Sexuality During Pregnancy and the Year Postpartum

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Abstract

BACKGROUND.

There have been a few studies conducted on couples' sexual behavior during pregnancy and the year postpartum, but those studies contain sampling bias resulting from recruiting volunteers for sex research. The sample for the current research was recruited for a far less sensitive study, and includes data from both mothers and fathers.

METHODS.

A total of 570 pregnant women and 550 of their husbands or partners were recruited and were interviewed on four occasions: (1) at the fifth month of pregnancy (T1); (2) at 1 month postpartum (T2); (3) at 4 months postpartum (T3); and (4) at 12 months postpartum (T4).

RESULTS.

Although approximately 90% of couples engaged in sexual intercourse at T1, T3, and T4, only approximately 19% did at T2. On average, couples resumed intercourse at 7 weeks postpartum. At T2 and T3, women who were breastfeeding showed significantly less sexual activity and less sexual satisfaction than women who were not. There were few differences between women who gave birth vaginally and those who were delivered by cesarean section, except that the latter resumed intercourse somewhat earlier.

CONCLUSIONS.

Practitioners providing family-centered maternity care need to counsel couples about typical patterns of sexuality during pregnancy and postpartum, and about usual patterns during breastfeeding. Accurate information can help couples feel more comfortable during the transition periods before and after childbirth. A discussion of expected changes in sexuality should be routinely introduced by the physician during prenatal care.

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