Saturday, February 9, 2008

Facilitating birth through sexuality and intimacy

In my previous post I linked to an article by a woman who spoke of her increased libido and sexual desire during pregnancy and birth. The article does not hold back and fairly outrageous stuff really. So be warned. This has stimulated me to think more on this topic however. How do we as health professionals handle this aspect of our work. Are we open enough to the ideas of women as sexual beings during pregnancy labour and birth? Midwifery is very involved with womens' sexuality whether we choose to acknowledge this or not. I wonder if down playing or ignoring this can contribute to the medicalisation of birth?

We have known about the benefit of nipple stimulation for stimulating contractions for a long time, Hippocrates was the first to describe its use for induction of labour. Sexual intercourse too is known to stimulate uterine activity however a Cochrane review could find insufficient data to draw firm conclusions with scientific basis about the benefits for cervical ripening and induction of labour. It seems to me that regular uterine stimulation throughout pregnancy must be helpful in toning the uterus ready for labour.

If women are prone to premature labour it is advisable that they try to minimise uterine stimulation and therefore they may be advised to avoid intercourse. Do we however promote this as healthy activity which is likely to facilitate labour and birth? How would you, as midwives, create a space for labour where couples can be intimate with one another in this way? Would you as a woman feel OK about being intimate with your partner in labour or raising this as a possibility with your midwife? If you work in a maternity facility do you have any thoughts about this happening within your facility?

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