This blog is a summary of our published article: Rosen, N. O., Dawson, S. J., Binik, Y. M., Pierce, M., Brooks, M., Pukall, C., Chorney, J., Snelgrove-Clarke, E., & George, R. (2022). Predictors of two trajectories of dyspareunia from pregnancy to 24 months postpartum. Obstetrics & Gynecology. https://doi.org/10.1097/AOG.0000000000004662
When new parents hear “post-baby-hanky-panky”, some automatically think “hells no!”, “yeah right”, and “who has time for that?”, while others are thinking “yes please”, “get me back in the saddle” and “I need some adults-only time”.
Whenever you’re ready, you probably weren’t expecting sex to be painful. So if or when this happens, your next questions might be: “Is this normal?”, “how long will the pain last?”, and “what can help?”
You’re not alone with these questions and we conducted a study to find out some answers. You can find a brief video summarizing the results as part of the postbabyhankypanky series, “Pain During Sex”
What did we want to know?
In this study, we wanted to answer two main questions:
- Is new mothers’ pain during vaginal intercourse—called dyspareunia—captured by one or multiple patterns of change over time?
- What factors predict these patterns of change?
What did we do?
We recruited 582 people from the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia during their 20-week ultrasound appointment. Participants completed surveys online twice in pregnancy (20-weeks and 32-weeks) and again at 3-, 6-, 12- and 24-months postpartum, answering questions about their pain experiences. We also collected information via from their medical records related to their labour and delivery.
Pain during sex was pretty common, ranging from 31% of people reporting pain at -months postpartum to 12% at 2 years postpartum.
But we also found two distinct groups for pain during sex, illustrated in the figure below:
What did we find?
Welcoming a new baby is one of the most universal experiences of women worldwide and presents many new challenges for parents. Sex is one important way that couples report feeling connected to each other and it helps them to face these new challenges as a team. Our study suggests that a significant minority of women—1 in 5—report moderate and persistent pain during sex in pregnancy and up to 2 years postpartum, which can interfere with their ability to reap the benefits of a satisfying sexual relationship. The fact that biomedical factors, which largely can’t be changed, did not predict which pain group women fell into may be reassuring to first-time mothers. The results from this study can be used to help health care professionals identify who is at risk of persistent pain difficulties and might benefit from early intervention, particularly those who are having a lot of negative thoughts and feelings about the pain and its impacts.
Why are these findings important?
ReferencesRosen, N. O., Dawson, S. J., Binik, Y. M., Pierce, M., Brooks, M., Pukall, C., Chorney, J., Snelgrove-Clarke, E., & George, R. (2022). Predictors of two trajectories of dyspareunia from pregnancy to 24 months postpartum. Obstetrics & Gynecology. https://doi.org/10.1097/AOG.0000000000004662