PREGNANT? Sex is good for you

201203-sexOK, your frequent lovemaking has produced results – a baby is on the way. So what happens for the next nine months? Will lovemaking be as much fun or frequent? It can be, if you choose to, and understand a few things that happen during pregnancy. This article tells you why the fun of sex must continue during pregnancy and the adjustments you may need to make.

Pregnancy is a beautiful and life-transforming time for most women and most relationships. It is also a time of many changes – you may feel sick and exhausted especially in the first months of the pregnancy and this is likely to leave you with little energy for sex. But you also have your partner’s feelings to consider. Your pregnancy may affect his emotions but not his body functions, meaning he may still want as much sex as before the pregnancy.

There was a time it was assumed sex was off-bounds for the entire duration of pregnancy. Because there was so little knowledge about the subject at the time, doctors tended to take caution and advice their patients to avoid sex. But women want to remain sexually active throughout their pregnancy and available research shows that, for most women, it is perfectly safe to have sex – and also beneficial, to do so.

When a woman first discovers she is pregnant, there are often mixed emotions for her and this goes for her partner, as well. Happiness and euphoria might be the first emotions if you were planning for the baby, and worry over how to keep it safe while it grows in your womb may follow. Pregnancy is like no other time for those in a relationship, or for the single woman having a baby on her own. You don’t know what to expect over the coming months, unless it’s not your first pregnancy and, even then, all pregnancies are different. You therefore need to be aware of any potential issues especially those related to sex. Being open about your feelings from the start means you can talk through problems as they arise. Sex is possible through all the trimesters of pregnancy, as long as you take precautions.

First trimester

Many women find the first few weeks after they discover they are pregnant an opportunity to get back in touch with their body and be more spontaneous during lovemaking since making a baby is no longer an issue. The downside is that the woman may not feel like having sex at all. Even when not completely floored by pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness, some women find they just need a break from sex. Some feel even closer to their partners emotionally but not sexually.

There are many reasons to this. The raging hormones could mean the breasts becoming quite sensitive and so you want to avoid anything that comes in close contact with them, including your partner’s body or hands. Pregnancy also has a massive psychological impact on both the woman and her partner. Men, for example, may want to be protective of the little human being they have just made, and who is growing inside their partner’s body, and worry that sex might harm the little guy. While it may sound silly, some men fear that they might shake the baby loose while thrusting during intercourse – and this is likely to kill off any lust.

While hurting the baby is a common concern, it shouldn’t be. The baby is safe in the womb: apart from the barrier of the cervix, the amniotic sac is strong and a man’s penis can’t rupture it. Constant communication is the key to overcoming these fears. You need to reassure each other that while you will soon be parents, you are first and foremost lovers and you need to continue fulfilling each other sexually.

Women must also remember that men’s knowledge of pregnancy is generally limited and it will be up to the woman to reassure her partner that sex is safe. The main problem most women encounter during the first trimester is nausea, which can mean a woman getting sick during sex, and of course this is not very pleasant. If the couple have had time to discuss such possibilities, then they will both take it in their stride if it happens.

As far as sexual positions are concerned, they are all safe in the first trimester, as long as you don’t get too athletic and the woman is not a high-risk pregnancy, for example, she has a history of miscarriage. The missionary position can be particularly rewarding because it’s romantic, intimate and makes you face each other as you enjoy sex and celebrate the life you have created together.

There are some situations in which sex is not recommended, however. If the woman has a history of miscarriage or there is any bleeding, in which case you are considered high risk. You might be advised not to make love throughout the early weeks of pregnancy when the risk of miscarriage is higher than in an established pregnancy. Don’t shy away from discussing with your doctor or midwife about sex because you not only have a right to a healthy sex life, but you also want to ensure your safety as well as that of the unborn baby.

Second trimester

For most women, morning sickness subsides by the second trimester; energy levels rise and their sex drive returns. An increase in the hormone oestrogen boosts the blood flow to the woman’s pelvis and the genitals become more sensitive than before you got pregnant. Orgasms can become more intense and some women report multiple orgasms during this phase. Vivid, explicit dreams and fantasies are also common, perhaps because of the peace and tranquility within the woman.

