Postpartum Body Satisfaction and Intimacy in First-Time Parents

Kristin D. Mickelson, Jessica A. Joseph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Research on postpartum body satisfaction and intimacy focuses almost exclusively on mothers. Furthermore, much of the research tends to be descriptive in nature. As a consequence, little is known about the association of postpartum body satisfaction and intimacy in first-time mothers and fathers. The current study interviewed 85 heterosexual married/cohabiting couples from all over the U. S. 9 months following the birth of their first child. New mothers reported significantly less postpartum body and intimacy satisfaction than new fathers. Using an actor-partner interdependence model approach, we found that fathers' self and partner body satisfaction are both directly and indirectly (through his perceived partner rejection) linked to his intimacy satisfaction. For mothers, partner and self-body satisfaction were only indirectly linked to her intimacy satisfaction through perceived partner rejection of sexual advances. Finally, fathers' perceived partner rejection was related to both his and his partner's intimacy satisfaction. These results suggest that body and intimacy satisfaction following the birth of a child is not only relevant for mothers but also for fathers. In order to better understand how the transition to parenthood impacts couples and their relationship, future theory and research needs to incorporate fathers and their understanding of their bodies and its connection with postpartum intimacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)300-310
Number of pages11
JournalSex Roles
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Body satisfaction
  • First-time mothers and fathers
  • Postpartum intimacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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