Merck Manual

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Pregnancy-Related Sexual Dysfunction


Allison Conn

, MD, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Pavilion for Women;

Kelly R. Hodges

, MD, Baylor College of Medicine

Last full review/revision Mar 2021| Content last modified Mar 2021
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Pregnancy can introduce multiple factors, physical and psychologic, that increase risk of sexual dysfunction, which can occur intrapartum or postpartum.

Risk factors for pregnancy-related sexual dysfunction include the following:

  • Obstetric trauma; Cesarean or instrumented delivery, episiotomy, or perineal tears increase risk of genitopelvic pain and related difficulty with sexual interest and arousal.

  • Breastfeeding: Vaginal dryness can contribute to genitopelvic pain/penetration disorder.

  • Psychologic and social stressors: Changes in family roles and relationships, sleep disruption, neonatal health issues, and/or weight gain can increase stress.

  • Postpartum depression: Depression increases the risk of sexual dysfunction.

  • Intimate partner violence: Pregnancy increases the risk of intimate partner violence, which increases risk of sexual dysfunction.

Sexual dysfunction, regardless of type, that predates pregnancy tends to predict sexual dysfunction after pregnancy.

Diagnosis and treatment of pregnancy-related sexual dysfunction are similar to other types of female sexual dysfunction.

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