Prevalence of and risk factors associated with sexual health issues in primiparous women at 6 and 12 months postpartum; a longitudinal prospective cohort study (the MAMMI study).
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CitationPrevalence of and risk factors associated with sexual health issues in primiparous women at 6 and 12 months postpartum; a longitudinal prospective cohort study (the MAMMI study). 2018, 18 (1):196 BMC Pregnancy Childbirth
PublisherBMC pregnancy and childbirth
JournalBMC pregnancy and childbirth
AbstractMany women are not prepared for changes to their sexual health after childbirth. The aim of this paper is to report on the prevalence of and the potential risk factors (pre-pregnancy dyspareunia, mode of birth, perineal trauma and breastfeeding) for sexual health issues (dyspareunia, lack of vaginal lubrication and a loss of interest in sexual activity) at 6 and 12 months postpartum.
A longitudinal cohort study of 832 first-time mothers who were recruited in early pregnancy and returned postnatal surveys at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months postpartum were assessed for sexual health issues and associated risk factors.
Nearly half of the women (46.3%) reported a lack of interest in sexual activity, 43% experienced a lack of vaginal lubrication and 37.5% of included women had dyspareunia 6 months after birth. On univariate analysis, vacuum-assisted birth, 2nd degree perineal tears, 3rd degree perineal tears and episiotomy were all associated with dyspareunia 6 months postpartum, but, of these only 3rd degree tears, in association with breastfeeding and pre-existing dyspareunia, remained significant on multivariable analysis. Breastfeeding, in combination, with other significant factors, was associated with dyspareunia, a lack of vaginal lubrication and a loss of interest in sexual activity 6 months postpartum, and, dissatisfaction with body image emerged as a significant factor associated with lack of interest in sexual activity at 12 months postpartum. Pre-pregnancy dyspareunia and breastfeeding emerged as common factors associated with all three outcomes of dyspareunia, a lack of vaginal lubrication and a loss of interest in sexual activity at 6 months postpartum.
Breastfeeding and pre-existing dyspareunia are associated with sexual health issues at 6 months postpartum. Pre-existing dyspareunia is associated with a lack of vaginal lubrication at 12 months postpartum and breastfeeding is associated with dissatisfaction with body image. Preparing women and their partners during the antenatal period and advising on simple measures, such as use of lubrication to avoid or minimise sexual health issues, could potentially remove stress, anxiety and fears regarding intimacy after birth. Introducing the topic of pre-existing sexual health issues antenatally may facilitate appropriate support, treatment or counselling for women.
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