Sex and Intimacy in the Postpartum Period: A Qualitative Reddit Analysis of Women’s and Men’s Experiences
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Background: After a birth, physical, mental, social, and structural changes are common, and this may impact parents’ experiences of sex and intimacy. Women often report increased sexual morbidity and a decline in sexual desire, sexual satisfaction and sexual frequency. While much is known about women’s sexual dysfunction postpartum, less is known about experiences of intimacy and the meaning parents attach to the changes in sex and intimacy. Additionally, very little is known about men’s experiences of sex and intimacy postpartum. Research Questions: This study aimed to explore women’s and men’s experiences of sex and intimacy following the birth of a child by asking the following questions: (1) what (if any) changes do women and men experience in sex and/ or intimacy during the postpartum period?; (2) how do parents negotiate these changes?; and (3) how is the return to sex negotiated by men and women after birth? Methods: This was a qualitative study that used the online public forum Reddit to conduct a secondary data analysis. Constructivist grounded theory was used to analyze posts by men and women. Results: Reddit posts shared by men and women showed that they experienced significant changes in sex and intimacy postpartum that were often difficult to navigate. Parents identified a variety of barriers to sex and intimacy, and this often negatively impacted their well-being and relationships. Gender norms shaped the experiences of sex and intimacy as parents followed sexual scripts within heterosexual relationships, and women’s and men’s experiences were sometimes perceived differently based on gender roles by the members of the Reddit community. The transition into parenthood and new parenting responsibilities often conflicted with women’s and men’s roles as romantic partners. Additionally, the sex education women and men received prior to the postpartum period had a significant impact on their experiences and left some parents unprepared. Conclusion: The transitions that occur in the postpartum period provide a variety of challenges for parents that may negatively impact their experiences of sex and intimacy. Health care providers should initiate conversations with parents about sex and intimacy in the postpartum period to normalize common experiences and educate parents about additional resources should they be required.
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Lauren Nicole Harrison (2020). Sex and Intimacy in the Postpartum Period: A Qualitative Reddit Analysis of Women’s and Men’s Experiences. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/16354