Prev Next

Sex After a C-Section: What’s “Normal?”

By Amalah

Hello Lovely,

I hope you and the boys are well. My question today is regarding sex after c-sections.

I’m three months out from having an unplanned c-section. There were no complications. It took me about four weeks until I could stand for longer than it takes to shower, I bled for six weeks, and we didn’t have sex until after that. I still have patches of numb skin on my lower belly, but I don’t generally have pain.

Except for when we’ve had sex. For a few days after sex, I’ll have random stabbing pains on the right side of my incision (which was always the more painful side), occasional burning pains across it, stomach pains, and spotting.

Is this normal? Did you or others have bleeding like this? Is there an end date for this issue? The worry wart in me is afraid my uterus will burst open one of these days.

It’s hard enough to want to have sex right now; I’m feeling pretty resentful that I have to pay for it for days afterward.

So I will share some anecdotal experiences (three-time c-sectioner here, ahoy!), but I do need to insist quite heartily that you give your doctor a call as soon as your done reading this column. Please describe your symptoms in detail to him/her.

Your symptoms do not necessarily sound completely out of the realm of “normal” post-c-section symptoms, but they are still nothing I would personally go on ignoring without checking in with my doctor. Post-delivery bleeding (lochia) is a weird-ass thing: Despite the hospital discharge instructions that tell you to call your OB IMMEDIATELY if the bleeding stops and then starts up again, mine regularly did just that, for MONTHS. And my doctor was always like, “yeah, you’re fine, totes normal.” You may still be slowly shedding lochia and it’s understandable that sex might…speed that process up temporarily.

Your spotting could ALSO be a sign your body is starting to mayyyybe think about menstruating again. So when you do have sex, take precautions and DO NOT rely on breastfeeding as birth control. Assume you could be ovulating at any time. (This goes for ALL OF Y’ALL, by the way, spotting or not. Breastfeeding is terribly ineffective birth control so don’t get lazy out there, ladies.)

I also am familiar with the incision symptoms you describe — random stabby pain, general tenderness, one side being generally more painful/slower to heal than the other. I can’t really remember exactly how long they continued…12 weeks seems kinda long though? (Perhaps some commenters with sharper memories can chime in below.)

THAT SAID. This is not something you ignore. Your symptoms could very well be a sign of some low-level infection (not necessarily in the incision itself — regular bleeding after sex can mean inflammation or infection of your vagina, cervix, etc.), or your body has held on to a dissolvable stitch and it’s causing irritation. (Have you taken your temperature recently? Any fever?) No, your uterus is probably not going to spontaneously burst wide open at this point, but I think it would be smart to have your doctor check your incision and maybe do a few swabs to make sure you don’t need another round of antibiotics or something.

If your doctor thinks this is all normal and everything checks out infection-wise, I would then start focusing on sex, and vary up how you’re doing it. Waiting six weeks is the MINIMUM guideline, by the way — you don’t need to feel pressured to immediately dive back into regular vaginal sex right at that point, if you’re not ready.  Some women simply need more time to heal up down there and THAT’S OKAY. It sounds like you are healing on the “slower” side of things, given what you said about needing four full weeks of mostly rest before your could really even stand up. Also okay!!  Talk to your partner about how sex is making you feel. Maybe he needs to slow down and be gentler, maybe you need to try some different positions that allow your ab muscles to stay relaxed and not engage so much. Try taking a hot shower after sex to keep your muscles from spasming/tightening up. OR…just table vaginal sex for a few more weeks and do other things that are fun and intimate. (coughVIBRATORcough) Think back to the final weeks of pregnancy and how you two likely had to get creative to make things happen in the sex department — it’s the same deal now as your body heals.

Amazon Mom

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon

Comments

  • MR

    I can’t speak to the bleeding after, because, honestly, we didn’t dtd for about 6 months after my cesarean. It just HURT. The pain on one side, yeah, I remember that. For MONTHS. Still, talk to your doc, of course. But, that annoying phantom nerve pain as the nerves tried to reconnect, I remember asking my doc about it at my daughter’s 9 month well child. And it was definitely more on one side than the other (for me, the side they started cutting on was the more painful part – you can tell because that part of the scar is slightly thicker). I still get those twinges occasionally here and there, but they are far less frequent now, although, I still have a lot of numbness. When I was pregnant with my second, I thought she wasn’t very active, until I figured out that the lower half of my uterus was numb, and I could feel her move if I put my hand there. I did have some of those twinges for a while again after my vbac, but they didn’t last as long, and for what it is worth, dtd was soooo much better (and more frequent) after my vbac as well.

