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Sex During Pregnancy

Feb 23, 2022 | 3 minutes Read

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 much of the stress and performance anxiety has lifted. This can free up valuable energy for you to invest in a genuinely fulfilling sexual relationship.

The general recommendation from medical experts is that if you want to have sex and you feel like your partner is similarly inclined, then go for it! If 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.

What if 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. 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.

If conceiving has been difficult for you, if you've had any bleeding or if you have threatened to miscarry, you will understandably be hesitant to do anything which could potentially lead to problems.

Sex in the second trimester

In the second trimester, early pregnancy symptoms tend to subside. 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 and feel less nauseated than you did when you were first pregnant. All 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 belly, 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 recognize this disinterest as being normal and not interpret it as a rejection. After all, it is sex that a woman isn’t keen on, not their partner as a person.

Your increased arousal

Many women find sex and sensuality takes on a whole new meaning when they are pregnant. The pregnancy hormones which can wreak havoc in other aspects of their lives can actually make up for it in the libido department. Elevated estrogen 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.

Why sex feels different pregnant

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, when 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.

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 the baby. Try not to worry; this will not happen. Good, satisfying sex during pregnancy will help your body prepare for labor and childbirth. Consider it an excellent form of prenatal exercise. It will also assist your muscles to work strongly and effectively—it’s giving your pelvic floor a first class work out.

Increased vaginal secretions

Pregnancy hormones also cause vaginal secretions to increase, which is normal. 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.

Sexual positions while pregnant

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; plus, it's not recommended for you or the baby. Remember to do what feels comfortable and what will give both you and your partner optimum pleasure. A few options include:
  • 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. You’ll be able to control the depth of penetration and the speed of movements. Some women worry that their weight will cause their partner some sort of rupture. This is highly unlikely.
  • Your partner on top of you. But not so that all of their weight is pushing down on your tummy. Get your partner to support most of their weight on their hands or forearms. Then they'll be getting a workout as well.
  • 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 humor 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 why our bodies respond as they do, even if we don’t always understand them.

The information of this article has been reviewed by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at health4mom.org.