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Study: Vaginal birth affects sex life

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One reason given for the rising number of women who choose to deliver their babies by optional Cesarean section is that this mode of delivery protects the pelvic floor from damage that may cause incontinence or sexual dysfunction. A new study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests vaginal birth does take a toll on a couple’s sex life up to one year after the baby is born.

Researchers in Tehran, Iran, surveyed 912 pregnant women and their husbands. All the women were healthy and first-time mothers. The women were divided into groups based on their type of delivery: spontaneous vaginal delivery without injuries, vaginal delivery with episiotomy or perineal laceration, operative vaginal delivery (includes instrumental delivery such as forceps), planned C-section and emergency C-section.

At first intercourse, eight weeks after delivery, women who had operative vaginal delivery had the highest pain scores and women who had planned C-sections had the lowest. A year after birth, women with instrument-assisted deliveries had the worst sexual satisfaction. Overall, any type of vaginal delivery or complicated mode of delivery led to an increase in sexual dysfunction.

At the one-year mark, sexual desire had decreased an average of 3.2% in women who had a planned C-section compared to 28.7% among women who had operative vaginal delivery and 14.4% in women who had spontaneous vaginal delivery. Intercourse frequency declined 10.2% among women who had a planned C-section, 32.1% among women who had operative vaginal delivery and 31.4% in women who had spontaneous vaginal delivery.

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‘Since the turn of the last century, investigators have hypothesized that pregnancy and delivery of an infant can result in anatomical and functional derangement in pelvic floor and intrapelvic organs,’ the authors wrote. ‘Many issues that were not previously incorporated into the planning mode of delivery may now be considered to be of great importance. Among these is sexual function.... We think the results of this study are quite convincing in demonstrating an association between mode of delivery and sexual function.’

-- Shari Roan


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