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Vaginal Birth Ruin Your Sex Life? | Image Courtesy of Mulyadi via Unsplash

Are You Wondering "Can A Vaginal Birth Ruin Your Sex Life?"

Medically, the answer is a resounding ‘no’… but postpartum sex is still an understandable concern for most pregnant women, especially in a digital age where whispered rumors have given way to detailed stories of difficult birth experiences splashed across social media pages.

In the greater debate over vaginal birth vs. C-section, the real issue on the minds of many expectant mothers is often whether one mode of delivery is somehow better than the other. It’s a complex question; but a group of researchers in Ontario, Canada recently attempted to answer the ‘sex after baby’ part of it. What they found out surprised even them; and shed some important light on the bigger question as well.

Researchers Studying the Impact of Vaginal Childbirth versus Cesarean on Postpartum Sex Find...

The researchers selected women of similar age from three different groups – those who had delivered vaginally within the last two years, those who had delivered by C-section in the last two years, and a group of women who had never given birth. Each woman participated in a physical exam and answered several questions about their postpartum sex lives and birthing experiences.

Because sexual activity is highly subjective by nature, creating a sexual experience similar enough to study the impacts on postpartum sex posed a bit of a challenge. In a lab setting, the research team asked each woman to watch a short nature video, followed by a short erotic video. During each viewing, Doppler laser imaging was used to monitor changes in genital responses like blood flow and lubrication. They also asked each woman to monitor and report her own arousal levels during the videos and state afterward what she perceived her genital response had been.

The results? The laser imaging showed definitively that the women who gave birth vaginally had significantly lower genital response than the other two groups. However, there was no significant difference in how either group of mothers perceived their arousal or their genital response. (The group who had never given birth reported higher levels of arousal as well as perceived and actual genital response. To no one’s surprise, they also reported far less fatigue and other issues common to new mothers that can affect postpartum sexual function.)

The takeaway? Sexual arousal and satisfaction are complicated; and the physical aspect is just one part of a bigger picture. The answer to "Can a vaginal birth ruin your sex life?" needs more study, and new mothers need more support overall from the medical community; but method of delivery doesn’t appear to be a major factor in how much sexual satisfaction women can experience postpartum.

Factors Leading to Painful Postpartum Sex

That said… a number of physical factors, from birth trauma to hormones, can lead to difficult or painful postpartum sex. Don’t assume that will be the case; but do communicate your concerns to your partner and your doctor before and after delivery, and follow medical advice about when and how to resume sexual activity. Above all, remember – sex shouldn’t hurt. If painful postpartum sex persists for any length of time, a pelvic health physical therapist can help you with the right diagnosis and non-surgical treatment to get back to the sex life you deserve.


Cappell J., Bouchard K.N., Chamberlain S.M., et al 2019. Is Mode of Delivery Associated With Sexual Response? A Pilot Study of Genital and Subjective Sexual Arousal in Primiparous Women With Vaginal or Cesarean Section Births. The Journal Of Sexual Medicine 17:2 257-72.

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** This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. **

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