Sex and parenthood – why your relationship changes after kids

Sex and Parenthood

Hot sex and parenthood are two concepts that rarely go together.

For many people, becoming a parent is the ultimate dream. After all, we are here to procreate, build a family, and experience unconditional love, right?

How we are being prepared for this new phase of life is, however, a very different story. There are countless books, courses and movies telling women what to expect while they’re expecting. It’s a bit like the stories that end with ‘they got married and lived happily ever after’. They never tell us how they actually managed that.

A LOT less is said in all these parenting resources about what happens to your relationship, your body, and, most importantly, your sex drive after you give birth.

It turns out, parenthood triggers a significant transformation in both the emotional and physical experience of BOTH parents, which has a fundamental impact on how a couple’s life continues post-baby. Let us explore why and how that happens:


Welcome to the world

Two become three

When couples fall in love and make the conscious decision to build a family together, they often see the child as proof their love is real. This act of joint creation is meant to bring them together even closer and solidify what they like to think of as their unbreakable bond.

The problem comes when the child destroys the balance of this relationship to which each partner was contributing equally (at least in theory). While before the baby the partners were putting each other first by default, this helpless, crying, energy-sapping new being is a real attention thief.

No one ever liked feeling like a third wheel, right?

This is exactly how the father feels when all the love, care and attention he was so used to receiving is now being redirected almost exclusively to the new baby. This loneliness and feelings of rejection on the one hand coupled with the fading energy of the sleep-deprived, post-partum mother, put the two former teammates in opposing camps.

All she wants is a moment of peace, personal space and NOT to be touched for a change, while he craves the attention, love and physical connection that was his alone before the ‘intruder’ showed up.

Parents protecting children

The drive to procreate becomes the need to protect

When we are single, our biological goal is to find a mating partner that will not only provide the genetic material to create a new human but also make us feel safe, special, and like we belong. This drive is activated in our body thru the production of sex hormones.

They give us the motivation to keep looking for the perfect partner even when it’s not immediately successful. In other words, our body runs the same program, over and over again, until it gets the message that the mission has been accomplished. Hello pregnancy.

This is the cue for the installation of a new program: protect the new human. This translates physically into a significant hormonal change in the body. The production of sex hormones testosterone and estrogen drops to almost half their previous levels – IN BOTH MOTHER AND FATHER!  They are replaced with different molecules that promote safer behaviors. Both parents experience a drop in desire for sex at least for a while. Birth and breastfeeding flood the mum’s body with oxytocin, the ‘bonding hormone’. This helps to ‘delete’ partially the love bond with the partner and makes sure she is focusing on the new ‘love of her life’.

In addition, the hormone responsible for stimulating breast milk called prolactin naturally increases for obvious reasons. The side effect of that is that it decreases even more estrogen levels leading to a lot less interest in sex for the entire period a mother is breastfeeding.

Don’t worry though. This change is temporary! 

Luckily these changes fade after a while and the parents’ bodies revert back to the procreation program. The thing to watch out for though is maintaining a healthy level of communication, providing support for each other and continuing to build emotional intimacy so that when desire returns, there is still enough of a connection that you can start the process all over again.