  • Gigi

    Yeah, I had pain in the incision area for probably a year. I can’t remember exactly how long, but if I twisted the right way, tried to do sit-ups, etc., it would hurt. If I moved my pelvis during sex in a similar move to sit-ups, BAM! It hurt.

    Now almost 3 years out, I no longer have numbness or any real pain, but again, occasionally if I do sit-ups or other ab workouts that kink my incision area in the right way, I’ll have some residual pain that feels like it’s inside, not directly at the incision site. 

    I also bled for a while and was not in a rush to have sex for months. 

  • Autumn

    I didn’t have a c section, and sex didn’t happen until my kiddo was around 5 months.  I had used up all my extra “touchy” feelings with nursing.  

    On the numbness, that can persist for a LONG time after surgery.  I have a numb spot on my finger from where a knife slipped 8 years ago.  One thing I teach my total knee patients after their procedures is scar massage, which is a gentle gradual desensitization process and it also helps prevent skin adhesions.  (I”m a physical therapist by day).  I would check with your doctor before beginning this just to be safe, and maybe get a referral for instruction besides what Dr google can provide

  • Sarah

    I didn’t have a C-section, but even then I think we’ve had sex twice since my daughter was born in August, and then I was one of those ‘DONT TOUCH ME’ pregnant women, so it’s probably been a good year and a half since my husband and I have had a ‘regular’ sex life. There’s not really any rush.

    And yeah, my bleeding went on forever too! I haemorrhaged during delivery so I was paranoid about it and probably went to emergency 3 times because I just would not stop bleeding. They did an ultrasound and gave me antibiotics just in case, but really it was all normal. It was heavy bright red with clots until 6 weeks, and then it just stopped. No tapering off, just BOOM done. And now with nursing, it still hasn’t come back at 7.5 months hallelujah!

  • S

    Interesting! And sucky. I’m sorry. I assumed having a c-section bypassed the whole no sex thing. It’s one (small) reason I wished I’d had a c-section. It was 11 months after vaginal twin births before the pain had decreased enough so that I could have sex, 18-24 months before the discomfort went away.

  • K

    Thank goodness I’m not the only one!! My daughter will be 7 months old in two weeks and we still have not had sex! I was also slow to recover from my c-section (although by all accounts it went very well), and am still healing both emotionally and physically. I still have random incision pain some days (especially when I try to work out), as well as numbness, and I just don’t have any sex drive at all which I attribute to breast feeding. Also, I’ve never felt less attractive or out of shape in my life.

  • Elaine

    I had pain both internally and in my scar for at least 13 months after my c-section. I even saw a gyno about it. Only thing that helped, other than time, was lots and lots of lube.

  • s

    Check with your Dr. The pain could be an infection due to changed hormones. I had that after both c sections. We had to treat the infection and the hormone issue. I bounced back and forth between primary Dr and o b. They also checked inside to make sure stitches were ok and there is scar tissue that is easily irritated. Amy advice is right on.

  • KH

    I had a crash c-section when baby’s heart stopped beating twice before they started induction.  It was NOT what I wanted, but they saved her life.  I think I had it fairly easy in comparison to your pain – I was up and about fairly quickly, walking outside the next day (slowly) and doing my best to get on with things as my partner left to work on the other side of the world for 6wks one week after she was born.

    This was 5.5 months ago, and while sex is getting more interesting for me, it is still not entirely comfortable (pleasurable is still a ways off), and was something I was getting through initially (at 10wks post surgery).  This was despite initiating it myself because I missed the connection I feel with my partner when we are together.

    When I felt around it felt as though a lot of the soft flesh around my vagina had gone – so no cushioning, and my fluid is now a lot thinner than it used to be. Condoms made it more bearable, probably because they reduce the friction.  Breastfeeding may also be taking a toll on your body too.

    Careful exercise and massage are easing the tightness and unevenness of MY scar – but you may not be ready for that.  DO investigate with your Dr., but also cut yourself a lot of slack – I think healing may take us a good while yet.

  • Tali

    I had an emergency c-section a year and four months ago. No complications, took me a month to be able to stand up straight, and six months until I could sleep in another position besides curled up in a ball. I still have random stabby pain for no discernable reason, and lighter twingy pain also randomly. Still cannot do anything kind of sit up or crunch motion and no reaching or touching stomach as it causes sharp pain. The skin is still numb from my belly button to about three inches below in a little circle, which is an improvement from numb to the incision. It’s getting better, but going slowly, and that may be why my midwife said to wait on sex for a year and a half. Don’t feel ready yet anyway. I did have lengthy bleeding postpartum that seemed to stop and start. Made me nervous, but nothing was wrong. Sounds pretty normal I guess. Surgery is no fun.