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Keywords:

  • childbirth;
  • libido;
  • postpartum care;
  • sexuality

Background:  To give birth and become a parent is a source of many emotions and expectations. Several studies show that women experience different problems after giving birth. It can bring many physical, emotional and social changes that may alter the woman's sexual needs and impact on her relationship. The aim of this study was to elucidate how some women experienced their sexual life with their partner after giving birth.

Methods:  Twenty-seven women participated in six focus group discussions (FGDs). These discussions took place 3–24 months postdelivery. The midwives at their antenatal clinics selected them. A discussion guide with broad questions related to the subject was used and an observer took notes during the FGD.

Results:  Four themes were identified: body image after childbirth, how sexual patterns are altered following new stresses of family life, discordance of sexual desire with the partner and the necessity for reassurance. The women did not feel comfortable with the physical changes that had taken place and their body image. Childbirth meant less sleep and less free time; consequently, instead of having sex, women wanted to sleep or have time for themselves and that led to a changed sex pattern. Discordance of sexual desire with the partner was a problem but most of the women expressed confidence that their sexual desire would return shortly. Reassurance and confirmation that they were physically alright and back to normal was essential.

Conclusion:  New mothers are concerned with their body image and the ability to adapt to parenting. They need sensitive, professional counselling and reassurance about their body, as well as about sexual life after childbirth. This level of professional counselling is presently not widely available to new mothers, while midwives and gynaecologists should be the key persons to provide this service.