Oh, the joys and worries of pregnancy! Whether you are considering having a baby or are already on your way to welcoming a little bundle of joy, it’s natural for myriad questions to arise. If you’re like most people, the thought of having a child brings alive many hopes and fears.
Bringing a baby into even the healthiest of relationships is no simple task, and partners know that life will never be the same once the baby has arrived. One prevalent fear that many couples share is a deep concern about the impact of pregnancy on sexual intimacy. The issues surrounding sex during pregnancy are often not discussed openly. This causes many men and women to secretly harbor unnecessary worries about sex during pregnancy. This is terribly unfortunate in that—contrary to popular myth—pregnancy can be a time of beautiful, intimate sexuality for both partners. With loving awareness and sound medical advice, the months that precede the little one’s arrival can be filled with passionate sex that will bring you and your sweetheart closer together than ever.
Although men and women alike often fear that pregnancy will—at the very least—diminish sexual intimacy, a couple’s sex life can actually improve during pregnancy for many reasons.
The Quick Benefits
First, once the baby is on the way, the worry and inconvenience of birth control is no longer an impediment to impromptu sex. The resulting sense of liberation allows for a spontaneous and uninterrupted flow of romance and desire! As well, for those accustomed to using birth control pills, researchers and health care providers have long acknowledged that use of the pill is not without side effects such as diminished libido, decreased sexual enjoyment, and reduced vaginal lubrication. Once off the pill, these not-so-sexy side effects are among those that often disappear rather quickly.
Another boon to sex during pregnancy is the natural increase in blood flow to the pelvic region. Many women experience increased sensation—and more delicious sex—as a result of this increased blood flow in the genital area. A natural increase in lubricating vaginal fluids can also add to more enjoyable intercourse. Couples in the know can utilize intimate details such as the above to support and deepen their sexual interactions during pregnancy.
The Ebb & Flow of Sexual Desire
It is common for a woman to find that her desire for sex rises and falls during the course of pregnancy. Not to worry! This ebb and flow is natural as the mother-to-be’s body undergoes substantial changes. As the pregnant body continues to change with each passing month, it’s vital that couples honor and respect the physical and emotional effects. Each trimester has its own unique benefits and challenges, and it is important to take advantage of passionate urges as they arise. Especially during the first trimester, issues such as exhaustion, nausea, and irritability may decrease libido. Breast tenderness may arise, and while some women delight in the increased sensation, others find the tenderness difficult to bear. When sexual desire decreases, the opportunity for gentle intimacy (think "kissing, cuddling, and massage") can be a welcome alternative to intercourse. When not pressured to have sex during these lulls, the expectant mother feels supported, cared for, and loved. This, in turn, translates to more intimate and passionate sex in the future. As the second trimester arrives, renewed energy often translates into increased interest in sex. During this time, nausea and exhaustion often subside and the mother-to-be may feel more in tune with her body. As a result, libido often rises again, and sexual encounters can be better than ever!
“Each trimester has its own unique benefits and challenges, and it is important to take advantage of passionate urges as they arise.”
With healthy pregnancies, many physicians believe that sexual intercourse can continue throughout the third trimester. Tender, open communication is vital as the woman’s body changes dramatically to accommodate the growing baby. When intercourse feels uncomfortable or is contraindicated, sexual encounters can continue in a host of other intimate ways!
As long as a couple focuses on clear and honest communication, each partner’s needs can be honored and met in ways that are uniquely appropriate and desirable.
Couples who take care to cultivate deeper intimacy throughout each trimester find that sex during pregnancy can be more passionate and intensely bonding than ever before! No matter the stage of pregnancy, take the time to fan the flames of desire by creating romantic moments free of stress and everyday demands—the intimacy payoff can be tremendous.
Finding a Comfortable Position
Avoiding discussions about sexual positions during pregnancy and other “unmentionables” is a thing of the past. As long as the pregnancy is a healthy one, most doctors agree that intercourse and oral sex throughout pregnancy is safe and harmless to the baby. Maintaining an attitude of playful, respectful curiosity allows couples to overcome the natural sexual stumbling blocks that arise as the pregnant belly grows. The missionary position (with the male on top) often becomes quite difficult in the later stages of pregnancy. The ample use of pillows for additional support is often an essential. As the mother-to-be finds her body changing, preferred sexual positions will change, too. Side-by-side intercourse is often more comfortable as time passes. Communication, creativity, and a healthy dose of humor are essential.
Some couples become quite surprised when sex during pregnancy propels them to discover some wonderful new positions. As well, noteworthy caveats from physicians include never blowing air into the vagina during oral sex. While details such as this might seem off-putting or embarrassing, open communication with your partner and your physician is essential. Honest and open communication about sex serves to create a greater sense of connection and sweeter, steamier sexual intimacy.
