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Birth. 2018 Mar;45(1):55-63. doi: 10.1111/birt.12321. Epub 2017 Nov 22.

Perceptions of the effects of childbirth on sexuality among nulliparous individuals.

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Department of Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.



Media representations of sexuality after childbirth depict vaginal birth as harmful and cesarean delivery as protective, although research does not support these depictions. The objective of the current study was to investigate perceptions of the effects of mode of delivery on sexuality.


Nulliparous participants who were able to and interested in giving birth (N = 1428) completed an online survey about their preferences for mode of delivery and their perceptions of childbirth as they specifically relate to sexuality. Participants provided demographic information, rated how influential different sources of information about childbirth were, and completed the Attitudes Toward Women's Genitals Scale.


Up to half (16-48%), the participants agreed with different statements about vaginal birth as harmful to, and cesarean delivery as protective of, future sexuality. Participant characteristics that were independently predictive of endorsing these beliefs were: self-identifying as heterosexual, holding negative attitudes toward women's genitals, and reporting that reality media, nonreality media, and online media sources are influential sources of childbirth information. Participants who rated health care professionals as an influential source of information were less likely to endorse these beliefs.


Given that there is no clear evidence in the empirical literature to support the claim that vaginal births are harmful and cesarean delivery is protective to one's future sexual life, it is important to dispel the existing misconceptions. Various media sources likely play a role in the perpetuation of this misinformation.


media; mode of delivery; perceptions of childbirth; postpartum sexuality; preferences for mode of delivery

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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