Postpartum dyspareunia and sexual functioning: a prospective cohort study

Eur J Contracept Reprod Health Care. 2017 Jun;22(3):200-206. doi: 10.1080/13625187.2017.1315938. Epub 2017 Apr 27.


Objectives: Sexual functioning is an important concern for women in the postpartum period. The aim of this research was to investigate the prevalence and determinants of dyspareunia and sexual dysfunction before and after childbirth.

Methods: Between November 2013 and April 2014, 109 women in their third trimester of pregnancy were enrolled in a prospective cohort study at Ghent University Hospital. Dyspareunia, sexual functioning and quality of life (QOL) were evaluated at enrolment and again 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum. Sexual functioning and QOL were assessed using validated self-report questionnaires: the Female Sexual Function Index and the Short Form-36 health survey. Dyspareunia was evaluated by a specific self-developed questionnaire.

Results: One hundred and nine women were enrolled; respectively, 71 (65.1%), 66 (60.6%) and 64 (58.7%) women returned the questionnaires prepartum, and 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum. Sexual functioning at 6 weeks was predictive of sexual functioning at 6 months postpartum (rs = 0.345, p = .015). The prevalence of dyspareunia in the third trimester of pregnancy, and 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum was, respectively, 32.8%, 51.0% and 40.7%. The severity of pain decreased significantly between 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum (p = .003). In the first 6 weeks postpartum, the degree of dyspareunia was significantly associated with breastfeeding (p = .045) and primiparity (p = .020). At 6 months, only the association with primiparity remained significant (p = .022).

Conclusions: The impaired postpartum sexual functioning, the high prevalence of dyspareunia postpartum and their impact on QOL indicate the need for further investigation and extensive counselling of pregnant women, especially primiparous women, about sexuality after childbirth.

Keywords: Dyspareunia; FSFI; postpartum period; pregnancy; quality of life; sexual dysfunction.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Delivery, Obstetric / adverse effects*
  • Dyspareunia / epidemiology*
  • Dyspareunia / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Parturition
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Report
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult