Suffering in silence: women resume sex early after giving birth

It has emerged that women are suffering silently as many are resuming sex too early after giving birth.

It has emerged that women are suffering silently as many are resuming sex too early after giving birth.

Different  stories told by women I spoke to indicate they resumed sex at different times, ranging from three weeks to six months. Many said they were coaxed into early sexual intercourse by partners or felt they had to comply to their husband’s request.

Early resumption of sex

Molly, a resident of Kawempe in Kampala, says she resumed sex after only one month.

“My husband wanted sex and I had no option but to let him. If I did not give in to him perhaps he would try to get it from somewhere else like from commercial sex workers and that would expose us to other risks, including HIV and other STIs.”

Margaret, a mother of two, says: “My second child, who is now 2-months-old, was delivered through very painful labour. The midwives had to stitch me a lot after cutting me. The stitches are very painful and the nurses told me to resume sex after six months.”

Margaret told me that her husband keeps pestering her although so far she has managed to avoid engaging in penetrative sex.

Hilda, another mother of two says, says with her first birth her husband left her alone for two months but after their second child he asked a friend when to re-initiate sex. The friend told him it was ok to resume sex after 14 days so that is what they did.

Men demand for sex

Some men confess to having requested sex with their wives soon after they had delivered and some do not think it hurts them.

One man, Peter, confided that he had pestered his wife several times until she complied but tried to make sure that the sex was gentle.

“I chose the lesser evil of not cheating the love of my wife by improvising something simple. I know at this time my wife was still weak and sickly. But I am also aware that sex outside marriage has its own challenges and consequences, including exposure to HIV and consequently AIDS,” he said.

His words illustrate how male sexual demands are a major influencing factor to the resumption of sexual intercourse during the post birth period.

Need for family planning

Hanifah Nanyonjo is a midwife at Mulago National Referral Hospital and has been working in the role for 15 years.

“We usually tell the mothers to resume sex after six weeks or longer,” she says. “But you find some telling you that they resume after seven days, especially where they had normal deliveries.”

Nnanyonjo adds that the delayed resumption of sex helps mothers to avoid unintended pregnancies but also gives time for them to recuperate, especially important if they lost a lot of blood. Where sex has been initiated early after delivery, she observes dangers associated with episiotomy (a surgical incision between the vagina and anus during labour, which is then stitched) including Sepsis, a life-threatening illness caused by the body overreacting to infection.

Magoba Lillian, a midwife and mother of one, says: “Women need ample rest before resuming sexual activity and the rest is crucial for recovery as they breastfeed and also care for the newly born baby. The rest also allows ample time for a mother and father to decide on properly spacing and family planning method options that they can use. There are cases when women get pregnant when they are still breastfeeding their babies. This is not good for the baby being breastfed and the coming baby as both may strain the mother a lot.”

Magoba adds that early resumption of sex after delivery can also be risky as it may hurt the mother and possibly cause other infections in the cervix.

Sexual and reproductive health after childbirth

Research carried out on postpartum [the period after childbirth] sexual activity reveals several issues. A study carried out last year published in the International Society for Sexual Medicine found that women’s perceptions of their partner’s sexuality impacts postpartum sexual activity more than common physical factors such as vaginal trauma and breastfeeding.

A 2010 study published in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences exploring maternal sexuality after childbirth among Iranian women found the most common reasons women gave for not wanting to resume sex early after delivery were fear of pain, a lack of interest, worries about getting pregnant again, feeling tired and bleeding.

Sex after delivery and HIV

Nanyonjo says women who have given birth and are HIV positive are particularly cautioned against resuming sex early as well getting pregnant again soon after delivery.

“For those who are HIV positive, we emphasise that if they are resuming sex it should be protected sex as a must – using a condom. This is important to avoid reinfection and infecting their partners. HIV positive women are also encouraged not to conceive again soon after delivery,” she says.

Some women have complained of problems when engaging in sex soon after delivery such as vaginal pain, discharge, bleeding and bruises or tears, factors which can increase the spread of HIV. This may call for better measures to assist women post labour.

A 2010 study exploring abstinence from sex post delivery and the risk of HIV among young mothers in the Kassena-Nankana District of northern Ghana found that more assertive women employed nifty protective strategies including the masturbation of their partner when they perceived themselves at risk of sexual advances. They note that the advent of HIV and AIDS, coupled with improved access to sexual and reproductive health information and modern contraception, has eroded the logic of observance of abstinence from sex during the post-birth period.

Health education

Most women resume sexual intercourse within six months of childbirth and this can cause high morbidity. There is a need for appropriate sexual practice advice in form of health education.

Efforts should be made to facilitate easy access to modern contraceptives and HIV protection. Counselling about sexuality and contraceptive methods should be a regular practice in hospitals for couples with new born babies.

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 7
  • comment-avatar
    Abel 5 years

    A well thought out topic kudos for you

  • comment-avatar

    Oh my god..have those men no love or compassion for their wives at ALL? Thank god I don’t live in that sort of society… those poor women…

  • comment-avatar
    Robbie 3 years

    Go to http://www.numbers1317.org to learn the physiological reasons for delaying the resumption of vaginal sex after childbirth (or miscarriage, especially late-term).
    Both the American Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend spacing births about 2-1/2 years apart. That is, not getting pregnant again until 21 months have passed.

  • comment-avatar
    Robbie 3 years

    Wives should accommodate their husbands’ desires reasonably but not to the detriment of their health and wellbeing. If sexual intercourse causes pain or more than minor discomfort, it indicates that something may be wrong. Position may need to be adjusted or changed. He may need to be more gentle. Something may not have fully healed. There may be an infection. See your obstetrician, midwife or gynecologist. Keep things other than his freshly washed penis out of your vagina. Fingernails can scratch the lining or soft external parts easily and harmful bacteria may be under fingernails or in cracks in his skin even if washed well with water and soap. Wash the genital area with plain clean water only, no soaps or other cleansers unless prescribed by a medical professional. Same for baths – no sit-down baths; shower only. No swimming.

    • comment-avatar
      Monique 2 years

      Umm… You know that after having a baby, the uterus is like an open wound. Where the placenta attached, it’s a wound. The cervix is open, bacteria and other pathogens can get in, that’s why *nothing* goes in the vagina for at least 6 weeks after having a child.

      This isn’t about “pain” or anything like that it has everything to do with not wanting to kill your wife with a deadly bacterial infection.

  • comment-avatar
    Kaleena 3 years

    It’s not just other countries. My husband has pushed me after every birth to have sex within 2 weeks of giving birth. No I definitely wasn’t ready and didn’t want to but the new babies leave me way too tired and drained to argue about it and I just give in….

  • comment-avatar
    Kat 2 years

    Anyone have some real scientific answers in to what the risks of having sex are at each stage post partum? I am not researching for any selfish or inconsiderate man in my life, but because I am pretty eager to get back in the saddle myself. I had my baby six weeks ago, but don’t have my first appointment until next week. I really miss having sex with my husband. He has not been pressuring me at all. I will not blame my husband if my body is damaged from sex too soon. I am an adult woman who can chose for myself when to have sex. If your husband is “forcing” you to have sex, then that is rape and you should leave him. If not, then take some responsibility for your actions and quit blaming others for the results of your own poor choices.