Introduction. Sexual function through pregnancy and the postpartum period is an important aspect of quality of life. Despite this, prospective studies are limited, and the impact of body image on sexual function has not been explored.
Aim. To prospectively assess the effects of pregnancy on sexual function, and explore causative factors for sexual function alterations such as body image and pelvic floor symptoms.
Materials and Methods. Pregnant women completed the questionnaires in the first and third trimester and at 6 months postpartum. These included general information, questions regarding sexual activity and practices, and five validated indices: the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), the Body Exposure during Sexual Activities Questionnaire, short forms of Urogenital Distress Inventory and Incontinence Impact Questionnaire, and the Fecal Incontinence Quality of Life Scale.
Main Outcome Measures. An assessment of the FSFI domains through the 6 months postpartum and relationships between sexual function, body image, and pelvic floor symptoms.
Results. One hundred seven women were enrolled, 63 completed the final questionnaire. Sexual function declined through pregnancy and was not recovered by postpartum (P = 0.017); sexual frequency was highest prior to becoming pregnant (P < 0.0005). Sexual practices changed during pregnancy but returned to early pregnancy levels in the postpartum period. Although body image during sexual functioning did not significantly change during pregnancy, it worsened in the postpartum period (P = 0.01). In early pregnancy, low sexual function was associated with impaired body image, while in the postpartum period, worse urinary symptoms correlated with poor FSFI.
Conclusion. Sexual function worsens during pregnancy and is not recovered by the 6 months postpartum; poor scores may be attributable to low body image and urinary complaints. Pauls RN, Occhino JA, and Dryfhout VL. Effects of pregnancy on female sexual function and body image: A prospective study. J Sex Med 2008;5:1915–1922.