A new study looks at how the stress of new parenthood affects sexual satisfaction.

By Brigitt Earley
Updated May 27, 2016
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If you're not having as much sex as you think you should be, just wait until kids come into the picture. First-time parents are only somewhat happy with their sex lives, according to researchers from Penn State. And the driving factor affecting sexual satisfaction appears to be the mothers' parenting stress.

Researchers studied data from 169 expectant heterosexual couples who had participated in the Family Foundations prevention program, a class for expectant parents to learn co-parenting skills. The couples were asked about their parenting stress six months after their first child was born. On a scale from one (strongly disagree) to five (strongly agree), each parent rated statements related to parenting stress, like "I find myself giving up more of my life to meet my child's needs than I ever expected" and "My child smiles at me much less than I expected."

A year post-baby, the couples reported on their overall sexual satisfaction. Both mothers and fathers rated the statement, "Regarding your sex life with your partner, would you say that you are overall..." on a scale of one (not satisfied at all) to nine (very satisfied).

Mothers were more likely to report greater sexual satisfaction than fathers: Nearly 70 percent of women said they were somewhat to very satisfied with their sex lives, while just 55 percent of men reported feeling somewhat to very satisfied.

"Interestingly, we found that men's parenting stress had no impact on either men's or women's sexual satisfaction," researcher and doctoral student Chelom E. Leavitt said in a statement. Conversely, the mothers' parenting stress appeared to be a driving factor in diminished sexual satisfaction in both partners.

"When new moms feel fatigued by the added responsibilities of parenting, they may feel less sexual," said Leavitt. "The sexual relationship is interdependent, so when a mom feels greater stress due to parenting, not only is her sexual satisfaction diminished, the dad's sexual satisfaction is also affected."

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