Friday, 22 May 2015

Sex after childbirth

Roger Watson, Editor-in-Chief

Many myths surround the issue of sexual activity around childbirth - both pre- and post-natally. There cannot be a couple who are expecting a child or a woman who is imminently giving birth or has just given birth who does not wonder when they can resume sexual activity, especially but not exclusively, penetrative vaginal sexual intercourse.

This issue is addressed by O'Malley et al. (2015) in an article titled: 'Postpartum sexual health: a principle-based concept analysis' and published in JAN.  As the authors explain: 'Postpartum sexual health is a minimally understood concept, most often framed within physical/biological dimensions or as a ‘checklist’ task in postpartum information provision. This has the potential to leave women unprepared to manage transient or normative sexual health changes after childbirth. For meaningful discussions, clarity and understanding of postpartum sexual health is required.'

Using a wide variety of sources which were reviewed systematically the study uses a principle based concept analysis approach to investigate what is know about postpartum sex. They conclude that: 'Postpartum sexual health is conceptually immature with limited applicability in current midwifery practice.'  Midwives are in an excellent position to advise on postpartum sexual activity but, of course, new mothers (and fathers) may find it hard to ask and, equally, midwives may find the subject difficult to broach. Finally, in the words of the authors: 'Measurement tools for specifically
assessing and measuring postpartum sexual health were not identified in this analysis and there is a need to develop, test and validate such a tool. Finally, there is limited evidence on the topic from the perspective of midwife care providers and of that which was identified, midwives have apparent
limited knowledge in the area of postpartum sexual health and engage minimally in discussions with women on this topic in the postpartum period. This indicates an urgent need for education in this area, including curriculum considerations at undergraduate and postgraduate level, so that greater clinical understanding and appreciation for this important aspect of maternity care can be assured.'

You can listen to this entry as a podcast.


O’Malley D, Higgins A, Smith V (2015) Postpartum sexual health: a principle-based concept analysis Journal of Advanced Nursing doi: 10.1111/jan.12692

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