Ottawa Doula Services
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Blog discussing pregnancy, birth & parenting in Ottawa. 

Blog for all things Pregnancy, birth and

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It Can Hurt After Birth: Understanding Pain During Intercourse in the Postpartum

It Can Hurt After Birth: Understanding Pain During Intercourse in the Postpartum By: Meghan Rossi, Ph.D. Student

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For many parents, the postpartum period is both an exciting and challenging time. Welcoming a new baby into your family is a time of joy; however, some women can experience unexpected difficulties that are hard to navigate, both individually and as a couple. One particular challenge is pain that may occur during sexual activity. Many new parents expect women who have recently given birth to experience some discomfort when they first decide to re-establish their physical relationship, but past research shows that 31% to 37% of women report pain during intercourse at three and six months postpartum[1].
These women often experience substantial interference to their quality of life, including greater depression and impaired sexual function as a result of the pain[1]. Partners of these women are also likely to experience more psychological and sexual difficulties compared to partners of women without this pain[1, 2] . With 90% of couples resuming intercourse at 3 months postpartum , this pain can further increase the challenges new parents already experience when it comes to changes in their sex life after bringing baby home. There are a number of factors that can increase a woman’s risk of postpartum pain during intercourse, including depression[4] and method of delivery[1].
However, we don’t know enough about the factors that can increase couples’ overall quality of life when experiencing this pain.

That’s why our research team in the Couples and Sexual Health Laboratory at Dalhousie University is looking to recruit first time parents in the early postpartum period to understand how new parents manage postpartum pain during intercourse. With the demands of being new parents, we understand how challenging it is to manage your long to-do lists. Our short surveys can be completed in under 12 minutes and will provide a wealth of knowledge about the experience of new parents that can be used to develop new treatments and preventative tools for this pain.

Eligibility Criteria

We are seeking both members of couples who are first-time parents to fill out confidential online surveys (approximately 10-12 min each), one when baby is 3-months old and another when baby is 6-months old. Couples can participate if:
• One member of the couple has recently given birth to their first child (singleton pregnancies only), and baby is less than 16-weeks old.
• They are in an intimate relationship and have been together for at least 6 months
• Both partners are willing and able to complete all parts of the study, and can speak and read English
• They live in the United States or Canada
• *Other criteria may apply Both partners will complete separate online questionnaires at 3 and 6 months postpartum.
Couples will be compensated up to $30 CAD/$24 USD in Amazon gift cards for participating, and couples who complete all components of the study have a 1 in 50 chance of winning and Apple iPad. All information is kept strictly confidential.

*This study aims to be inclusive to individuals of all gender identities, bodies, and orientations. To participate, or to find out more, please contact us at, or call us at (902) 494-4223 or toll-free at 1-844-484-5040. You can also find out more on our website at


Rosen, N.O. and C. Pukall, Comparing the Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Repercussions of Postpartum Genito-Pelvic Pain and Dyspareunia. Sex Med Rev, 2016. 4 (2): p. 126-135. Smith, K.B. and C.F. Pukall, Sexual function, relationship adjustment, and the relational impact of pain in male partners of women with provoked vulvar pain. J Sex Med, 2014. 11 (5): p. 1283-93. Acele, E. Ö., & Karaçam, Z. (2012). Sexual problems in women during the first postpartum year and related conditions. Journal of clinical nursing, 21(7-8), 929-937. Alligood-Percoco, N.R., K.H. Kjerulff, and J.T. Repke, Risk Factors for Dyspareunia After First Childbirth. Obstet Gynecol, 2016. 128 (3): p. 512-8.

Sherry Theriault