Far from being considered off limits, sex during pregnancy is a very popular activity for many couples. The shackles of worry about contraception are lifted and it can almost be like a green light has gone on in the bedroom. If you had problems conceiving and sex became a clinical, carefully timed event, then you’ll find that much of the stress and performance anxiety has lifted. This can free up valuable energy for you to invest towards a genuinely fulfilling sexual relationship.
The general recommendations from medical experts is that if you want to have sex, feel like having sex and your partner is similarly inclined, then go for it. As long as there are no medical reasons for you not to of course. A healthy sex life is a major component of a couple’s relationship and it brings its own benefits in enhancing communication and feelings of intimacy and connection.
But I don’t feel like it
Most couples find their interest in sex waxes and wanes over the course of pregnancy. Finding a suitable arrangement which suits both individuals can be challenging, but is not impossible. The key is to communicate and talk honestly about how you feel. Another effective strategy is to be imaginative and adapt your sexual repertoire so that neither of you will feel you have to totally compromise for the sake of the other. During pregnancy is when a lot of couples experiment with sexual alternatives and find that oral sex, masturbation and fantasy can be as equally satisfying as penetrative sex.
Sex in the first trimester
Many pregnant women find they lose interest in sex in their first trimester. Their pregnancy symptoms can be so overwhelming that just the thought of exerting more energy is too much. Combined with nausea, heartburn, urinary frequency and increased flatulence, it doesn’t all make for an overly enticing scenario. But sit tight. For many couples there is a resurgence of sexual activity in the second and third trimesters and they make it up then.
Note: If conceiving has been difficult for you, you’ve had any bleeding or have threatened to miscarry, you will understandably be hesitant to do anything which could potentially lead to problems. See Is Sex Safe During Pregnancy for more information.
Sex in the second trimester
In the second trimester, early pregnancy symptoms tend to settle. Many women find their libido returns and with it a renewed interest in sexual activity. You could find your breasts are still much too tender to be touched and your genitals so engorged and swollen they are too sensitive as well. But this can also mean a relatively quick arousal time and increased intensity of sexual response.
During the second trimester, there is also a settling down of hormone levels and you and your partner will have had some time to get accustomed to the fact that you are pregnant. You’ll probably find you have more energy generally and feel less nauseated than you did when first pregnant. All of these factors can contribute towards a renewed interest in sex and its different forms.
Sex in the third trimester
Your body image is likely to change in the last 3 months of your pregnancy. You may feel unattractive, ungainly or just plain awkward. Many women develop stretch marks and gain a lot of weight, causing them to feel self-conscious about their physical appearance.
But pregnancy can also be a time of great beauty and sensuality, especially for partners who come to view their pregnant partner as almost irresistible. Many partners find the darkened nipples, full-rounded tummy and bigger hips very sexy and alluring. They are turned on by their partner’s almost overt display of fertility and this can appeal to a partner's biological senses. Others see their pregnant partner in a more motherly, nurturing way. They feel that having sex would somehow be violating this almost pure sense of her.
Many pregnant women find their libido diminishes as they near their due date. They can be so preoccupied about preparing for the baby and ensuring they get enough rest and sleep that they simply are not interested in having sex. It is important for partners to recognise this disinterest as being normal and not interpret it as a rejection. After all, it is the sex that she isn’t keen on, not their partner as a person.
Honey, where are you?
Many women find sex and sensuality take on a whole new meaning when they are pregnant. The pregnancy hormones which can play havoc in other aspects of their lives can actually make up for it in the libido department. Elevated oestrogen causes an increase in blood flow generally, and the genitals are not exempt. During sexual arousal, it is normal for there to be a surge in blood supply to the vagina and clitoris. But during pregnancy, the nerve endings are particularly sensitive which means arousal times are reduced.
But it never felt like this before!
Most women find their sexual responses are very different when they are pregnant and experience sex to be even more satisfying and pleasurable than they usually do. For some women, while they are pregnant is the first time they are able to achieve an orgasm. It may also be the first and only time they experience multiple orgasms. It is common as well during pregnancy, for the period of sexual arousal to take longer to diminish. This means there is a prolonging of the intensity of a woman’s sexual experience. Thank you, baby.
Some women worry that when “losing control” during an orgasm, they are not fully focused on the baby. They become concerned that this will harm it. Try not to worry, this will not happen. Good, satisfying sex during pregnancy will actually help your body prepare for labour and childbirth, so consider it an excellent form of pre-natal exercise. It will also assist your muscles to work strongly and effectively; giving your pelvic floor a first class workout.
Increased vaginal secretions are normal
Pregnancy hormones also cause vaginal secretions to increase. During sexual arousal, they can become almost profuse, which means penetration is rarely a problem. Some women will become concerned that they have wet themselves or perhaps their membranes have ruptured. This is unlikely, particularly in the absence of other symptoms.
A word on positioning
When your pregnant belly starts to act as its own barrier method, it may be time to start thinking a little more laterally about different sexual positions. Lying flat on your back won’t be the most comfortable way to lie and besides, it’s not recommended for you or the baby. So give these options a try. Remember to do what feels comfortable and what will give both you and your partner optimum pleasure:
- Both of you lying on your sides with your partner behind you. This is commonly known as spooning. This position may be more comfortable if you feel your cervix is lying low in your vagina and you want to avoid deep penetration because it is uncomfortable.
- You sitting on top of your partner and being able to control the depth of penetration and the speed of movements. Some women worry that their weight, combined with the baby’s is going to cause their partner some sort of rupture. This is highly unlikely and besides, they will probably give you some sort of warning anyway.
- Your partner on top of you but not so that all of their weight is pushing down on your tummy. The baby is likely to protest even if you don’t. Get your partner to support most of their weight on their hands or forearms. Then they’ll be getting a workout as well.
- You could try lying with your bottom on the edge of the bed, knees bent, with your feet resting on either side of your bottom. Yes, you’ll wish you kept up the yoga for this one! Your partner does their thing by kneeling or standing in front of you.
It will pay to have a sense of humour about your love-making activities when you are pregnant. Try to just accept that it isn’t the time to be too critical about yourself or the way your body is working. There are usually biological reasons for why our bodies respond as they do, even if we don’t always understand them.
For more information, see Pregnancy Care.
Is sex safe during pregnancy?