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Giving birth is a big deal - mentally and physically. You endure a lot - hormones, stress, bodily changes... not to mention the strain of the birth itself.
Once you feel you have sufficiently recovered from the birth, you and your partner will want to become intimate in the bedroom again - this can take time, and you should wait until you’re both completely comfortable. However, when it does come to it there are many taboos and myths surrounding sexual health after pregnancy to overcome.
Read on to find answers to frequently asked questions about pregnancy, sex and contraception.
Assuming your doctor has signed you off as healthy, as soon as you feel comfortable again. Be aware it may take some time for you to completely recover from labour and birth, this is normal. In the meantime, you and your partner can find other ways to show intimacy, whether that is through sexual activity or just by sharing time together.
It may be that giving birth has led to some health complications for you. These can range from mild to serious, so always listen to your doctor's advice. If they recommend that you avoid sexual intercourse for some time, then you should.
You should also be conscious of your partner’s feelings. If your partner is also not comfortable having sex, you should hold off - they may be worried about hurting you too.
Pregnancy occurs when an egg is released from your ovaries and is fertilized by a sperm. It is unlikely ovulation will occur within the first month of giving birth, however, it is possible. There is no way to say exactly how soon you can conceive, as it depends entirely on the individual. For this reason, if you do not wish to become pregnant again so soon, it is best to be cautious and use contraception as soon as you start having sex.
What birth control option is right for you depends on a number of factors.
If you are breastfeeding your child, you should not use combined hormonal contraceptives* until at least six weeks after birth. As these options contain oestrogen, they can affect milk supply, reducing the quality and quantity available for your baby. You should check with your gynaecologist before restarting this contraceptive method.
If you are not breastfeeding, you can restart combined hormonal contraceptives at around three weeks. Again, you should first consult with your doctor - they will also want to rule out other conditions that put you at increased risk of blood clots and other conditions (for example, if you are a smoker).
*These include the combined contraceptive pill, the vaginal ring and the contraceptive patch.
The mini pill, also known as the progestogen-only pill (POP), is safe to use three weeks after birth. Unlike the combined pill, the mini pill does not contain estrogen, which means it does not affect breast milk production.
If you wait longer than three weeks (21 days), you should use a barrier method of contraception (male condoms/female condoms) for at least two days after starting this contraceptive. After that point, you will be protected against pregnancy.
Immediately after birth, if you want an intrauterine system inserted, you should ask your doctor. IUDs are T-shaped devices, made out of plastic and copper that release hormones. You need to have it put in within 48 hours of birth, ideally as soon after the placenta has been expelled, otherwise you will have to wait around a month to six weeks.
One form of contraception that has been used since recorded history (even if not intentionally) is lactational amenorrhea. That might sound overly scientific and confusing, but really all it means is breastfeeding as contraception. If you have recently given birth and breastfeed your newborn, you won’t menstruate. If you’re no longer menstruating that means you’re no longer ovulating.
It is all to do with hormones called prolactin and gonadotropin. If you breastfeed on demand (day and night), levels of prolactin will increase and gonadotropin production will be halted. The result is that you temporarily stop ovulating. Usually, this will last throughout the entire duration of nursing constantly. Once you start to introduce solid foods and reduce how frequently you breastfeed, you may begin to ovulate.
Contraceptive effects aside, it’s actually incredibly beneficial for the child to breastfeed. Breast milk is exceptionally nutritious, especially if you have a good diet. You will also transfer lots of helpful antibodies in the milk, protecting your baby against many diseases and illnesses you’ve experienced in your life. On top of this, breastfeeding can reduce the onset of allergic conditions like hayfever and asthma as well as guard against respiratory and ear infections.
Oh and one last benefit, breastfeeding is a great way to foster an emotional bond between mother and child. So continue to breastfeed, for you and your child.
However, if for whatever reason you can’t breastfeed, there are many formula options available that can replicate the effects of breastmilk. Remember - always follow the advice of your and your baby’s doctor or family planning professional.
Please note, unprotected sex will always leave you more venerable to STIs.
You should first speak to a healthcare professional before deciding on any form of contraception.
If you have been prescribed a combined hormonal contraceptive, it is possible to order that online from euroClinix. We ask that you complete a medical questionnaire. You will need to detail whether you are breastfeeding and the time it has been since you gave birth. If our doctors deem your selected contraceptive to be safe, it will be sent to you the very next day.
You can also order the mini pill from euroClinix. Again, you will need to complete an online consultation - this is a medical and legal requirement. It is also possible to get NHS-approved mini pills over-the-counter, however, you should first inform the dispensing pharmacist that you have recently given birth - they will assess your suitability.
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