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#PostBabyHankyPanky: Sharing our Knowledge about Sexuality During the Transition to Parenthood

#PostBabyHankyPanky: Sharing our Knowledge about Sexuality During the Transition to Parenthood By: Megan Muise, Research Co-ordinator

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Welcoming a new baby into the family is often a time filled with joy and excitement for couples. During this time couples are also faced with many new challenges, including strain on their romantic and sexual relationship. Research has shown that parents experience sharper declines in relationship satisfaction when compared to non-parents over the same period of time, and that this decline continues beyond the first year postpartum [1]. Unfortunately, expectant parents aren’t provided with much information about how their sexual relationship will change during this transition, with the exception of being told when they can resume intercourse. In an online survey conducted by the Couples and Sexual Health Lab at Dalhousie University, 50% of pregnant North American women report being given absolutely no information about changes that may occur to their sexual relationship after childbirth [2]. Upon recognizing the lack of information being given to new parents about their changing sexual relationship, Dr. Natalie Rosen and her research team at Dalhousie University decided to create resources based on their previous research. Although scientific research articles are often readily available online, they are not always easily understood or interpreted. For this reason, many researchers have been focusing on knowledge translation, which refers to a project that shares scientific research with the general public. Creating material that is easily digestible and can be shared via social media can help get research findings out of academic journals and into the hands of the people that really need it.

Using survey data from 259 new-parent couples, Dr. Rosen and her research team created 5 short videos focusing on common sexual concerns and problems that were identified in the research. The goal of this video series is to help normalize the concerns new parents have with their sex lives and open the line of communication between both partners and health care providers. The videos address the most common sexual concerns that new parents have, such as: how often will we have sex after the baby arrives? When will we have time to have sex, and will we be too tired for intimacy? What if I want sex more than my partner does? After collecting data from over 200 couples, it became obvious that many new-parent couples were sharing the same concerns. In fact, 96% of birth-giving partners reported feeling concerned about changes to their body image after giving birth and its impact on sexual activity [2]! This research suggests that many couples experience problems in the bedroom after introducing a new baby into the family, so it’s about time we normalize this conversation! If you’d like to see Dr. Rosen’s video series titled #PostBabyHankyPanky: Keeping the Spark Alive you can visit www.postbabyhankypanky.com. If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Rosen, her research team, and the research they are conducting now you can visit www.natalieorosen.com. [1] McNulty JK, Wenner CA, Fisher TD. Longitudinal associations among relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and frequency of sex in early marriage. Arch Sex Behav. 2016;45: 85-97. [2] Schlagintweit, H. E., Bailey, K., & Rosen, N. O. (2016). A new baby in the bedroom: Frequency and severity of postpartum sexual concerns and their associations with relationship satisfaction in new parent couples. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 13, 1455–1465. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm. 2016.08.006

Sherry Theriault