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Study on Sex after Baby Tells Us What We Already Know: That Mom's Stress Matters

The Short of It

Couples' sex lives are adversely affected by a mom's stress level, a new study finds.

The Lowdown

Research out of Penn State and published in the journal "Sex Roles" finds what most of us moms already know: being a parent, especially a new one, is stressful. And the last thing you want to do after changing diapers and being spit up on all day is have sex!

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But apparently, there was a need to quantify this reality of relationships after baby, as Chelom E. Leavitt, doctoral student in human development and family studies, explained in a press release: "The transition to parenthood has gained importance recently. We know that sexual satisfaction is an important element in relationships, but as far as we know, it hasn't been studied at this transition before. We wanted to know how parenting stress affects sexual satisfaction."

So Leavitt and his team looked at 169 expectant heterosexual couples, and they asked about their stress levels at six and then 12 months postpartum. What they found was, as he explains, "When new moms feel fatigued by the added responsibilities of parenting, they may feel less sexual."

You don't say!

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"Interestingly, we found that men's parenting stress had no impact on either men's or women's sexual satisfaction," Leavitt says.

That's because men can have sex five minutes after a baby has explosive diarrhea in their face—seriously. But the study found since women may not be up for intimacy, men are going to have their sexual satisfaction diminished as well. Pretty much.

Meanwhile, according to the research, moms reported greater sexual satisfaction at 12 months than the dads did; 69 percent of the women said they were somewhat to very satisfied with their sex lives, while only 55 percent of men could say that. Could it be that women are satisfied with less intimacy than men after baby?


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The Upshot

While I don't see why anyone had to study this subject matter to come up with these conclusions, researchers say it can assist couples and therapists in helping parents know what to expect in their relationships after baby.

And anything that can help couples through the difficult transition to parenthood, can't be all bad!

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