Motherhood Stress Can Affect Both Parents’ Sex Lives

Stressed mother feeding her babyThe stress many women face when they become new parents may be a factor in the decline in sexual desire many couples experience when a baby arrives, according to a study published in the research journal Sex Roles.

Previous studies have established a link between parenthood and a decline in sexual satisfaction and frequency. Both men and women often experience a decrease in sexual desire after the arrival of a new child. Couples often tend to be less satisfied in their marriages after the arrival of a baby, with 67% reporting a decline in marital happiness. However, about a third report sustained happiness in their marriages, according to 2011 research published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

How Mothers’ Stress Can Reduce Sexual Satisfaction

Researchers tracked 169 heterosexual couples who participated in the Family Foundations program, which teaches parenting skills to new and expectant parents.

Parents answered questions about their stress levels six months after the birth of the baby. After 12 months, researchers asked couples about their sexual satisfaction.

Men’s parenting stress did not have any effect on overall sexual satisfaction, but couples including women who reported higher levels of parenting stress tended to report lower levels of sexual satisfaction. Overall, new parents reported they were only “somewhat” satisfied with their sex lives. Women also reported slightly greater sexual satisfaction than men, with 69% of women saying they were “somewhat” or “very” satisfied, compared to just 55% of men.

How Gender Roles Can Affect Sexual Satisfaction

The study did not look directly at how stress interacted with sexual satisfaction, but its authors propose gender roles might be to blame. According to the researchers, women tend to bear greater responsibility for the baby. Demands ranging from childbirth and breastfeeding to house cleaning and daily infant care often fall disproportionately on women. Social norms can also pressure women to be “perfect” parents.

These demands can exhaust women, leaving them with less energy and emotional room for sexual desire. This can affect their partner’s sexual satisfaction as well as their own.


  1. Dingfelder, S. (2011, October). Must babies always breed marital discontent? Retrieved from
  2. Leavitt, C. E., Mcdaniel, B. T., Maas, M. K., & Feinberg, M. E. (2016). Parenting stress and sexual satisfaction among first-time parents: A dyadic approach. Sex Roles. doi:10.1007/s11199-016-0623-0
  3. Rogers, L. (2012, December 26). Why do women stop wanting sex? Nearly HALF of all women will suffer from lost libido, with devastating consequences, but only now are the reasons are emerging. Retrieved from
  4. Thompson, D. (2013, August 1). New dads’ interest in sex often drops after childbirth: Study. Retrieved from

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  • mandy

    June 9th, 2016 at 2:00 PM

    Sometimes I feel like he just wants too much too soon from me. We have three small children and why can’t he understand that I have so many different priorities right now. It’s not that I don’t love him or that I don’t like having sex with him,. but please! There are things that he can do on his own that the kids can’t and they have to take top priority right now. I honestly just feel like he is being very selfish!

  • BJ

    June 10th, 2016 at 10:52 AM

    When the mom is stressed this will automatically mean that the dad is stressed too.

  • Jasmine

    June 11th, 2016 at 2:52 PM

    The same could be said about fatherhood stress as well. I know that when we had our first child I think that my boyfriend was more of a mess than I was! he stressed out about every little thing and it wasn’t too pleasant for either of us. I was fine with just winging it and learning things along the way. I guess he is too much of a Boy Scout to ever be comfortable with that. He didn’t understand that no matter what kind of plans he would think that he had made that there was always going to be something that could throw us off, and he had to learn to deal with that.

  • andi

    June 13th, 2016 at 1:03 PM

    so over the whole “perfect” thing… I can be who I am and that’s it. Take it or leave it

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