BACKGROUND: Childbirth has a significant impact on maternal health, and the high rate of cesarean delivery is a global health concern. Few studies have used validated measures to explore depression, pain, and sexual dysfunction following vaginal or cesarean delivery over a prolonged time period. OBJECTIVE: We examined the associations between vaginal and cesarean delivery and depressive symptoms, pain, and sexual function during the 1-year postpartum period. DESIGN: A prospective, five-time-point longitudinal study. SETTING: Maternity unit at a medical center. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 351 of 736 women completed a questionnaire that described demographic characteristics, depressive symptoms, and pain levels at 3-5 days postpartum, and updated personal data, depressive symptoms, pain levels, and sexual function at 4-6 weeks and at 3, 6, and 12 months after delivery. METHODS: Differences between the vaginal and cesarean groups in depressive symptoms, pain, and sexual function and trends of changes in these factors over the first postpartum year were examined. RESULTS: Compared with the vaginal birth group, the cesarean birth group had a significantly higher prevalence of depressive symptoms at 3 months (p=0.03); higher scores for non-localized pain at 3-5 days (p<0.001), 4-6 weeks (p=0.03), and 3 months (p=0.046); higher scores for abdominal pain at 3-5 days (p<0.001), 4-6 weeks (p<0.001), and 6 months (p=0.01); lower perineal pain scores at 3-5 days (p <0.001); and higher sexual desire scores (p=0.04) but lower sexual satisfaction scores (p=0.02) at 4-6 weeks. Differences between the vaginal and cesarean groups were significant (p=0.01, p=0.049, respectively) in terms of the decrease in non-localized pain from 3-5 days to 4-6 weeks postpartum and the increase in sexual desire from 4-6 weeks to 3 months postpartum. CONCLUSIONS: Cesarean delivery was associated with an increased prevalence of depressive symptoms at 3 months and higher pain levels that persisted at 6 months postpartum in Taiwan. We found no difference in sexual function between vaginal and cesarean delivery after 6 weeks postpartum, and no differences in the trends related to depressive symptoms or in sexual functioning (except for desire) within 1 year postpartum.
ASJC Scopus subject areas