Does method of birth make a difference to when women resume sex after childbirth?

BJOG. 2013 Jun;120(7):823-30. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.12166. Epub 2013 Feb 27.


Objective: To investigate the timing of resumption of vaginal sex and assess associations with method of birth, perineal trauma and other obstetric and social factors.

Design: Prospective pregnancy cohort study of nulliparous women.

Setting: Melbourne, Australia.

Sample: A total of 1507 nulliparous women recruited in early pregnancy (≤24 weeks).

Method: Women were recruited from six public hospitals. Data from hospital records and self-administered questionnaires at recruitment and 3, 6 and 12 months postpartum were analysed using univariable and multivariable logistic regression.

Main outcome measure: Resumption of vaginal sex.

Results: Sexual activity was resumed earlier than vaginal sex, with 53% resuming sexual activity by 6 weeks postpartum, and 41% attempting vaginal sex. By 8 weeks a majority of women had attempted vaginal sex (65%), increasing to 78% by 12 weeks, and 94% by 6 months. Compared with women who had a spontaneous vaginal birth with an intact perineum, women who had a spontaneous vaginal birth with an episiotomy (adjusted odds ratio 3.43, 95% confidence interval 1.9-6.2) or sutured perineal tear (adjusted odds ratio 3.18, 95% confidence interval 2.1-4.9) were more likely not to have resumed vaginal sex by 6 weeks postpartum. Similarly, women who had an assisted vaginal birth or caesarean section had raised odds of delaying resumption of sex.

Conclusions: Most women having a first birth do not resume vaginal sex until later than 6 weeks postpartum. Women who have an operative vaginal birth, caesarean section or perineal tear or episiotomy appear to delay longer.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cesarean Section / psychology
  • Coitus / psychology*
  • Delivery, Obstetric / psychology*
  • Episiotomy / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parity
  • Parturition / psychology*
  • Perineum / injuries
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Victoria