Physical intimacy may be the last thing on your mind after having a miscarriage. But as you heal both physically and mentally, you’ll likely start to wonder when you can have sex again.

In general, you may get the green light to have sex as soon as 2 weeks after your miscarriage — usually after the bleeding has stopped. But there are some situations that require a longer wait and others that could prompt a visit to your doctor.

And remember, just because your body’s ready doesn’t mean you are ready — and that’s OK. Let’s take a look.

Related: Pregnancy after miscarriage: Answers to your questions

First, the physical details of it — which we know can be hard to process.

After a miscarriage, you may bleed for a period of time as your body clears the uterus. While all this is happening, your cervix dilates wider than normal. When the cervix is more open, the uterus is more prone to infection.

This is why doctors recommend waiting at least 2 weeks after miscarriage to insert anything into the vagina, including tampons, douches, and — yes — anything else that may penetrate.

Up to 20 percent of (known) pregnancies end in miscarriage. This makes loss a relatively common experience. But the actual way a miscarriage happens can be quite individual.

Some people may experience what’s called a missed miscarriage (also medically called a missed abortion, though it’s not elective), where the fetus has died but there are no outward signs. Or other times, a miscarriage may be considered “incomplete” if not all the fetal tissue has passed from the vagina.

In these situations, your doctor may recommend medical intervention — like certain drugs to speed the process along or a dilation and curettage (D and C) procedure. The recommendations to wait to have sex apply here as well, but the specific amount of time may depend on your symptoms and any other unique circumstances.

Related: Everything you need to know about miscarriage

How long it takes to recover from miscarriage depends on several things.

For example, it may have to do with the development (size) of the fetus. The definition of miscarriage is loss of a pregnancy before week 20. A very early miscarriage or chemical pregnancy may resolve on its own relatively quickly and more closely resemble a late period. A later miscarriage, on the other hand, may require some more physical healing time.

Miscarriages that happen spontaneously and result in all fetal tissue being expelled from the uterus may also resolve more quickly. Missed miscarriages may take longer to start or to complete, requiring surgery and more overall recovery time.

Your doctor may also have different guidelines for you to follow if you’ve experienced an ectopic or molar pregnancy.

In general, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor regardless of how or when you’ve miscarried. Your specific healing timeline may be different from somebody else’s.

Related: How to tell if you’re having a miscarriage without bleeding

We’ve mentioned that you should wait until the bleeding’s stopped — either after your miscarriage or after your missed or incomplete miscarriage and D and C — to have sex.

Again, how long and how heavy you’ll bleed can be quite individual. It has to do with a number of situations, including whether or not all the tissue has been expelled from the uterus. If you have a complete miscarriage, your bleeding may stop within 1 to 2 weeks. Some experts say it’s not so textbook and that bleeding can last anywhere between just 1 day to 1 month.

With a D and C procedure, bleeding time can also vary. Since surgery aims at removing everything from the uterus, the bleeding may be slightly shorter and last between 1 and 2 weeks. But this may be added onto time you already spent bleeding at the onset of the miscarriage.

Keep in mind that you may need to check in with your doctor if you haven’t stopped bleeding after your miscarriage or D and C. If you’ve retained tissue, you may need more surgical intervention.

Your doctor will likely schedule a follow-up appointment to examine the contents of your uterus via ultrasound and check for any remaining tissue. If tissue remains, it can lead to infection, so it’s important to abstain from sex until your uterus is empty.

Do I need to wait until after my first post-miscarriage period?

Your first menstrual period may come within 4 to 6 weeks after your miscarriage is complete, but you don’t necessarily have to wait — especially if you have a complete miscarriage and you’re feeling ready.

Just keep in mind you can still get pregnant during this time. In fact, fertility may be enhanced after miscarriage, as noted in this 2016 study.

Related: How long does a miscarriage last?

If you aren’t feeling up to sex after your miscarriage, you most definitely aren’t alone. While physically your body may be recovered and sex may technically be safe, it can take time to heal the emotional wounds of loss.

Give yourself all the time you need.

You may experience a grieving period after your loss. And you might be surprised to know that the level of grief you feel may not have to do with how long your pregnancy lasted. It’s more about how you, as an individual, process your emotions.

Processing things may be easier if you have a solid support network of family and friends or if you consider seeing a therapist to talk through your feelings.

Here’s the thing: Intimacy doesn’t have to equal sex. There are a multitude of other ways to express closeness after pregnancy loss.

You might try:

  • hugging
  • cuddling
  • holding hands
  • outercourse (sexual activity without exchange of body fluids)
  • massage
  • dates
  • long talks

Related: Intimacy is so much more than going all the way

As you miscarry, the uterus contracts and you may feel painful cramping. You may also have cramping after your miscarriage that’s similar to the cramping you have during your menstrual periods. Over time, this cramping should subside as the uterus continues to heal.

Still, you may experience pain or cramping during or after sex, especially in the early days. Keep in mind, though, that pain may be caused by infection or other things that need a doctor’s attention. Other signs of infection include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • unpleasant smelling discharge

You can get pregnant very soon after having a miscarriage — before your first period, even. That’s right! Some people may ovulate as soon as 2 weeks after the miscarriage is complete. If you’re having sex during that time, pregnancy is always a possibility.

If you’re not looking to conceive right away, chat with your doctor about contraceptive methods that are right for you. There’s no right or wrong decision after you’ve had a loss. Take into consideration how you’re feeling both physically and mentally. Talk with your partner about their feelings as well. And give yourself plenty of time to consider your choices.

While you may worry about another loss, only around 1 percent of people experience what’s called recurrent pregnancy loss. Most who get pregnant again will have a healthy pregnancy.

Some other stats, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • After one miscarriage, the risk of another stays at the standard 20 percent.
  • After two consecutive losses, it increases to 28 percent.
  • After three or more (which is quite rare), however, the risk goes up to about 43 percent.

Related: Late miscarriage: Symptoms and finding support

Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience increased bleeding or if you have pain during or after sex.

Other reasons to see your doctor:

  • heavy bleeding (soaking through a thick pad in 1 hour for 2 or more hours)
  • large blood clots or tissue passing from the vagina
  • fever over 101°F (38.3°C) — especially if it persists after taking Tylenol
  • foul-smelling vaginal discharge

Feeling anxious or depressed about sex after miscarriage? You may also want to visit your doctor for a referral to a therapist. Give yourself some grace and understand that you will move past your miscarriage. It may just take time to process.

Related: What I’ve learned from counseling couples through miscarriage

You may feel pressure to move on from your loss after you’ve stopped bleeding. And to you or your partner, “moving on” may seem to mean having sex. But try reminding yourself that it’s OK to not be OK and that you can take your time.

Even if your miscarriage was early, be sure to give yourself ample room to grieve and to feel all the feelings you have. Sex will come when you’re ready, and that may or may not be right when your body has healed.