New Research: How does common dyadic coping—how couples jointly cope with a shared stressor like a baby—relate to how new parent couples manage worries and concerns about their sexuality postpartum? Dr. Dawson and her colleagues at Dalhousie University recently published a study to answer this question.

Tutelman, P. R., Dawson, S. J., Schwenck, G. C., & Rosen, N. O. (in press). A Longitudinal Examination of Common Dyadic Coping and Sexual Distress in New Parent Couples during the Transition to Parenthood. Family Process.


New parents often experience significant changes to their sexual relationships following the birth of a baby, such as having less sexual desire or engaging in sex less often. Little is known about the sexual distress new parents feel related to these changes, how sexual distress evolves over time, or how coping with stress relates to this distress. In this study, we sought to examine if new parent couples who engage in more adaptive, joint coping with mutual stressors—common dyadic coping (CDC)—may be better able to manage distress related to their sexuality and thus, experience less sexual distress at 3‐months postpartum and experience more marked improvement over time. To do this, we sampled 99 first‐time parent couples and examined the link between CDC measured at 3‐months postpartum and trajectories of sexual distress across 3‐, 6‐, and 12‐months postpartum. Mothers’ sexual distress at 3‐months postpartum was clinically elevated and higher than their partner’s. Mothers’ sexual distress declined significantly over time, whereas partners’ sexual distress remained low and stable. An individual’s higher perceptions of CDC was significantly associated with their own (but not their partner’s) lower sexual distress at 3‐months postpartum. No significant associations were found between CDC and change in sexual distress over time. In sum, how new parents jointly cope with stressors early in the postpartum period may lessen the distress they have about their sexuality at a time when most couples have just resumed sexual activity. Results identify CDC as a possible novel target for interventions aimed at helping couples manage sexual distress during the transition to parenthood.