However, some couples also get confused about sex during this trimester. A man who had become used to his partner not wanting sex in the last few months may wonder what’s going on to make her so crazed about lust that she won’t give him a moment of peace. Also, this is around the time the pregnancy will start showing. The physical changes in a woman’s body, and especially the growing bump can make a man anxious about sex and possibly reluctant to make love to her. While a man may fancy a pregnant woman, he may be afraid to initiate sex because he views her as fragile and not want to harm her. It is for the woman to reassure him through open communication. It also helps if the couple can go for pre-natal checks together and use this opportunity to discuss their sexual concerns with the doctor or midwife.

If her partner goes off sex at this stage, it’s easy for the woman to think it’s because she looks bigger, but this is usually not the case. Many men love to see their partners become voluptuous and may even fancy them more than ever, but the fear is of harming the woman and the baby. It’s also likely that the bump could be bringing reality of impending fatherhood home to the man and he may be scared of the responsibility.

Any sex position that avoids weight placed on your abdomen is safe during this trimester. Some women, and most men, love it when he lies back and the woman straddles him, allowing him to admire her blossoming body. This position is great if you are feeling powerful and energetic. But the woman on all fours and the man entering her from behind is an ideal position if body confidence is an issue with the woman.

5 Great reasons to have sex when you’re pregnant

  • Your body is geared up for better, easier sex: increased blood flow to the pelvic area can cause engorgement of the genitals and heighten sensation.

  • Sex increases your bond with your partner. You’re heading for a magical, but stressful, time so the closer the two of you are in the run-up to the birth, the better.

  • Orgasm or simply just cuddling and massaging each other are great ways of relieving tension in the body and soothing aching limbs and joints.

  • Having plenty of sex helps you to prepare for childbirth by keeping your pelvic floor muscles strong and supple.

  • Sex is free and is fun. There isn’t much more that is free in pregnancy, indeed its expenses all the way through – new clothes, medical bills and preparing for the new addition to the family.

Third trimester

During the third trimester, most women are really huge and body image problems and logistics can make this the most challenging trimester for passion. Some women develop stretch marks all over their stomach; others retain water and therefore have swollen feet and hands, while others may experience backache. These are not, at any time, libido boosters.

The baby may also be kicking hard and having sex while the baby is kicking may feel a bit creepy. You may get the feeling your baby is aware of what’s happening outside his little haven and decide its time to stop sex if you don’t want to corrupt his little mind. While your baby definitely knows there is some kind of activity going on outside his world, he has no concept of sex and so you have nothing to worry about. It is not certainly going to scar him psychologically, as some people think.

During this trimester, many women report a surge in desire. If you are in the mood, have as much sex as you like. Enjoy it while it lasts, as it could be a while before you have energy for sex after the baby is born.

However, during the last trimester there are some medical circumstances in which you should stick to kissing and cuddling. These include placenta praevia (where the placenta covers, or is close to, the cervix), multiple pregnancy (if you are carrying twins or more), whenever there is any sign of bleeding, or if you have a history of premature labour. If you have had a show (where the plug of mucus blocking your cervix comes out) or your waters have broken, sex is definitely not a good idea. Both these are signs that labour will begin in the next few days. Even if you are a high-risk category and the doctor says no sex, that doesn’t rule out kissing, oral sex or massage.

For those with safe pregnancies, your size, plus late complications like symphysis pubis dysfunction (pelvic joint pain) will limit the range of positions you can try nearer your due date. The spoons position is tender, nurturing, intimate, and above all, easy. The woman should lie on her side and let the man snuggle up behind her. Penetration should remain shallow and sex should not be too taxing for either of you. This position also appeals to the man’s protective instincts.

Can you use sex to trigger labour? There is some truth to the idea that semen triggers labour although research shows this is not a risk before 37 weeks. Intercourse can be one way of inducing labour if you are overdue. It is also more fun than an induction drip. However, if you suspect any sexual infection with the man, it is good advice not to have sex in the last one or two weeks of your due date to ensure the birth canal has no germs that can affect the baby, especially the eyes, at birth.

Published in March 2012