Perspectives on intimacy during pregnancy

Hobbs, Kevin (2001) Perspectives on intimacy during pregnancy. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This study explores four different perspectives of patterns of intimacy during pregnancy. Intimacy is a complex concept and, as a consequence of this, much of the research previously conducted has restricted its focus to a particular aspect of
intimacy. Characteristically, it has also taken intimacy to be synonymous with sexual intimacy. The four component parts of this particular study comprise of(1) a critical review of articles related to sex, relationships and pregnancy, (2) a content analysis of popular pregnancy magazines, (3) semi-structured interviews with midwives exploring their experiences of talking with clients about relationships and sex, and (4) an inventory and semi-structured interview with pregnant women and their partners, assessing changes in intimacy during pregnancy.
The analysis of pregnancy magazines consists of a sample of five magazines chosen on one day from a main high street newsagent. The articles contained in these were categorized according to their content, and the amount of text relating
to either relationships or sex. Further analysis was undertaken of this in order to examine the messages presented in this media. Midwives were recruited from university classes using a snowballing technique and interviewed in their place of
work using a semi-structured interview schedule. The interviews were taped and the resulting data were analysed using a content analysis in order to identi' common themes. The inventory used in the couples study was devised by Olson
and Schaefer (1981), the PAIR inventory. Each member of the couple undertook the PAIR independently and the semi-structured interview was carried out with the couple together. The interview was taped and the content analysed for common
Much of the preoccupation of the existing literature is with the physical or medical aspects of pregnancy and the influence these have on sexual behaviour. Partners of pregnant women are excluded, on the whole, and the relationship, more generally, is ignored. Clear parallels are seen between the social and medical research conducted and the content of popular pregnancy magazines, where just over 1% of the total editorial content is given to relationships or sex. Where the topics are mentioned in any serious way, again the focus tends to be on sexual behaviour and the medical advice given to pregnant women. Interviews with midwives showed that they do not routinely raise the topic of sex and relationships, and these are even less frequently addressed by clients themselves. Similarly, the most-asked questions at the ante-natal clinics relate to the safety of being sexual during pregnancy, and the date of resumption of sexual activity post-delivery. The final
study, exploring couples' experiences of changes in intimacy during pregnancy, highlights a complex pattern of changes, some of which potentially could be seen to improve intimacy and others of which have the opposite effect. Significant
variation was observed between couples, both in terms of their expression of intimacy and the ways in which pregnancy impacted on this. Pregnancy was not always the most important factor affecting the expression of intimacy, as other
coincidental life events also significantly impact upon it. It is postulated that the narrow focus of the existing research, resulting in a lack of clarity of information for individuals and professionals alike, influences the development, recognition
and treatment of sexual and relationship difficulties which appear to have their origin in the pregnancy of post-partum period.

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