By Meghan Rossi

Welcoming a new baby into your family is both an exciting and challenging time. For many parents it is a time of joy; however, some couples can experience unanticipated difficulties that are hard to navigate, both individually and as a couple. Pain during sexual activity is one challenge that couples may experience.

Women who have recently given birth and their partners may expect some discomfort when they first decide to resume sexual activity. However, it is the persistence of this pain that can be quite worrisome for new parents, with past research showing that 31% to 37% of women report pain during intercourse at three and six months postpartum[1]. Women who experience prolonged  pain during intercourse often experience significant interference to their quality of life, including greater depression and impaired sexual function as a result of the pain[1]. Partners of these women are also likely to experience more psychological and sexual difficulties compared to partners of women without this pain[1, 2]. With 90% of couples resuming intercourse at 3 months postpartum[3], this pain can further increase the challenges new parents already experience when it comes to changes in their sex life after bringing baby home.

We know from past research that there are factors that can increase a woman’s risk of postpartum pain during intercourse, including method of delivery (e.g., vaginal birth or caesarean section)[1] and depression[4]. However, we don’t know enough about the psychological and social factors that can increase couples’ overall quality of life when experiencing this pain. That’s why we’ve recruited first time parents in the early postpartum period in order to understand how new parents manage postpartum pain during intercourse. We designed short surveys to ask parents a wide variety of questions assessing important psychosocial factors that may contribute to their pain, including how effective they feel at managing their pain, relationship factors such as their relationship and sexual satisfaction, and any symptoms of depression.

This study will provide much needed information about the experience of new parents, all of which can be used to develop preventative and treatment programs for this pain. Stay tuned for the findings from this new and exciting line of research!

References

  1. Rosen, N.O. and C. Pukall, Comparing the Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Repercussions of Postpartum Genito-Pelvic Pain and Dyspareunia.  Sex Med Rev, 2016. 4 (2): p. 126-135.
  2.  Smith, K.B. and C.F. Pukall, Sexual function, relationship adjustment, and the relational impact of pain in male partners of women with provoked vulvar pain. J Sex Med, 2014. 11 (5): p. 1283-93.
  3. 3. Acele, E. Ö., & Karaçam, Z. (2012). Sexual problems in women during the first postpartum year and related conditions. Journal of clinical nursing21(7‐8), 929-937.
  4. 4. Alligood-Percoco, N.R., K.H. Kjerulff, and J.T. Repke, Risk Factors for Dyspareunia After First Childbirth. Obstet Gynecol, 2016. 128 (3): p. 512-8.

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