March 20, 2007 -- Painful sex may affect nearly a third of women in the first year after they give birth, a new study suggests.
The researchers included Rebecca Knibb, PhD, senior lecturer at England's University of Derby.
They mailed questionnaires to 2,100 women in England who had given birth within the past year. The questionnaires were returned by 482 women (23% of those contacted).
Of the 482 women who returned the completed survey, 30% reported painful sex during the previous month.
The study also shows that, overall, 87% of the 482 moms who returned the completed survey reported at least one postnatal health problem during the previous month.
The most commonly reported problem was "sexual morbidity," which included painful sex, lack of lubrication or sensation during intercourse, and incontinence during intercourse.
Women who had given birth with the help of forceps were the most likely to report the postnatal conditions covered in the survey. Those who had given birth by cesarean section were the least likely to report such problems.
The study was limited by the fact that more than three-quarters of the mothers whom the researchers tried to contact didn't complete and return the questionnaire.
The relatively few mothers who participated may not represent all new moms. In fact, mothers with postnatal problems may have been more likely to complete the questionnaire.
The low response rate also prevented the researchers from gauging whether postnatal problems are constant or rare.
On the questionnaire, the women were asked to note how frequently they experienced each postnatal problem, with possible responses ranging from "rarely" to "all of the time."
Too few women provided that information, so the researchers couldn't analyze whether moms experienced postnatal problems consistently or occasionally in the year after giving birth.
The study appears in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.