Extra Attention, Improved Intimacy
With thoughtful attention, couples can become more bonded than ever through the months of pregnancy. By taking advantage of every bit of alone time together before the baby arrives, a marriage can become increasingly alive and solid. Women often find their mates to be more attentive during pregnancy, and this extra attention can work wonders on intimacy. For example, husbands are often eager to please the mother-to-be by contributing to the pregnancy in small, supportive ways. The father-to-be can feel valued and important when attending to simple tasks such as offering foot rubs, running to the store to satisfy food cravings, or preparing a bubble bath. Pregnancy doesn’t last forever (although sometimes it feels like it may), and a man can feel as though he’s more involved by offering nurturing attention and support. Such interactions might not directly translate into a hotter sex life, yet they do increase a greater sense of intimacy and connection. Increased intimacy, in turn, ultimately makes sex more desirable, meaningful and passionate.
“Whether measuring belly size or admiring a growing bosom, the couple can adjust to, acknowledge, and appreciate the changes together.”
Embracing New Curves
It’s no secret that pregnancy reshapes a woman’s body. Although some women revel in their new curves, others feel "fat" and uncomfortable with their new shape. Pregnancy often brings not-so-sexy changes such as stretch marks and a frequent need to urinate. These issues—and a host of others—can leave a woman feeling out of sorts and uncomfortable in her own body.
When a woman doesn’t feel sexy, she is much less inclined to initiate sex or desire sexuality activity. Here, again, it is extremely important for couples to discuss these issues honestly and openly. For example, on an intellectual level, it is easy to acknowledge that a pregnant belly is not a "fat belly," yet many women have emotional difficulty with the body’s transformation during pregnancy. Our society places a premium on trim figures, and it is often difficult for a figure-conscious woman to be completely on board with her body’s natural changes.
What to do? First, many women find comfort by joining a pregnancy-oriented group. There’s almost nothing as supportive as the talk of other women who are facing the same challenges—many of whom might have helpful hints to offer. Doctors’ offices and hospitals often offer or refer to such groups.
“In the end, it is often a couple’s unspoken anxieties and fears—rather than the pregnancy itself—that affect sexual intimacy.”
Second, continue to exercise as recommended by a medical advisor. As the months elapse, exercise patterns will generally change, yet it is vital in a normal pregnancy to keep up some form of exercise (walking, specialized yoga classes, etc.) for physical and emotional well-being.
A third recommendation is a wardrobe reassessment! There’s no reason to resort to tent dresses during pregnancy. Dressing in clothes that feel good—and look good—can go a long way to boosting morale. Pretty lingerie during pregnancy is a must-have. It’s important to feel attractive from the inside out!
In addition, I often recommend that couples chart the mother-to-be’s bodily transformations together. Whether measuring belly size or admiring a growing bosom, the couple can adjust to, acknowledge, and appreciate the changes together. This gives the couple a naturally intimate and ongoing connection as the body’s shape changes; this practice keeps inhibitions, discomfort, and embarrassment at bay.
Last, but not least, is the importance of maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. Some women think pregnancy might be an opportunity to eat everything and anything, but there is no time more important than pregnancy to eat healthfully. Indulgences such as ice cream and chocolate can be wonderful treats—balance is the key. The end result of eating healthy is a mother-to-be who feels as though she is actively involved in—and supporting—the changing shape of her healthy body.
Overall, a woman can become glowingly curvaceous and alive, in the most alluring ways, during her pregnancy. The key is for couples to embrace the natural changes in an accepting, conscientious manner.
In the end, it is often a couple’s unspoken anxieties and fears—rather than the pregnancy itself—that affect sexual intimacy. Yes, sex during pregnancy will be different than ever before, but the differences can be truly wonderful if embraced and enjoyed. When both partners go the extra mile to communicate and listen to each other throughout the pregnancy, a stronger blend of friendship and love can result. Add a helping or two of passion to the mix, and you’ve got it made.
As a clinical psychologist in Sonoma County, California, Dr. Carla Marie Greco maintains a focus on helping clients transform their lives and their relationships. Using a body-mind-spirit approach that underscores the importance of overall wellness, Dr. Greco works with her clients on a highly individualized basis to uncover the core concerns that often manifest as psychological, behavioral, and somatic symptoms. Combining traditional depth psychotherapy with somatic therapy, Dr. Greco offers her clients a specialized approach to creating passionate, joy-filled lives. Working in both individual and group settings, she strives to promote change by increasing her clients’ personal self-awareness and insight. A devoted writer, speaker, and yoga instructor, Dr. Greco is dedicated to helping others create the lives of their dreams. California License: Psy25539. For more, visit www.drcarlagreco.com and follow her on Google+.