Perhaps unsurprisingly, research has found that many women experience changes to their sexuality and sexual relationship during pregnancy and the postpartum period . These changes can include:
- decreases in how often women desire and engage in sex,
- decreases in their ability to get aroused and wet and orgasm during sex,
- decreases in how satisfied they are with their sex life, and
- increases in pain during intercourse.
As you can see in this previous post, women vary in the extent that they experience these changes, however. So, what causes this variability in women’s sexuality during pregnancy and the postpartum period?
Previous research has tried to answer this question by looking at the physical and hormonal changes that women experience during pregnancy, such as changes in physical appearance and increased fatigue and nausea [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. A recent study, however, has offered an entirely new and interesting explanation: what best predicts your sexuality during and after pregnancy is your sexuality before pregnancy .
Yildiz measured the sexual function (i.e., desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain) of 59 women from the beginning of their pregnancy to six months postpartum and found that women’s pregnancy and postpartum sexual functioning was linearly correlated with their pre-pregnancy sexual functioning.
What does this mean?
This means that women’s sexual functioning during the first trimester, second trimester, and six months after delivery was similar to their pre-pregnancy sexual functioning. Visually, you could think of their sexual functioning as following a straight and predictable line from pre-pregnancy through pregnancy to the postpartum period.
Women did report decreases in their sexual functioning during pregnancy and the postpartum period (similar to what has been found in previous studies). However, women’s prenatal and postnatal sexual functioning followed a similar pattern (or line) as their pre-pregnancy sexual functioning. Indeed, Yildiz found that women with high pre-pregnancy sexual functioning continued to have high sexual functioning during pregnancy and the postpartum period and women with low pre-pregnancy sexual functioning continued to have low sexual functioning during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
In summary then, from the pre-pregnancy period through pregnancy to the postpartum period, women’s sexual functioning appears to follow a straight (although downward sloping) line. These results are important, as they show that a woman’s sexuality before pregnancy plays an important role in her sexuality during and after pregnancy.
- Johnson, C. E. (2011). Sexual health during pregnancy and the postpartum. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8, 1267-1284.
- De Judicibus, M. A., & McCabe, M. P. (2002). Psychological factors and the sexuality of pregnant and postpartum women. The Journal of Sex Research, 39, 94-103.
- Gałazka, I., Drosdzol-Cop, A., Naworska, B., Czajkowska, M., & Skrzypulec-Plinta, V. (2015). Changes in the sexual function during pregnancy. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 12, 445-454.
- Pauls, R. N., Occhino, J. A., & Dryfhout, V. L. (2008). Effects of pregnancy on female sexual function and body image: A prospective study. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5, 1915-1922.
- Trutnovsky, G., Josef, H., Uwe, L., and Edgar, P. (2006). Women’s perception of sexuality during pregnancy and after birth. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 46, 282-287.
- Yıldız, H. (2015). The relation between prepregnancy sexuality and sexual function during pregnancy and the postpartum period: A prospective study. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 41, 49-59.