OBJECTIVES: To investigate the relation between mode of birth and women's long-term sexual health.
DESIGN: Maternal follow-up of the Danish National Birth Cohort (1996-2002) in 2013-2014 including questions on sexual health. Logistic regression was used to relate registry-based information about mode of birth and perineal tears with data on sexual problems.
PARTICIPANTS: Of 82 569 eligible mothers in the Danish National Birth Cohort, 43 639 (53%) completed the follow-up. Of these, 37 417 women had a partner, and answered at least one question on sexual health.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Self-reported sexual health.
RESULTS: Participants were on average 44 years old, and 16 years after their first birth. The frequency of sexual problems among women with only spontaneous vaginal births, the reference group, was 37%. For women who only had caesarean sections, more problems were reported (OR 1.18; 95% CI 1.09 to 1.28). For women who had a spontaneous vaginal birth subsequent to a caesarean, and for women with only vaginal births who had experienced one or more instrumental vaginal births, the odds of sexual problems did not differ from women with only spontaneous vaginal births (OR 1.00; 95% CI 0.91 to 1.11) and (OR 1.01; 95% CI 0.95 to 1.08), respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that caesarean section does not protect against long-term sexual problems. Rather, vaginal birth, even after caesarean section, was associated with fewer long-term sexual problems.