“Oooo, there it is! … and I was quite excited to have sex again…”
: A Longitudinal Interpretative Phenomenological Study Exploring the Experiences of Perinatal Sexuality

  • Amy Middleton

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Background: Becoming a parent is a challenging life transition. There can be physical trauma for the woman to manage, stresses on both parent’s mental health, identity concerns as well as relationship and sexuality issues. The biomedical field currently dominates research in the perinatal period and is usually problem focused. This study explores how women who give birth experience sex and make sense of their sexuality.

Methods: Applying a Longitudinal Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (LIPA) framework, nine participants (all identifying as women and first-time mothers) were interviewed in-depth across their perinatal period (first, in the final trimester of pregnancy, again at three months postnatal and again at six months postnatal). To enable breadth of analysis, Framework Analysis was combined with the LIPA framework.

Findings: The study found, at the prenatal timepoint, women were taking action to navigate the changes that their pregnancy is having on sex and their intimate relationship. They had an embodied consciousness of sex and sexuality and the changes to their body impact the way they have sex. Further, they placed value on the physical and emotional closeness within their relationship. By the second timepoint, the women were experiencing a mix of emotions and were actively reconfiguring their sex-life. They were experiencing a multitude of bodily changes or issues and whilst feeling pride in what their body had achieved, there was a sense of loss for their sexual identity. By the third timepoint, the women of this research were creating new ways to experience intimacy as life had changed significantly again. The baby is the top priority, and they continued to juggle their multiple modes of self.

Conclusions: The journey towards becoming a Mum, becoming a partner to a new parent, and being a sexual person revealed a synthesis of embodied change to the sexual identity, as the woman adapts to new styles of sex and intimacy, and balances a mix of emotions. This study is unique in its design due to the idiographic level of insight LIPA interviews allow for, as well as in-depth interpretation and meaning making the framework requires. The women talked openly and honestly about their experiences, and they appreciated the space to be heard and they have provided a greater insight into perinatal sexual identity, needs and experience. Acknowledging that individual women have individual experiences, although there may be group similarities, will help health professionals provide an improved humanised care and support for their perinatal patients.
Date of AwardOct 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorZoe Boden-Stuart (Supervisor), Laetitia Zeeman (Supervisor) & Kyla Ellis-Sloan (Supervisor)


  • Perinatal
  • Prenatal
  • Postnatal
  • Sex
  • Sexuality
  • Intimacy
  • Longitudinal Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (LIPA)
  • Framework Analysis

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