When Can I Have Sex After Surgery?

Couple embracing in bed, looking at each other
Safe Sex After Surgery. Betsie Van der Meer/Stone/Getty Images

The question of sex after surgery is a common one, yet it is one that many patients hesitate to ask. The answer is this: it depends on you and the type of surgery you are having. Some patients may able to have sex the day after surgery, for others a wait of weeks or months may be advisable.

General Guidelines for Sex After Surgery

After relatively simple surgeries, you should be able to have sex when you are able to return to work and full physical activity.

Most surgeons provide this time frame for patients, they just don’t specifically mention sex. “You should be able to return to your normal activity in ___ days/weeks” is an excellent guideline for resuming your sex life.

What to Expect During Recovery

For an outpatient surgery, it may be safe to have sex within a few days of surgery. For extensive inpatient surgery, it could be four to six weeks or longer, depending on the type of surgery.  The more invasive and serious the surgery, the longer it will be before sex is advisable.

One suggestion is to let pain be your guide. You may feel like you have recovered from surgery, but pain is present when you attempt to have intercourse. This is your body’s way of saying you are not ready, that you need to heal more before having sex. However, in some cases, pain can be avoided with some minor changes. For example, a patient who has had breast surgery may be particularly sensitive to bouncing type movements.

For her, the woman on top position may cause too much movement and pain, but alternative positions may be pain free.

Types of Surgery That May Require a Longer Wait Before Sex

After some surgeries, such as open heart surgery, you may feel fully recovered but you are at risk when you exert yourself too much.

If your doctor cautions you against strenuous activity, such as running, brisk aerobic activity or shoveling snow, you should consider that a caution regarding having sex.

Surgeries that affect the reproductive organs, such as inguinal hernia repairs, hysterectomies, prostate surgeries or any surgery directly involving the penis or vagina may require additional healing time prior to engaging in sex. Childbirth can also delay the return to sexual intercourse, with or without a caesarian section. In these cases, it is best to consult your surgeon and ask specifically “when is it safe to have sexual intercourse?”

The Type of Sex Matters

Vigorous, athletic sex is not the ideal way to ease back into your sex life after surgery.  If you are a man who had an abdominal surgery, you may want to try a position that keeps pressure off of your abdomen.  If you are had colon rectal surgery, you will want to wait before resuming anal sex until your surgeon says it is safe.  If you are a woman who just had a hip replacement, the pressure of being on the bottom in missionary position could be painful.  

Generally speaking, start slowly, think ahead to attempt to minimize any pain or discomfort, and enjoy yourself.

If you experience pain, stop and change positions or try something different.  Remember that pain is a sign that you are doing too much too soon, and should be considered a warning sign. 

Questions For You and Your Partner Before Having Sex

  • Do I feel like having sex? Do I have the energy at this time?
  • Is anal sex safe at this time?
  • Are there certain positions that may be more comfortable than others?
  • Do I need to avoid putting pressure on a certain area, such as an incision line?
  • Will we need to take any special measures? Some surgeries, such as vaginal surgeries, may cause dryness and make a lubricant necessary. Other surgeries, such as prostate surgery, may make an erection difficult to obtain and/or maintain, and may require medication or an additional procedure in order to maintain an erection.
  • Is there any reason to avoid pregnancy? Does my surgery, medications I am currently taking or my condition make contraception important?
  • Are there other sexual activities we could try such as kissing, petting or oral sex before progressing to intercourse?


Painful Sexual Intercourse. Baylor Health Care System. http://info.baylorhealth.com/Health%20Illustrated%20Encyclopedia/1/003157.htm

Painful Sexual Intercourse. The National Institutes of Health.

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