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Study reveals women’s views of childbirth and sexuality

24 November, 2017

Study reveals women’s views of childbirth and sexuality

As many as 48% of nulliparous women agree that vaginal birth is harmful to future sexuality while caesarean sections protected it, according to a survey by a Canadian university. 

But those who rated healthcare professionals as an influential source of information were less likely to believe this, found the paper published in the journal Birth.

The objective of the study by the department of psychology of Queen’s University in Ontario was to investigate perceptions of the effects of mode of delivery on sexuality.

The online survey was completed by 1428 nulliparous participants who were able to and interested in giving birth. They were asked about their preferences for mode of delivery and their perceptions of childbirth as they specifically relate to sexuality.

Participants provided demographic information, rated how influential different sources of information about childbirth were, and completed the Attitudes Toward Women’s Genitals Scale.

It found that 16% to 48% of those who took part saw vaginal birth as harmful to sexuality. Those who believed this reported that reality media, non-reality media, and online media sources are influential sources of childbirth information.

To be eligible for the study, individuals needed to be designated female at birth, 18 years of age or over, nulliparous, not pregnant, able to and interested in giving birth in the future, and fluent in English.

Participants’ agreement (somewhat or completely agree) with the statements ranged from 16% agreeing with ‘my partner will not like the look of my vulva after I have a vaginal birth’ to 48% who agreed with ‘my vagina will be “loose” after I have a vaginal birth’.  

Over a fifth (21%) somewhat or completely agreed with the statement ‘having a caesarean delivery will prevent future sexual problems compared with having a vaginal birth’.  

The research concluded that, given that there is no clear evidence in the empirical literature to support the claim that vaginal births are harmful and C-sections are protective to one’s future sexual life, it is important for midwives and other healthcare professionals to dispel the existing misconceptions.

Access the study Perceptions of the effects of childbirth on sexuality among nulliparous individuals here.

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