Sexual Violence Linked to Sexual Distress in Pregnant Women

Approximately 1 in 10 pregnant women in Turkey experience sexual violence from their partner or spouse during their pregnancy, a recent Journal of Sexual Medicine study reports.

Conjugal sexual violence may contribute to sexual distress, the authors said, encouraging healthcare professionals to ask their patients about sexuality and sexual violence.

This is the first study to explore the relationship between sexual violence and sexual function in pregnant women, they added.

  • The study involved 605 heterosexual pregnant women in Turkey who completed questionnaires between December 2019 and April 2020. The women’s average age was 27, and 84% said they had “good” relationships with their husbands or partners. All were sexually active.
  • The questionnaires assessed the women’s exposure to sexual violence, sexual function, and sexual distress.
  • Almost three-quarters of the women were diagnosed with sexual dysfunction and 38% felt sexual distress.
  • Approximately 12% of the women had been exposed to sexual violence during their pregnancy. The most common forms of violence were anger when the women refused intercourse and forced intercourse in spite of a refusal.
  • Relationship duration, gestational week, and number of children appeared to increase rates of sexual dysfunction.

The authors determined that sexual violence was a risk factor for sexual distress, and rates of distress were higher in women exposed to violence. However, “no significant difference” between sexual violence and sexual dysfunction was found.

They added that Turkey’s “traditional and patriarchal” society, along with taboos associated with sexuality, might make women reluctant to discuss sexual problems. It’s also possible that rates of violence are higher in Turkey compared to other parts of Europe, they said.

Nurses can play an important role in helping pregnant women with sexual dysfunction and distress, the authors said.

  • “Trainings should be organized to identify possible sexual problems of pregnant women and their partners/spouses, to provide solutions to these problems, and to prevent couples’ misunderstanding about sexuality during pregnancy,” they explained.

Nurses should also screen pregnant women for sexual violence and be prepared to refer patients to authorities and counselors if necessary. In addition, they may teach coping skills and stress management strategies.

The authors noted that their findings did not necessarily apply to all pregnant women in Turkey and that more study was needed.



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