Postpartum sexual functioning and method of delivery: summary of the evidence

J Midwifery Womens Health. Sep-Oct 2004;49(5):430-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jmwh.2004.04.007.


Short-term postpartum sexual problems are highly prevalent, ranging from 22% to 86%; however, there are few studies that address how mode of delivery affects sexual functioning after childbirth. The objective of this study was to perform a systematic review of the literature on selected postpartum sexual function outcomes as affected by cesarean, assisted vaginal, and spontaneous vaginal delivery. We searched PubMed, CINAHL, and Cochrane databases from January 1990 to September 2003 and focused on mode of delivery and the most commonly reported sexual health outcomes, which included perineal pain, dyspareunia, resumption of intercourse, and self-reported perception of sexual health/sexual problems. The studies all showed increased risks of delay in resumption of intercourse, dyspareunia, sexual problems, or perineal pain associated with assisted vaginal delivery. Some studies showed no differences in sexual functioning between women with cesarean delivery and those with spontaneous vaginal delivery, whereas others reported less dyspareunia for women with cesarean delivery. A systematic review of the literature suggests an association between assisted vaginal delivery and some degree of sexual dysfunction. Reported associations between cesarean delivery and sexual dysfunction were inconsistent. Continued research is necessary to identify modifiable risk factors for sexual problems related to method of delivery.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Coitus / psychology*
  • Delivery, Obstetric / adverse effects*
  • Delivery, Obstetric / psychology
  • Dyspareunia* / etiology
  • Dyspareunia* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Postpartum Period* / psychology
  • Puerperal Disorders / complications*
  • Puerperal Disorders / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexual Partners / psychology
  • United States
  • Women's Health*