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HEALTH MATTERS: Intimacy after childbirth



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How long should couples wait to resume sexual activity after delivery? Dr Joachim Osur answers.

One year down the line and no sex! Ann had given clear instructions to her husband — to be sleeping in a separate bedroom. She did not want body contact, fearing that the man may get aroused and force her to have sex.

“My body needs to heal, if anything I have no sexual feelings,” Ann explained when she was brought to the clinic by John, her husband.

They had been going through difficult times because of what John described as forced abstinence.

“When she kept pushing me away, I started talking to my friends about it, those whose wives have delivered before,” John explained.

“I discovered that some had sex even a week after delivery. I therefore do not understand why I should be starved for a year.”

John felt that there were other reasons making Ann avoid sex. “If you no longer love me, you should just say so, do not blame it on delivery. I am fed up with this unromantic life. And just know that I have options,” he threatened.

Ann just broke down and started crying. “Sorry John and Ann, I totally understand where both of you are coming from; calm down and let us explore how to solve this,” I interjected, realising I was dealing with two frustrated people.

There are many myths and practices around resumption of sex after childbirth.

In some communities, the man is not allowed to have sex with any other woman unless he has had it with his wife after delivery.

In such cultures, it is claimed that if the man strays and engages in sexual intercourse with another woman, the newborn develops a strange disease and dies immediately.

In such cultures, men rush into having sex with their wives even before they heal after childbirth.

There have been cases of stitches tearing apart a few days after a woman is discharged from labour ward due to this practice.

Stitching of the vaginal is common after delivery. Although most of the time the wounds look dry two weeks after delivery, it’s not advisable to engage in sexual intercourse because that body part remains sore for some time.

Most women are able to resume sexual activity after six weeks.

It is also important to note that vaginal bleeding may go on for days after delivery.

Even more important, resuming sexual activity immediately after delivery may predispose the woman to infections around the vagina and the uterus.

It’s thus important to wait for complete healing to take place prior to engaging in sexual activity.

“Doctor, also remember that caring for the baby is tiring, yet John does not bother. Sometimes I am awake for hours on end as John snores the night away,” Ann interjected.

I agreed with her. Caring for a new baby is demanding. But many men may not realise how draining this can be to a woman.

“And you know sometimes I stay awake through the night,” Ann interjected. She had realised that she was winning this case and was excited to throw in more evidence. John remained quiet and distant.

“But of course we also have our obligations towards each other as couples,” I explained.

Despite the difficulties that come with delivery, couples should still strive to support the needs of each other.

It is expected that men will help with baby care. It is also expected that they will support with household chores as the woman heals. It is for this reason that paternity leave exists.

The woman, on the other hand, should strive to offer emotional support to the man. Men, just like women, go through difficult emotional times during pregnancy, delivery and afterwards.

As soon as the wounds heal, especially at about six weeks after delivery, the couple should learn how to resume sex, taking things slow to help ease any discomfort.

It should be noted that the woman may have the desire for sex. Restarting sex may be similar to the experience the woman had when she lost her virginity. Initially, she might feel pain. However, normalcy resumes in a few weeks.

The woman should realise that while her sex drive is low after delivery, most men are interested since they have been off sex for a while.

This brings frustrations both ways, with each party blaming the other for not understanding their situation.

For the sake of the relationship, partners should make personal sacrifices to meet each other’s needs. I believe this is what love means.

This way, we would not have to fight over sex after delivery, we would do it as soon as medical concerns are taken care of after about six weeks.

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