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Sex Health Blog

Parenthood and Sex

Oct 02, 2013

If you’ve ever brought a new baby home, you know how much your life changes. Planning around your baby’s feedings and naps, trying to catch up on your own sleep, and working out childcare can be exhausting and stressful, no matter how happy you are with your new bundle of joy. And many parents need to make sexual adjustments.

Much has been written about the sexuality of birth mothers after delivery, especially on a physical level. Hormonal shifts, breastfeeding, fatigue, and anxiety can all play havoc with their desire for sex.

But what about their partners? How does childbirth affect their sexuality?

Researchers from the University of Michigan looked at this question and published their findings online in August in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. They used the term “co-parents” explaining that their study subjects were in romantic and sexual relationships with birth mothers and acted as parents to the new baby. (In other words, the term “co-parent” did not apply to birth mothers in this study.)

One hundred fourteen co-parents (95 men, 18 women, and 1 unspecified) completed a questionnaire, answering questions about the three months following their youngest child’s birth. These questions addressed feelings about labor and delivery, their parenting experiences during the postpartum period, and their sexual activities during this time.

Desire

It turned out that the co-parents’ sexual desire waxed and waned much like that of birth mothers. The co-parents tended to have higher levels of desire when their partner expressed sexual interest in them and when they felt particularly intimate and close with their partner. Not surprisingly, their desire levels decreased when they felt fatigued and stressed or when there wasn’t much time for sex.

Sexual Behaviors

In the 3-month postpartum time frame, over 80% of the co-parents started having intercourse with the birth mothers again. During the first six weeks, many avoided activity involving the birth mother’s vagina, but this gradually changed.

Seventy-three percent of the co-parents said they masturbated during this time. Many co-parents started masturbating before resuming oral sex or intercourse with the birth mother. Oral sex on the co-parent tended to occur earlier than oral sex on the birth mother.

Gender and Social Support

The researchers acknowledged that the group of female co-parents in this study was small and that related findings should be interpreted carefully.

However, they did observe some differences in the ways male and female co-parents viewed social support. They suggested that female co-parents had a larger network of friends and confidantes that they could go to for advice or support. Men, in contrast, might have seen the birth mother as their primary source of support.

Your Turn

The results of this study can’t be applied to all situations, of course. Still, they provide some insight on co-parents and couples as they adjust to the “new normal” that occurs after a baby’s arrival.

What do you think? What were your experiences as a co-parent after your child was born? How did parenthood affect your sexuality? Feel free to leave us a comment and share your story.