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PREGNANCY AND SEXUALITY

Taboos against intercourse with a pregnant woman are very common in undeveloped countries and have been observed historically as a religious rule among some people. A study of sexual behavior in sixty preliterate societies found that twenty-one of them forbade sexual intercourse during most or all of the pregnancy (Ford & Beach). Among a Ghana group, the Ashanti, the taboo begins with the discovery of the pregnancy, and husbands, tiring of abstinence, often take another wife (Saucier).

In our society the continuation of sexual activity by pregnant women is not only common practice but is generally sanctioned by physicians. For example, a study of sexual attitudes and behavior in pregnancy (Tolor and DiGrazia) noted that the subjects’ physicians placed no restrictions whatever on their sexual activity from conception to delivery, unless complications such as bleeding, occurred. After delivery the women were advised to refrain from intercourse for four weeks and then to let their own preferences and comfort be their guide.

A study of 101 women revealed an increase in sexual tension and performance during the second trimester, attributed by the authors to the increased pelvic vascularity associated with pregnancy (Masters and Johnson). But other studies are in general agreement that sexual interest and activity fall off during pregnancy, especially during the last trimester. An example is a study (Tolor and DiGrazia) of a sample of 216 women who were patients of a group of obstetricians. The women comprised four groups: first trimester, second trimester, third trimester, and six weeks postpartum. The median frequency of sexual intercourse for all groups combined was 2.10 per week. Separately, the median reported frequencies for the first, second, and third trimesters and for the postpartum period were 2.25, 2.39, 1.08, and 2.65, respectively. Except for the third trimester group, about two-thirds of each group expressed satisfaction with the frequency of intercourse they were having. The third trimester group, however, had the strongest preference for less intercourse than they were having.

In a study of a large sample of Thai women, Morris, reporting similar findings of marked decline in frequency of intercourse with advancing pregnancy, suggested that the cross-cultural consistency of this phenomenon raises the question of a biological reason. This would be difficult to test because of cultural norms, perhaps medical advice, and psychological factors which no doubt also play a part in such behavior.

Coital techniques and positions also are affected by the course of pregnancy. The preferred sexual practice for the first trimester women in the Tolor and DiGrazia study was vaginal stimulation, whereas the later pregnancy groups preferred breast and clitoral manipulation. These women also reported a very strong need for physical contact, for wanting to be held. Given a choice of alternatives when they did not wish to have intercourse, most of them wanted just to be held. As for positions in coitus, Solberg and others found that side-by-side or rear entry became the preferred modes as pregnancy advanced.

Women who reported a change in their sexual behavior during pregnancy gave these reasons: physical discomfort, 46%; fear of injury to the baby, 27%; and loss of interest, 23%. Less frequently reported reasons included awkwardness and loss of attractiveness (Solberg and others). Of the 260 women in this study, 29% were instructed by their physicians to abstain from coitus from two to eight weeks before the delivery date. Ten percent were advised about positions that might be more comfortable than the male superior position, and only two percent received suggestions about sexual activities that could be substituted for coitus (hand stimulation for both partners in all cases). This finding suggests a notable paucity of discussion between doctor and patient of sexuality in pregnancy.

The resumption of coitus after the woman has given birth follows no particular pattern, and its regulation and prescription vary widely from culture to culture. Ford and Beach reported postpartum taboos in sixty-six societies ranging in length of time from a few weeks to the end of lactation, sometimes three years. When there are no religious or cultural taboos against postpartum intercourse, abstention may be practiced for a few weeks for a variety of reasons relating to the woman’s health and comfort (Saucier). Four out of six women in one study (Masters and Johnson) experienced erotic arousal four to five weeks after delivery, but their physiological responses— vasocongestion of the labia, lubrication, and orgasmic contractions—were reduced in degree and intensity. About half of this large sample reported a low level of sexual response; their reasons included fatigue, fear, pain, and vaginal discharge. By three months, however, most of the women had returned to their pre-pregnancy level of activity.

*79/187/5*

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Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 at 4:19 am and is filed under Men's Health-Erectile Dysfunction. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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