Mothers' parenting stress affects sexual satisfaction

A new study from Penn State reveals that parenting stress reduces a first-time mom's levels of sexual satisfaction, which in turn reduces the dad's sexual satisfaction as well.

Penn State health researchers looked at data from 169 expectant heterosexual couples, who were asked about the parenting stress they were experiencing six months after their baby was born. Twelve months after the baby was born, parents reported on their overall sexual satisfaction.

They found that men's parenting stress had no impact on either men's or women's sexual satisfaction, but the amount of parenting stress women felt affected the sexual satisfaction of both partners. Such findings were reported in the journal Sex Roles.

As it turns out, women generally bear the larger responsibility in caring for the baby, and social pressures may drive women to aim to be the perfect mother. When new moms feel taxed by the added responsibilities of parenting, their sex drive may suffer as a result. Moreover, when a mom feels greater stress due to parenting, not only is her sexual satisfaction diminished, but the dad's sexual satisfaction also takes a hit.

At the six-month follow-up, each parent was asked to rate statements pertaining to the stress of becoming a parent. A year after becoming parents, the mothers and fathers completed questionnaires that probed into how satisfied they were with their sex lives.

Mothers reported greater sexual satisfaction at 12 months than fathers did, with 69 percent of the women reporting they were somewhat to very satisfied with their sex lives. As for men, 55 percent of them reported being somewhat to very satisfied.

The research seeks to help new mothers and fathers better understand the strains of transition to parenthood.

I stumbled upon this research at the right time, as my wife and I are currently contemplating if and when we'll have children. It's been well documented that children can adversely affect a couple's sex life. However, I didn't know that the mother's diminished sex drive could have such a "rubbing off" effect on the dad. I always figured dads were up for sex whether their partner wanted it or not.

I suppose this happens because men commiserate with their partners. They not only see how physically and mentally taxed parenting has made their partners, but they realize that they, too, aren't as in the mood for sex as they were before the kids came along. Children drastically change couples' lives in more ways than one. When parenting leaves a mother feeling drained, sex is going to be the last thing on her mind. It's no surprise that most couples have to schedule sex around their baby's sleeping schedule. Once you're a parent, spur-of-the-moment quickies become a thing of the past.

I'll certainly have to keep this in mind as I weigh the pros and cons of parenthood. While I look forward to the many rewards of being a dad, I realize that parenthood isn't without its many sacrifices.

Moms and dads: Did you experience this when you had your child?  How badly did it strain your sex life?

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