And now we’re gonna talk about it. As awkward as you might feel reading an article about sex during pregnancy, please know that I feel just as awkward writing about sex during pregnancy. So let’s feel awkward together, shall we?
This is why you don’t agree to things in late night Facebook messages with your fellow bloggers when you’re building-a-human-being tired. But I’m glad to do it. Sex is one of those things that still makes people squeamish to address in nearly anything other than reverent euphemisms or bawdy humor, and the advice tends to be either too clinical, colloquial or comical. I’ve clearly done It a time or two, and am therefore qualified to be your Sherpa up the Mountain of Boning. It is also clear that I’ve chosen to employ the latter-most option to keep me from getting too embarrassed. Never fear, though, because I am of the mind that it is preferable to use anatomically correct terms when one can and will be trying for a mix of those three C’s I mentioned. This article won’t sound like a frat boy wrote it, promise.
I’m stalling. I’ll stop that now.
I’m currently 31 weeks pregnant. I remember when I was pregnant with our nine-year-old daughter, and I was an energetic 19, that one day it was like a switch was flipped. Near the middle of my pregnancy, though still plagued by all-day sickness, it was go time. The flood of hormones surging through my body manifested in both uncontrolled vomiting and a libido that would rival the Mata Hari. Sexy, sexy combination, that one. But I don’t think my husband minded too much. Now that I’m almost a decade older, and despite having only mild and occasional morning sickness, my motor is clearly running much less enthusiastically. He sometimes asks me when “the pillaging will begin”, referencing the (more than one) time back then that I literally pounced on him before he was even awake. Now, not so much. Don’t get me wrong, things are perfectly average in the Boudoir d’Sites, with which I am totally fine. My husband works off shore, so the old adage that “distance makes the heart grow hornier” benefits us; and I have two weeks off a month to feel gross and unattractive in peace. For other couples, pregnancy has a way of facilitating highs and lows of momentous proportions, and many other pregnant couples experience a less even keeled and predictable sex life. This can be due to a multitude of factors, both on the part of the mother and her partner. If you’ve ever been pregnant, I don’t need to write out a laundry list of pregnancy action blockers. If you haven’t, allow me to put these images in your head:
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
- Vaginal dryness
- Breast tenderness
- