ORIGINAL RESEARCH-WOMEN’S SEXUAL HEALTH
Exploring Co-Parent Experiences of Sexuality in the First 3 Months after Birth
Corresponding Author: Sari M. van Anders, PhD, Departments of Psychology & Women's Studies, Program in Neuroscience, Reproductive Science Program, University of Michigan, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA. Tel: (1) 734-647-6981; Fax: (1) 734-763-7480; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Research on postpartum sexuality has focused primarily on mothers, though new findings suggest that relational perceptions may have a strong influence over sexual desire and behavior. Little investigation exists regarding sexuality in partners of postpartum women. Additionally, recent findings point to the importance of a partner's sexuality for postpartum women's perceptions of their own sexuality in this time.
The goal of this research was to explore women's partners' sexuality in the early postpartum phase taking into account psychosocial context.
Partners (N = 114; 95 men, 18 women, 1 unspecified) of postpartum women completed a retrospective online questionnaire about their sexuality during the 3 months following their youngest child's birth.
Main Outcome Measures
Primary measures included sexual desire (Sexual Desire Inventory), latency to sexual behavior, and enjoyment and initiation of sexual behavior. Other psychosocial variables were investigated: partners' perceptions of the birth mother's sexual desire, perceptions of the birth experience (Questionnaire Measuring Attitudes About Labor and Delivery), postpartum stress (Perceived Stress Scale), body image self-consciousness (Body Image Self-Consciousness Scale), social support (Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support), fatigue, and experiences surrounding breastfeeding.
Partners reported most frequent engagement in intercourse in the postpartum period, earliest engagement in masturbation, and highest enjoyment of receiving oral sex compared with other sexual activities. Partners' sexual desire was not correlated with the psychosocial variables measured in the study. Findings for partners' sexuality were similar by gender, except for perceptions of social support and likelihood to engage in intercourse.
This study provided a novel perspective on the study of postpartum sexuality by investigating physical and psychosocial influences on the experiences of partners of parous women. Given parallels between sexuality reported by partners in this study and by birth mothers in past studies, this study provided evidence that sexuality in the postpartum period may be experienced similarly, highlighting the social and relational nature of the postpartum. van Anders SM, Hipp LE, and Kane Low L. Exploring co-parent experiences of sexuality in the first 3 months after birth. J Sex Med 2013;10:1988–1999.