Does spontaneous genital tract trauma impact postpartum sexual function? Academic Article uri icon


  • Changes in sexual function are common in postpartum women. In this comparative, descriptive study, a prospective cohort of midwifery patients consented to documentation of genital trauma at birth and assessment of sexual function at 3 months postpartum. The impact of spontaneous genital trauma on postpartum sexual function was the focus of the study. Trauma was categorized into minor trauma (no trauma or first-degree perineal or other trauma that was not sutured) or major trauma (second-, third-, or fourth-degree lacerations or any trauma that required suturing). Women who underwent episiotomy or operative delivery were excluded. Fifty-eight percent (326/565) of enrolled women gave sexual function data; of those, 276 (85%) reported sexual activity since delivery. Seventy percent (193) of women sustained minor trauma and 30% (83) sustained major trauma. Sexually active women completed the Intimate Relationship Scale (IRS), a 12-item questionnaire validated as a measure of postpartum sexual function. Both trauma groups were equally likely to be sexually active. Total IRS scores did not differ between trauma groups nor did complaints of dyspareunia. However, for two items, significant differences were demonstrated: women with major trauma reported less desire to be held, touched, and stroked by their partner than women with minor trauma, and women who required perineal suturing reported lower IRS scores than women who did not require suturing.

publication date

  • April 2009
  • January 1, 2009