The fatigue and stress of being a new parent can cause a loss of desire in the partners of birth mothers, according to research published online Aug. 1 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
At the same time, partners might feel greater desire based on a need for intimacy or the perception that the new baby is limiting the amount of available time for sex.
"We found that, like birth mothers, fathers and co-mothers experience sexual highs and lows during the postpartum," said lead author Sari van Anders, an assistant professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. "High sexual desire in co-parents at this time was influenced not only by sexual interest, but also feelings of intimacy. Low desire was influenced not by partner disinterest or breast-feeding status, as more typically assumed, but by fatigue and stress."
Until now, research had focused on how childbirth affects the sexual desire of birth mothers, usually assessing the impact of hormonal changes or healing that occur after birth, the study authors said.
This study aimed at assessing the effects of childbirth on partners, with 114 partners (95 male and 18 female) of postpartum women filling out an online questionnaire about their sexuality during the three months following their youngest child's birth.
Factors related to child care and personal intimacy mattered more to sexual interest than any physical or hormonal changes endured by the birth mother, the survey revealed.
"Researchers have typically focused on birth mothers as a negative influence on their male partner's sexual desire, maybe due to breast-feeding, lack of interest or postpartum vaginal issues," van Anders said. "In contrast to these assumptions, our empirical work demonstrated that co-parents -- including men and women -- experience low desire after childbirth because of fatigue, stress and [lack] of free time."
Personal fatigue is the top deterrent to sexual desire in partners of birth mothers, followed by stress and lack of available time.