When it comes to articles about sex and the new parent, most of them either offer totally useless advice (break out of the bedroom rut and have sex in the car!), or they're full of depressing statistics. I'm referring to a recent article that said women's sex drives probably don't return to normal until six years after the baby is born. But how many of them talk about how often parents are really doing it—or, for that matter, how often they should be doing it?
First of all, some post-baby boning facts: It's not at all true that having a baby kills your sex life, but there's definitely a period of abstinence, both pre- and post-child. In fact, as Ian Kerner, author and sexpert points out, there's really about a three- to five-month period of abstinence for new parents. "Sex starts to dissipate in the third trimester, and then there's a full trimester added to that post-birth," he says. "But the trouble is, that becomes the new normal, and a lot of couples start to settle into this no-sex routine."
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Unfortunately, you can't just blame it all on the baby. Of course having a child taxes a lot of your mental and physical reserves, so you'll crave sleep more than ever. (And since most people have sex in bed at night, there's a constant battle over what the better option is when the lights go down. Catching up on your gossip mags and some z's? Winner!) But as Kerner points out, the baby also often fulfills a lot of the intimacy needs of the mother, so she just might not want to do it as much.
Most of my mom pals admitted that they averaged sex at least two to four times a month.
But—and of course there's a but—this is naturally a bad road to go down. Couples need intimacy in the form of kissing, hugging, and yes, having sex, in order to survive and thrive. The good news is, a little can go a long way. Kerner suggests couples (in fact, all couples, regardless of children) try to get it on at least once a week, or at the very least, four times a month, whether that's two nights in a row with two weeks off, or a solid Saturday night date. I felt that was fair, and something I mostly already adhered to—but was I the norm? Was I worse off sexually than my friends? Was I sexually keeping up with the Joneses? I decided to ask around.
Most of my mom pals admitted that they averaged sex at least two to four times a month, sometimes more, occasionally less, depending on what was going on in their lives. "It's hard around the holidays because we have to do so much traveling and share bedrooms with the kids," says Julia, a friend with a 3-year-old and 1-year-old. "We went the whole month of December without it." Another friend said she used to aim for once a week, but they'd gotten lazy and settled for every other week. "But I don’t feel bad about it. It's enough for me," she says. In fact, only one friend said she'd gone several months without sex, but she also knew her and her husband had some deeper problems than just being tired and lazy about hooking up.
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Another friend said she had a very standard sexual routine. "My husband and I do it once a week, on Saturday afternoons, when both boys are down for their nap," she told me. If that sounds like the death of romance to you, think again. Scheduled sex can often be a great thing. You know it's going to happen so you can switch out of your giant cotton bloomers and into something slightly sexier, and studies have found a sexual routine can even revitalize romance in a relationship. At the very least, you won't have to think too hard when trying to remember your last sexcapade.
The takeaway? Don't forsake sex just because you're parents, but don't feel pressured into humping all the time just because everyone else is. They're really not either. And, just as long you're still connecting physically (which includes hugs and kisses), studies have long shown that it helps keep people in love and happy as a couple. And that's something that will probably come in handy the next time you take a big family trip to the zoo and "someone" forgot to bring the diaper bag.