Sexual function at 6 months postpartum

In the spirit of Mother’s Day (May 11 here in the US), perhaps we should pay more attention to the life and sexuality experiences of mothers.

As scientists, we know a little but not a great deal about women’s sexual function and sexual experiences after giving birth. As many of you know, birth is rarely an easy process and a good number of women experience complications such as vaginal or anal tears.

I just learned of a study that looked at women’s sexual function at 6 months postpartum (in other words, 6 months after giving birth). They found that women who had had anal sphincter lacerations were less likely to have had sex at the six month mark, though still most (88%) had done so. Added to that, about 1/3 of women reporting experiencing pain during sex, at least sometimes. I would like to see more research on this topic, including research that looks at more than a function score, pain score or whether or not women are having sex – I’d like to see more related to ease of arousal, desire, interest, ease of orgasm, and also women’s and men’s emotional responses to sexual intimacy after having had children.

If you are a woman who is experiencing pain or discomfort, and things like using a personal lubrication or using certain positions over others, isn’t easing your pain, please check in with your healthcare provider. If you are a man or woman whose female partner is experiencing pain, please try to approach sex gently and be aware and commuicative with your partner about her pain or discomfort. Spending more time in foreplay may help to relieve some cases of discomfort, but other cases may be more complicated and may warrant medical attention. Please take care of each other – relationships are both special and fragile, and they need attention and care. Rather than avoid talking about sex with each other, try to communicate with each other and really hear what the other one is saying when it comes to sex and your relationship.

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.

  • Marcey

    Debby, I like the advice you gave about communicating with your partner about sex. Unfortunately, most of those people who need to hear this are not reading your blog…

    Keep up the good work.
    Marcey

  • Marcey

    Debby, I like the advice you gave about communicating with your partner about sex. Unfortunately, most of those people who need to hear this are not reading your blog…

    Keep up the good work.
    Marcey

  • Debby

    Ah, and yet they are reading! Some are comfortable reading, and are just beginning to become comfortable talking about sexuality. And I think it’s helpful that you and so many others comment, and thereby share your own comfort and interest related to sexual matters. It’s good to see that others are engaged in these matters, so thanks for being part of it all, Marcey!

  • Debby

    Ah, and yet they are reading! Some are comfortable reading, and are just beginning to become comfortable talking about sexuality. And I think it’s helpful that you and so many others comment, and thereby share your own comfort and interest related to sexual matters. It’s good to see that others are engaged in these matters, so thanks for being part of it all, Marcey!