By FRANCES HARDY
Baby blues: Matt Milchard with wife Laura and baby Oliver, left, and Russell Clarke with partner Alex and baby Minnie
Philippa Mason recalls that it was a friend’s wife who broke the taboo. Her warning was as shocking as it was unequivocal: ‘Don’t expect to have sex for the first year of your baby’s life,’ she said as she waved me and my husband out of the door.
‘I was glad she said it, although not at the time. She was the only person who warned me explicitly about the effect a first-born child can have on an as-yet-unscathed marriage.
‘Up until that point the warnings had been oblique. “Things change after you’ve had a baby,” women at work would murmur. Or: “Your life is going to be turned upside down.”
Three's a crowd: British mums who were questioned, aged between 18 and their late 50s, agreed that motherhood has a negative effect on sex lives (posed by models)
‘I didn’t realise that was a coded way of saying: “Expect a total loss of libido and to be downgraded to second place in your beloved husband’s affections”,’ recalls Philippa.
The cataclysmic effect the arrival a new baby has on its parents’ relationship — particularly their sex life — is rarely addressed. However, a recent survey reveals a stark and uncompromising truth.
Almost half the mothers questioned in research by the website Netmums believe the man in their life no longer finds them attractive.
The women accuse their husbands of ‘forgetting’ about their sexual identity since they became mothers. According to researchers these men have put on ‘baby blinkers’: they view their partners solely through the prism of their new role as mums.
Left out: Fathers often feel replaced in their wife's affections when a baby comes along (posed by models)
When asked to choose the words their husband would use to describe them, just 12 per cent of mothers said ‘feminine’ while the overwhelming majority — 69 per cent — opted simply for ‘tired’.
The research is paralleled by Philippa’s experience. Her baby daughter’s arrival heralded a shift in her husband’s affections: it was as if she had become invisible.