When you feel ready to have sex after the birth of your baby is a very personal decision. Feeling ‘ready’ physically and emotionally will be different for everyone. Unless you plan on having another baby straight away it is important that you use contraception. You can be fertile immediately after giving birth.
It is possible to become pregnant again very soon after the birth of a baby, even if you're breastfeeding and even if your periods haven't returned.
Use contraception whenever you have sex if you do not want to get pregnant. Use condoms even if you plan to use another method at a later date.
You might already know what contraception you want to use, or you may be unsure. You can talk about this with your midwife both before and after delivery. You can also speak to your GP, Health Visitor or practice nurse for help or support. You can discuss this at your six week check too.
During the coronavirus outbreak you can get free condoms by post. They are sent in an unmarked envelope. Email your name, age, full address and postcode to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have unprotected sex you can access emergency contraception for up to 72 hours afterwards. The sooner the better. You can;
There are some common myths about preventing pregnancy after birth;
‘I won’t get pregnant - I’m breastfeeding’
This is not a reliable way of avoiding pregnancy. Although it can reduce fertility it is dependent on how much and how often you feed your baby. It can even be affected by your baby using a dummy. You should not rely on this to prevent pregnancy.
‘I won’t get pregnant straight away’
You can get pregnant very soon after having your baby, even if you do not think your periods have come back. You need contraception every time you have sex.
‘I can’t use contraception with hormones added because I am breast feeding’
There are hormone based contraceptives suitable for use whilst breastfeeding. Health professionals can talk you through this.
‘I want another baby soon so I can’t use a ‘long acting’ contraceptive’
Fertility returns to normal after the contraceptive is removed. Your health professional can give you more information on this.
‘I need to let my body settle after the birth before I use contraceptives’
There are suitable and safe contraceptives to use from straight after the birth.
‘I have heard that I won’t get pregnant if I use some positions / have a shower / wee after sex’
Whatever sexual position / if you wash or wee - you use you can still get pregnant if you do not use protection.
‘My partner will pull out before he comes’
Withdrawing will not prevent pregnancy. Sperm can be released before this.
‘My partner / I am getting older, I don’t need contraception’
Women should use contraception until they have not had a period for one year after menopause. Men should always use protection.
Sexual Health During & After Pregnancy
Looking after your sexual health and wellbeing during pregnancy is just as important as at any other time.
Most STIs can be treated successfully in pregnancy, but it is better if you are treated before you become pregnant.
With some STIs such as Gonorrhoea or Chlamydia, you will not have any symptoms and they can cause infertility in women.
If you worry you have been at risk, or have symptoms, you can get free online advice, testing and treatment from your local specialist iCaSH clinics. Tests can be sent by post for chlamydia and for HIV.
You may already know you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is important to talk to your midwife about your sexual health history. Some infections like herpes can come back. Letting your care team know this information will help them make sure they can give you the best care to keep you and your baby well.
HIV, Syphilis and Hepatitis B are routinely tested through your maternity service and your midwife will talk to you about this.
If you feel worried and want more advice you can speak to your midwife.
You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
If you are 11-19 you can text Chathealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of the Healthy Child Programme team.