Being understanding when a partner doesn't want to have sex is linked to greater relationship satisfaction among new fathers iStock

Fathers who react well and are understanding when their partner isn't in the mood for sex after having a baby tend to feel more satisfied with their sex lives and their relationships, a study of new parents has found.

Women in relationships with these men are also happier on both counts, finds the study, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour.

"If a person declines their partner's sexual advances, then having a partner who responds well to being 'turned down for sex' is likely also important for relationship well-being," the authors, led by Amy Muise of York University, Canada, write in the paper.

Previous studies have shown that a partner with a lower sex drive being motivated to meet the desires of a partner with a higher sex drive is also linked to a happier overall relationship. The new study looks at both sides of the coin, and finds that willingness for compromise in both directions is linked to higher relationship satisfaction.

"In the transition to parenthood, both being motivated to meet a partner's need to have sex and having a partner who is motivated to meet your sexual needs were associated with feeling more sexually satisfied and more satisfied with the relationship," the authors write.

The study looked at 255 heterosexual couples in the US who were new parents, with a baby between three months and one year old. Couples completed an online survey separately, answering questions on sexual satisfaction in the relationship, quality of the relationship and empathy. Women were also asked if they had had a difficult birth, such as vaginal tearing, and their energy levels after the birth.

New mothers in particular were happier if their partner was understanding when they weren't in the mood. In this situation, the understanding male partner also typically felt greater sex and relationship satisfaction than less understanding men.

An effort to be motivated to meet each other's needs both to have sex and not to have sex could help couples get over the problem of declining sexual and relationship satisfaction in the year after the birth of their first child, the authors conclude.