During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through a number of physical and chemical changes. These changes can have an impact on the pregnant woman’s sexuality and sexual function. Dr. Wendy Hookman, Reproductive Psychiatrist and Medical Director of the Washington Center for Women’s and Children’s Wellness, has been treating pregnant women’s mental health for 20 years. “Pregnancy is the definition of change,” she says, “of course, a woman’s body changes, but so does her sense of self and in turn, her relationships. Some pregnant women feel tremendously sexy, while others experience a decrease in their sexual desire for a variety of reasons.”
Previous research has found that a substantial percentage of pregnant women report sexual dysfunction symptoms. This could be attributed to a variety of circumstances. For example, many women experience nausea and exhaustion throughout the first trimester of pregnancy, which might be deterrents to sexual activity.
Some women may feel less appealing or secure in their bodies as the pregnancy proceeds. Others may be concerned about hurting the fetus, causing a miscarriage, or causing a premature birth when engaging in sexual activity, despite the fact that sexual activity is normally safe during pregnancy, unless your doctor or OB-GYN indicates otherwise.
Temporary changes in a woman’s hormones during pregnancy can cause vaginal discomfort during intercourse, and the pregnancy can also impact the pelvic floor muscles. A weaker pelvic floor can cause pain during sexual intercourse and orgasm.
Given all of the elements that might influence a pregnant woman’s sexuality, it stands to reason that she may have some sexual issues during this time. However, no study had previously quantified the global frequency of sexual dysfunction in pregnant women.
As a result, the researchers behind a recent study undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis of all studies on sexual dysfunction in pregnant women. The evaluation found 25 trials that were suitable, involving 6,871 pregnant women. Twenty of the 25 studies calculated the prevalence of sexual dysfunction in these women, and 15 of the 20 utilized the same cutoff value for sexual dysfunction, a Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) score of 26.5 or lower.
The authors discovered a pooled prevalence of sexual dysfunction in pregnant women of 69.7% using the 15 studies in question. This indicates that approximately 70% of healthy women may experience sexual dysfunction during their pregnancy, and possibly even more women with underlying disorders.
This material can be useful in teaching pregnant women (and, if applicable, their partners) about the effects of pregnancy on sexual functioning. Fortunately, many of the negative sexual consequences are transient.
At WCWCW, our specialists are eager to answer any questions you have about sexual dysfunction. We can help!
- Taştekin Ouyaba, A., & Infal Kesim, S. (2023). The prevalence of sexual dysfunctions in pregnant women and the correlated factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 20(4), 475-487. https://doi.org/10.1093/jsxmed/qdad002