Sex after birth – your contraception options

If you’re thinking of having sex again now you’ve got over the birth, you’ll need to think about contraception asap. Dr Miriam Stoppard explains why, and what your options are

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No sex after your baby? It can happen…

“After the birth, women clearly don’t feel like having sex for a while. And we know that men often don’t either. Especially if they’ve been present at the birth, as a man who’s seen his partner deliver their baby might not want sex for a while,” says Miriam. He might be worried about causing you further discomfort.

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But the fact is, it can still happen. And if it does, you need to be prepared. You might think you don’t feel like having sex, but that doesn’t mean the mood won’t suddenly take you when you least expect it. “Sex can happen spontaneously,” says Miriam. “You need to have thought and spoken about it, and decided what you’re going to do about contraception before that moment happens.” Otherwise baby number two might be along sooner than you think!

Be prepared

“The main message is ‘don’t think you can’t get pregnant’,” says Miriam. “You do ovulate before you have a period, so an egg is in there with the potential to be fertilised. If it’s not, it’ll die, but if sperm reaches it you could conceive.”

And that same applies even if you’re breastfeeding, too. The hormones released when you’re breastfeeding do make your body less susceptible to conception, but it’s not a fail-safe method. “You might not have a period while you’re breastfeeding, but you’ll still ovulate,” explains Miriam. “If you want to go back on the pill, you won’t be given a pill that contains oestrogen, as that’ll reduce your milk supply, but there are others, such as the mini pill.”

Doing your homework

“Get information on what your options are before, or just after, you have your baby. You might prefer to use a different form of contraception to what you were using before,” says Miriam. “Some people like to use condoms and a contraceptive gel,” she says.

Ideally, you should’ve already talked about having sex after the baby. “You’ll have had to try new positions for comfort during pregnancy, and when you’ve built up that kind of dialogue it’s not difficult to continue it. Talk about how you feel, too,” Miriam says.

It’s all about you

Think about what works for you now you’re a mum. You might have taken the pill before, but now want something you don’t have to think about. Or not want hormones in your body, for example, if you’re breastfeeding (although progesterone is safe)

TIP: Most GP’s suggest waiting till after the six-week check before having sex, to make sure everything’s healed. Most women are happy to wait.

The options

The pill:

  • You’re likely to have taken this before so you and your body will be used to it.
  • Easy to forget by tired new mums.
  • Can’t take oestrogen-based pill if you’re breastfeeding.
  • But you can take the mini pill instead.

Condoms and contraceptive gel :

  • Allows you to be hormone-free.
  • Means you need to keep up supplies.

Diaphragm:

  • This is placed inside your vagina, near the cervix and acts as a sperm barrier. So you can just have it put in and not worry.
  • You’ll need to wait until your six-week check to have it put in, as your muscles need to strengthen back up.

Injection, implant or IUS/coil

Known as LARCS (long active reversible contraceptives), these all release the hormone progesterone gradually inside the body, meaning your womb becomes hostile to sperm, and your vaginal mucus becomes much thicker so the sperm can’t get through.

Injection:

  • The injection lasts around three months before you need a top up.
  • Can’t be reversed until its time is up.

Implant:

  • Can last for three years or more.
  • Injected into your arm and can be felt under the skin so not for the squeamish.
  • Releases hormones gradually and can stop periods, a bonus for anyone who’s suffered with painful periods.
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Coil (also called Mirena):

  • Inserted inside the cervix and releases progesterone locally.
  • You’ll have to wait for after your six-week check to have it inserted.

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