Your partner's sexual desire may be diminished in the early weeks after childbirth due to a sudden drop in her hormones but also because of tiredness. It may take anything between two and eight weeks after childbirth before she can comfortably have sexual intercourse again although this will vary from woman to woman and will depend somewhat on whether she has had stitches to repair any external and internal vaginal tears, which may have resulted. Once the blood stained discharge from the vagina has settled completely then it is likely that the healing process in well under way but always but be guided by your partner as to what is comfortable. You are unlikely to do any damage provided you stick within comfort zones and stop if your partner experiences any discomfort. If vaginal bleeding occurs after intercourse it may be wise to refrain for at least a further week and then if necessary use spermicidal lubrication gel to minimise friction over any tender areas. Sexual intercourse may in fact be beneficial in helping your partner improve the tone of her pelvic floor muscles after pregnancy and can also speed up closure of the entrance to the womb through release of female hormones during sex. (Seek advice from your doctor if pain or bleeding persists)
If your partner is breast-feeding then her fertility will be significantly reduced but don't rely on this as a method of contraception as it is still possible for her to become pregnant. In fact ovulation (release of the female egg) can occur at any time after childbirth so she should seek advice as to appropriate contraception from her doctor as soon as possible after childbirth.
Contraceptive pills, which contain oestrogen, are not recommended for breast-feeding women, as this hormone will get into the breast milk causing problems in the baby. Another type of pill containing progesterone, commonly know as the mini pill is a useful alternative in breast feeding woman as this hormone is unlikely to cause any problems in new babies.
Other forms of contraception, which are suitable for both breast and bottle-feeding mums are condoms, the Depo-provera injection which lasts three months or an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD), which is placed in the entrance of the womb stopping pregnancy for up to five years or more if required. An IUCD is best fitted after six weeks when the entrance to the womb has fully closed. It can be removed at any time resulting in potentially immediate return of fertility but is best used in women who want long term protection against pregnancy.