The topic of sexuality during pregnancy and the year postpartum is ripe for feminist analysis because it represents the combination of biological events that are unique and meaningful to women (pregnancy and child­birth) with a heavy layer of social constructions based on cultural beliefs about the proper roles of women and men and the appropriateness of sexual expression. In many ways there are parallels to issues in adolescent girls’ sexuality, in the combination of biological events (puberty) with cultural constructions. Therefore, concepts from the chapter by Welsh, Rostosky, and Kawaguchi (chapter 5, this volume) on adolescent girls’ sexuality also are relevant here.

In this chapter we review cultural beliefs about sexuality during preg-

This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health Grant No. MH44340 to Janet Hyde and Marilyn Essex, with Marjorie Klein and Roseanne Clark. Developmental phases of this work were funded by the University of Wisconsin Graduate School and the Wisconsin Psychiatric Research Institute. Special thanks are extended to project staff, Ashby Plant, Will Shattuck, Laura Haugen, Nancy Smider, and Francine Horton, and to the Wisconsin Survey Research Laboratory and its staff. Rosalind Barnett and Joseph Pieck were helpful consultants to the project in its early stages.

Portions of this article appeared previously in an article published in The Journal of Sex Research (Hyde, DeLamater, Plant, &. Byrd, 1996). Reprinted material is used with permission.

nancy and the postpartum period; prior research on patterns of sexual ex pression during pregnancy and following childbirth; and our new research based on data from more than 500 women who were studied longitudinally from the fifth month of pregnancy through 1 year postpartum.