The influence of partnership quality and breastfeeding on postpartum female sexual function
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Female sexual dysfunction is known to have a huge impact on quality of life and is highly prevalent during the peripartum period. Several influencing variables were found to be associated with impaired sexual function postpartum, among them breastfeeding and partnership quality. However, little is known about the predictive value of these variables. Therefore, this longitudinal cohort study aimed to examine prospectively the influence of the two variables on sexual function 4-month postpartum.
Materials and methods
Questionnaires were administered to 330 women prenatally (TI, third trimester) and postpartum (TII, 1 week; TIII, 4 months). Medical data were collected from the respondents’ hospital records. The Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) was used to determine overall sexual function, desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain perinatally.
At all timepoints, mean FSFI scores were below the critical FSFI-score of 26.55. Partnership quality, breastfeeding, high maternal education, and maternal depressive symptoms correlated significantly with FSFI scores postpartum. Further analyses confirmed antenatal partnership quality and breastfeeding behavior as strong predictors of sexual function 4-month postpartum, explaining 24.3% of variance. Women who stopped breastfeeding or never breastfed at all showed the highest FSFI scores.
Our findings indicate that exclusively breastfeeding women and those who report low partnership quality have an increased likelihood of sexual functioning problems 4-month postpartum. Health-care providers need to be encouraged to counsel on postpartum sexuality and influencing factors during prenatal classes to de-pathologize those changes and to foster a positive approach to peripartum sexuality.
KeywordsSexual function Breastfeeding Delivery Pregnancy Partnership quality
LMM: data collection and manuscript writing. MW: protocol development. CR: protocol development, data management, and manuscript editing. CS: protocol development and manuscript editing. MM: data collection and management, data analysis, and manuscript writing. SW: protocol development, data collection and management, data analysis, and manuscript writing.
This study was funded by the German Society of Psychosomatic Gynecology and Obstetrics (Forschungsstipendium).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
We declare that we have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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