Sex during the holidays is a bit of a tale of two stories. On the one hand, Christmas enjoys a high rate of conception.
There is a well-recognized spike in birth rates in September, to the extent that a British midwife took to Twitter this September to ask her fellow Brits to stop having sex over Christmas because her delivery ward was simply stretched to the brink.
For some, the holidays are clearly a time of merry enjoyment of each other's company.
On the other hand, Christmas comes with a host of reasons that are likely to throw a spanner in the romantic works.
Whether you and your partner are both spending the holidays with parents (possibly having been relegated to a childhood bedroom, or even a couch) or you're hosting family members from near and far (maybe with a toddler in tow while heavily pregnant (yes, that's me), stealing some time alone with your partner in the midst of all this joyous celebrating can be tricky.
So, should you cave in, put sex on hold, and get 2018 off with a bang instead? Not necessarily. We tell you why sex is a great way to beat holiday stress and burn off those indulgent calories. Plus, we bring you our tips for a happy sex life over the holidays.
Holidays can strain relationships
Relationships can take quite a beating during the holidays. A 2008 survey found that the lead-up to the Christmas holidays is a peak time for relationship breakups, and post-Christmas also sees a ramp up in divorce rates.
Although sex is unlikely to fix serious relationship problems, research does show that it plays an integral part in long-term relationship satisfaction and happiness. In fact, couples who have sex once per week are significantly happier than those who don't.
But privacy may come at a premium, with many of us set to spend the holidays with our families.
We like our privacy. Research has shown that nearly three quarters of us don't find the thought of having sex where someone can catch us in the act appealing, and around two thirds feel the same way about being overheard.
Let's not forget the health benefits of sex, though, which we shared with you earlier this year. They include improved sleep, increased lifespan, and a boost to our brain power. Holiday trivia, here we come.
Plus, a little time between the sheets — or perhaps under the Christmas tree — can help you to burn off some of those holiday calories, as we discussed last week.
A good way to let off steam
If your last-minute holiday preparations are causing your stress levels to surge, it's worth bearing in mind that some relaxing time with your partner might be just the ticket.
Sex is great for stress relief. One study revealed that stress-related blood pressure is significantly lower in people who recently had sex and suggested that the love hormone oxytocin might be behind this phenomenon.
When study participants were exposed to physical stress in the form of intense exercise — think of hurriedly dashing from store to store to grab presents and groceries — researchers showed that oxytocin delivered in the form of an intranasal spray was able to cut down levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
How does it work? Oxytocin reduces expression of the corticotropin releasing factor gene, which regulates the stress response in the brain.
So, if you are in need of some well-deserved stress relief but are finding yourself growing frustrated with a lack of opportunities for amorous encounters over the holidays, here are our tips to get your sex life off to a good start this Christmas.
1. Make your time together special
In a 2017 survey of more than 2,000 18–91-year-olds in the United States, Prof. Brian Dodge — of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in the School of Public Health at Indiana University in Bloomington — identified which sexual behaviors we prefer.
The results revealed that 87.8 percent of us find cuddling more often very appealing or somewhat appealing. On top of that, 72.6 percent of us feel the same about watching a romantic movie.
So, how about snuggling up on the sofa with a romantic Christmassy movie? Who knows, the rest of the family may even slink off to bed, leaving you with an opportunity for some precious intimate moments.
2. If you get the chance, make the most of it
In the same study, Prof. Dodge found that 77.4 percent of us think that having sex in another part of the house, rather than the bedroom, is appealing. If you are lucky enough to have the house to yourself for any period of time, why not go for it?
If that's not possible, how about booking a night away? Having sex in a hotel room was rated as appealing by nearly 80 percent of us, after all.
You could even combine it with a couples massage — something that features on 56.8 percent of our lists.
3. Let's talk about sex, baby
We've discussed the importance of good communication when it comes to sexual satisfaction quite a bit this year.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that our interest in sex wanes over the years spent with our partners. This is particularly the case for women, especially with the onset of menopause, research shows.
Talking with your partner about your desires, expectations, or problems — whether you feel pain during sex or are just too tired after spending the day in full-blown holiday cheermeister mode — means that you are less likely to lose interest in sex, revealed a study published earlier this year.
Your happy sex life this Christmas
Making time to sit down with your partner to talk about your views on the importance of sex over Christmas before the madness of the holidays gets into full swing means you can plan ahead — together.
Whether that means stealing your partner away at night to tantalize them with sexy new underwear — rated by nearly 60 percent of us as appealing — or you decide that a kiss under the mistletoe is enough for you this year, a joint battle plan may well keep disappointment and frustration at bay.
You never know, it might even bring you closer together, provide you with a chance to have a good laugh, and end 2017 on a high.