During pregnancy, your body goes through all sorts of physiological changes, hormone fluctuations and emotional states. Unsurprisingly, these transformations not only cause you to experience mood swings, cravings, nausea, inexplicable urges to clean, and yeast infections (sometimes all in the space of a morning), they are also known to affect your libido. Just as no woman’s sex drive is the same as that of her friend/sister/neighbor/partner, etc. pre-baby bump, you can expect that her desires/aversions in the bedroom DURING pregnancy will be just as variable.
Let’s take it one trimester at a time.
Early in the first trimester, many women are not yet aware they are pregnant. They may notice differences in the consistency and amount of discharge they produce, which can affect the pleasure derived from sex. Although their body may not indicate it yet, drastic hormone changes can already impact a woman’s mood/anxiety levels, her interest in sexual activity, and the physiological balance of her body.
As the first trimester progresses, rapid hormone fluctuations (among other things) can cause nausea and vomiting known as morning sickness. There is nothing like a spinning head and the need to hover over a toilet bowl to get you in the mood, right ... ? (WRONG.) It is no surprise that during this period of pregnancy, many women feel disinterested in physical intimacy.
That said, it is perfectly normal and healthy if you ARE aroused -- sex will not hurt your baby. Many women are nervous that intercourse is dangerous for a fetus, but this is a myth. Except in highly unusual and extenuating circumstances, sexual activity will have no negative impact on the cells developing in your uterus. One main exception to this rule -- you should avoid intimacy with anyone who may have a sexually transmitted infection, as it can be passed to the fetus in vitro.
Upon entering the second trimester, many women feel that they are starting to “get the hang of this pregnancy gig.” Most symptoms of morning sickness subside, a cute tummy begins to show, and many moms-to-be indicate that their sex drive returns and is sometimes even higher than usual. Hormones (weirdly, some of the same ones that might have made you nauseous or turned off previously) engorge your breasts and vulva with increased blood flow, making them more sensitive than usual.
For some, this signifies better sex than ever before! For others, the hyper-sensitivity and physiological/psychological changes (ex: a slightly more acidic vaginal pH, bloating, higher levels of anxiety, etc.) still mean that sex is not an enjoyable act. The important thing is that you are honest and fair with yourself, and you communicate clearly with your partner about your comfort and desires.
As you waddle into your third trimester, your belly and breasts are rounder and heavier than before, your bladder is increasingly squeezed out of place and you are often worried about your debut into motherhood. For some women the idea of sex is as far out of mind as a bikini swimsuit.
For others, a heightened libido leads them to try new positions that accommodate their altered body shape. Again, unless you are at risk for premature labor or your care provider has warned you about complications that indicate otherwise, having sex will NOT harm the fetus. (Once your water breaks and you begin labor, you should refrain from intercourse, though other caresses and intimacy can be extremely beneficial to your birthing experience.)
Stay tuned for a follow-up article on some great sex positions for pregnant ladies to enjoy. And feel free to share your own experience with libido and desire during this amazing (but confusing!) life cycle event.
“Sex During Pregnancy: An Overview” Baby Center. http://www.babycenter.com/sex-during-pregnancy-overview?page=2
WebMD. (2011.) “Vomiting During Pregnancy.” http://www.emedicinehealth.com/pregnancy_vomiting/page2_em.htm
Nemours. (2011.) “Sex During Pregnancy.” http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_center/your_pregnancy/sex_pregnancy.html#
(Name Withheld for Privacy.) Interview for Personal Experience. (August 29, 2011).
Reviewed September 1, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith