Sexuality and Pregnancy

By OBOS Pregnancy & Birth Contributors | February 12, 2008

During my second trimester, sex was fabulous. I was so hormonal that I’d be demanding sex daily. It was the only time in our relationship that he actually said, once, “I really can’t, I’m absolutely exhausted.”

Most of us discover that our sexuality changes in some way during the course of pregnancy. While some of us find that our sexual desire is stronger, others lose it completely. Often, we find that our orgasms feel different, or they make take longer to achieve than before or happen more quickly. Some women experience orgasm for the first time during pregnancy, while others become multiorgasmic. This is likely because increased blood flow and fluids in the genital area make the clitoris and vagina more sensitive.

Changes During Pregnancy

For many women, sexual desire decreases during the first trimester of pregnancy due to fatigue, breast tenderness, and nausea. Other women find the freedom of not having to worry about birth control or conceiving makes sex more enjoyable. By the second trimester, many women feel less nausea and experience heightened sexual desire.

I felt sexy as soon as I started to show — but my husband was freaked out by the idea of making love to a pregnant woman.

Some of us enjoy our new curves and changing bodies without feeling hindered by them. Others may feel clumsy, awkward, or less sexually attractive. Your partner and others close to you can play a key role in helping you feel good about the changing contours of your body, but they may need to be told how much their acceptance and explicit comments make a positive difference.

As your body changes during pregnancy, you may need to try different sexual positions to find what is comfortable for you. Some women discover new or increased sexual pleasures during pregnancy because of such experimentation. Spooning while sitting up offers plenty of room for manual stimulation, sidelying allows for comfortable oral stimulation, and experimenting with pillows and support devices can help enhance and support a variety of positions and activities. Positions in which you face away from your partner can help with breast tenderness, as can wearing a sports bra.

By the time you are about halfway through pregnancy it may be uncomfortable to lie on your back during sex. If you feel sick or faint when on your back, it could be because the enlarged uterus is pressing on blood vessels in the lower part of your body. Be guided by how you feel and explore other positions to learn what makes you comfortable.

Due to a sense of fullness, some women find vaginal penetration uncomfortable at some points during pregnancy and opt for manual, oral, or self- pleasuring sex instead. This can be a period to explore various kinds of touch and find creative ways to enjoy our sensuality. If you want to continue having intercourse, the following positions may be helpful:

  • pregnant partner on top (This puts no weight on your abdomen and allows you to control the depth of penetration and clitoral placement.)
  • rear- entry or side-lying positions
  • face to face: sitting on a sturdy chair, edge of the bed, etc.
  • whatever is fun, is safe, and feels good

Some cramping after making love is normal throughout pregnancy. Your uterus contracts during orgasm and these contractions might be more noticeable during pregnancy as the uterus gets bigger. It can feel as if your uterus gets hard for a few minutes.

If you are past your due date and you want to induce labor, people may tell you that having sex will help. The evidence on this is mixed.

Precautions

Unless you are experiencing pregnancy complications, it is safe to continue having an active sex life until your water breaks or you are in labor. Sexual activity does not cause miscarriage and will not hurt your baby. The baby is kept safe by the amniotic sac, cervix, and uterine muscle. There is also a thick mucous plug that seals the cervix and protects the baby from infection.

You may need to abstain from some or all sexual activity if you have symptoms of preterm labor; vaginal bleeding; leakage of amniotic fluid; placenta previa (when the placenta is covering the cervix); or what is called incompetent cervix, a condition in which the cervix is weakened and dilates (opens) prematurely, raising the risk for miscarriage or premature delivery.

If you are experiencing these pregnancy complications, your health care provider will advise you to stop having sex. Be sure to talk openly with your provider about why, and what specifically she or he recommends that you stop doing. If you have preterm labor, you will want to avoid uterine contractions; therefore, nipple stimulation and orgasms are not a good idea. With other conditions, these sexual activities are fine, but you should avoid vaginal penetration.