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute used questionnaires from mothers at 3, 6 and twelve months postpartum from the Maternal Health Study. Researchers specifically used data from 1507 first time mothers in the study.

The general results were that 41 percent of women resume sex at the six week mark, and 65 percent by eight weeks. By twelve weeks, 78 percent of women were back to sexual relations and by six months postpartum 94 percent of women had resumed relations.

It is important to note that the researchers were specifically refer to sexual intercourse with these numbers. For other types of sexual activity, the number of women having some type of sexual activity, not necessary vaginal sex, was 53 percent by the six week mark.

Having some physical trauma to the perineum or a surgical intervention definitely lowers the odds that a couple will resume sex earlier. Only 45 percent of women who had c-sections resumed sex at 6 weeks, while 32 percent who had forceps-assisted births or episiotomies did. For those with tears that were repaired with sutures, only 35 percent had resumed sex at the six week point. However, for those with a spontaneous vaginal birth with no tears the rate was 60 percent at the six week mark.

Yet only 10 percent of first time mothers will give birth vaginally without some tear or trauma to the perineum.

The lead author of the study, Associate Professor Stephanie Brown of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute says, "The most important finding from the study is the wide time interval over which couples resume sex after childbirth. Most couples do not resume sex after childbirth. Most couples do not resume sex until after 6-8 weeks postpartum, and many delay much longer than this."

The authors of the study hoped the findings will help reassure couples who may feel pressured to resume relations quickly after childbirth.

"This is useful information for couples to know before their baby is born, and may help reduce feelings of anxiety and guilt about not resuming sexual activity soon." says Brown.

Besides feeling pressured, it will help couples to understand that the type of birth experience has a definite effect on the timing of sex later. Ellie MacDonald, co-author of the study says, "The study findings provide evidence that both method of birth and degree of perineal trauma play a role in the resumption of sex after childbirth."

"It is possible that some couples delay resumption of sex until after the six week check up on the grounds of waiting to check that everything is back to normal. This may explain the relatively large number of women that resume vaginal sex at 7-8 weeks postpartum."

Article Source: BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology

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