Dawson, S. J., Strickland, N, & Rosen, N. O. (in press). Longitudinal Associations between Depressive Symptoms and Postpartum Sexual Concerns Among First-time Parent Couples. Journal of Sex Research.
Many new parents experience novel concerns about their sexuality after they have a baby, including worries about the effects of labor and delivery on their sex lives, lack of time for sexual activity due to child-rearing, and the effect of postpartum depression on sexuality. The link between postpartum depressive symptoms and problems with sexual function is bidirectional; however, associations with postpartum sexual concerns (i.e., worries about one’s sexuality that are not necessarily related to sexual function) have never before been examined. We recruited 99 first-time parent couples and asked them to complete measures assessing their postpartum sexual concerns and depressive symptoms at 3, 6, and 12months postpartum. We found that mothers’ and partners’ levels of postpartum sexual concerns were highest at 3-months postpartum, but declined (i.e., improved) over time. Mothers and partners showed different trajectories for postpartum depressive symptoms. Mothers’ depressive symptoms remained stable whereas partner’s depressive symptoms worsened over time. With regards to the links between depressive symptoms and sexual concerns, we found that higher depressive symptoms at 3 months postpartum (mothers’ and partners’) were linked with higher frequency of postpartum sexual concerns, but only for partners. We also found that mothers’ depressive symptoms at 3-months postpartum and the degree to which these symptoms changed over time were linked with a steeper decline in partners’ postpartum sexual concerns over time. We did not find any support for the reverse association, that is, sexual concerns at 3 months postpartum being linked with change in depressive symptoms over time. Findings highlight that both mothers and partners experience postpartum sexual concerns and that these persist even at 12 months postpartum. Importantly, our findings provide preliminary evidence that depressive symptoms (own and mothers’) are a risk factor for postpartum sexual concerns among partners.