Sex during Pregnancy

For most women and their partners, pregnancy brings changes in the sexual relationship.

Most of these changes are influenced by the couple’s feelings about the pregnancy and its associated changes. You may find that pregnancy complements your sense of sexuality, making you feel more feminine and desirable or, on the other hand, you may feel awkward and unattractive. Many women have less sexual desire during the first three and last three months of pregnancy. Early in the pregnancy you may be plagued by nausea and vomiting, fatigue and tender breasts while later in the pregnancy your protruding abdomen may make intercourse uncomfortable. During the second three months of pregnancy, however, you may feel full of energy and have a renewed interest in lovemaking.

Mother vs. Wife
During pregnancy not only is your body changing but your newfound maternal feelings can trigger complex emotional responses. Suddenly, motherhood and sexuality may seem mutually exclusive, resulting in a loss of sexual desire. These feelings generally resolve themselves as you get used to your new role. Worrying about childbirth and the many responsibilities of childrearing can also be a major source of stress during pregnancy which may affect your sexual desire.

Father vs. Husband
Many men find mom’s changing body very beautiful and desirable while others have trouble adapting to the changes pregnancy brings. It is important to remember that even if your partner is not turned on by your pregnant body, he is still turned on by you. A father’s desire for sex can decrease during pregnancy due to concerns he may have about impending parenthood, finances, the marital relationship and, of course, concerns about the health and well being of mom and baby.

A Bundle of Worries
You and your partner may worry that intercourse can endanger you or the baby. In most cases, it is safe to continue to make love throughout pregnancy. This is something that you should confirm with your caregiver to put your mind at ease. Couples are usually told to avoid sex only if your water has broken, if there is or has been bleeding, if it is painful for the woman, or if there have been any warning signs of miscarriage or preterm labor.

Worries that your partner’s weight on top of your abdomen can hurt the baby or cause you discomfort can be remedied by use of a variety of positions such as side lying and hands and knees positions. Further discomfort can be avoided by gentler, more shallow penetration of the penis into the vagina. Remember, the baby is protected by the cushioning effect of the amniotic fluid and the seal provided by the amniotic sac and cervical mucus.

Some women are afraid to have an orgasm because it can cause the uterus to contract. In a normal pregnancy this should not be a concern. The uterus contracts in the same manner with Braxton Hicks contractions which are a perfectly natural occurrence during pregnancy.

Use Your Imagination
You and your partner may find that with a little imagination and a good sense of humor you can find new, more comfortable positions for love making.

If you find that you are feeling less than sexy during late pregnancy, pretty nightgowns may make you feel more attractive and may be a turn on for your partner. Dimming or turning out the lights, burning candles or incense, and putting on soft music might help you feel sexier and less inhibited.

Even if you and your partner do not have strong sexual needs throughout the pregnancy, you may have an increased need for physical affection, for gentle touching, cuddling, holding and hugs. You will want to nurture feelings of emotional closeness as well by spending time talking together, sharing feelings, and experiencing the pregnancy together.

Throughout this change in your sexual relationship you and your partner will need good communication, understanding and patience to keep your loving relationship strong. The groundwork that you lay now will carry you through those first hectic weeks of parenthood.

Editorial by Joy Hackl, RN, FACCE, LCCE, Perinatal Education Coordinator at St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.