Sexual Relations During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, you undergo many changes, both physical and emotional. How you react to these changes, how openly you can talk with your partner, and whether your caregiver makes you feel comfortable discussing lovemaking all play a role in your attitude as a couple toward sex during pregnancy.

Your husband may find you more desirable now because your body is carrying his child. Or, he may worry about the effects sexual intercourse might have on the growing baby in terms of miscarriage or harm. Unless you have a history of miscarriage or other problems, this concern is unnecessary. Check with your caregiver to be reassured about a healthy pregnancy.

At the beginning of your pregnancy, you and your husband should decide together to remain physically close, even if you go through times of lessened sexual activity. Touching, snuggling, caressing, or massaging, not necessarily leading to sex, can keep both of you feeling open, warm, and loving toward one another. Accepting both positive and negative feelings is a necessary part of dealing with and coming to terms with the pregnancy. Open communication with one another and, of course, with your caregiver will help ensure that your pregnancy gets off to a good start.

Early pregnancy classes are a good place to talk about sexuality and your changing body in relation to lovemaking. Prepared childbirth classes offer another good opportunity, although much of your pregnancy will be behind you by the time you take them. An informative book on the subject is Making Love During Pregnancy by Elisabeth Bing and Libby Colman.

The first trimester of pregnancy can be an exciting time, with both you and your partner feeling very good about yourselves and your pregnant body. You may feel beautiful, exhilarated at the thought of a new life growing within you, and very close to your mate. You might also find yourself easily fatigued, nauseated, anxious, and very emotional. Your husband may be proud and excited about the new life he has helped to create. At the same time, he may feel anxious or rejected because you are now concentrating your love and attention on your developing child.

The first 3 months are certainly a time of adjustment for both you and your husband. Wide mood swings are normal for both of you. You will also experience changes in your body and in your relationship. While you continue to love each other as much as or even more than before the pregnancy, your physical expression of that love is often altered–sometimes to a surprising degree! Please be assured that this is not unique to you. Whatever your feelings, desires, needs, or concerns, they have been experienced by countless other couples. Be aware that there is a wide range of emotions, needs, and concerns. Some women experience increased sexual desires during the first trimester; others, especially if feeling nauseated or fatigued, have a decreased desire. Even if you are nauseated, you will appreciate the touching and caressing from a good back rub by your husband. Both of you will enjoy a warm hug and kiss.

During the second trimester, your growing uterus is beginning to bulge your abdomen, though usually not to the extent that it is in the way or makes sex uncomfortable. Some women experience a decline in sexual enjoyment as the pregnancy advances, while others feel increased pleasure. Again, if you are open with each other and responsive to each others’ sexual needs, you can eliminate many of the problems.

Some of your initial physical complaints of pregnancy have probably disappeared by the third or fourth month. Usually, the nausea and fatigue have passed, and you feel more relaxed now that the chance of miscarriage has diminished.

As you move into the third trimester, however, you may find even simple movements——such as getting in and out of bed, bending forward, and even standing, walking, or sitting——to be very awkward and difficult. This physical clumsiness may keep you from enjoying sexual intercourse. On the other hand, increased pelvic congestion may arouse sexual desires, which are relieved by orgasm. Your partner may also feel some restraints in enjoyment. He may be uncomfortable feeling the baby moving while he is making love to you. He may also initiate sex less frequently as he assumes a more protective role. Do not misinterpret this as rejection.

As your waistline expands and your body enlarges, you may start to view yourself differently and may find it difficult to feel sexy. This feeling may be reinforced by other people’s attempts at humor when they comment on your changing shape. Just remember, you are pregnant, not fat, and this growth is essential for a healthy baby. You can be assured that your former figure will return after the birth.

You may have already tried a variety of positions to increase your comfort during intercourse. If your pregnancy has advanced to the point where it is almost “in the way”, you may find that having your partner on top but slightly to the side avoids the discomfort caused by his weight pressing on your abdomen. This position also gives you more mobility and lessens penetration of the penis. You might find that your being on top is more comfortable, as you can better control the degree of penetration. Some couples, however, find that this position results in deeper penetration and causes more discomfort.

When To Avoid Sex During Pregnancy? You should avoid sex during pregnancy:
  • If you are at risk of preterm labor.
  • If you have a placenta previa (low-lying placenta)
  • If you have an incompetent cervix.
  • If you experience vaginal bleeding.
  • If your membranes have ruptured or you are leaking fluid.
  • If you have an active herpes lesion.
  • If you experience pain with intercourse.
  • If you have a vaginal infection or an undiagnosed vaginal discharge.
Your caregiver will advise you in this area.

You might be comfortable and satisfied with side-lying positions. Or, your mate can enter from behind, with you either kneeling or standing, using the bed for support, or lying on your side. In these positions, you can control the degree of penetration and can relieve the abdominal pressure. You can also lie close to the edge of the bed and have your partner support your legs with his arms or shoulders. Needless to say, experimenting to find the position that affords the most comfort and satisfaction is important, as is a sense of humor!

Many couples find alternatives to sexual intercourse at this point in the pregnancy. Remember that massaging, touching, and caressing provide close physical contact, which is just as important as intercourse for both of you. Some couples find that genital manipulation and mutual masturbation provide good sexual gratification. Even self-masturbation can be relieving. Some couples enjoy oral sex. However, a word of caution is necessary concerning cunnilingus (oral stimulation of the female genitals). Air should not be forced into your vagina at any time during pregnancy, as a rare phenomenon called air embolism can result. Because of the increased vascularity during pregnancy, air that passes into the uterus can enter the woman’s bloodstream and cause serious problems and even death. If you enjoy oral sex, it is fine to continue to practice as long as you are aware of this one restriction.

Unless you are spotting or have a history of miscarriages, you should consider pregnancy to be a sign of physical health. You should continue your life as normally as possible, keeping in mind that intercourse will not harm your baby and can be continued throughout pregnancy. If you leak fluid from your vagina, experience pain in your pelvic region, or bleed vaginally, contact your caregiver immediately. Orgasms do cause the uterus to contract. However the uterus contracts the same way with Braxton-Hicks contractions, which are perfectly natural during pregnancy. But, if your caregiver advises against orgasm, you need to realize that this means orgasm via masturbation as well. You may also need to adjust two other practices if you are at risk for preterm labor. First, avoid touching your nipples, as this releases oxytocin, a hormone that causes uterine contractions. Second, since semen contains prostaglandins, which can also stimulate contractions, your partner may need to wear a condom, if are permitted to continue lovemaking. In addition, your caregiver should let you know if you have a medical problem that requires you to alter your position or frequency of intercourse or to stop it altogether. Otherwise, most professionals believe that couples can continue to enjoy intercourse until labor begins or the water breaks. Therefore experiment and enjoy!

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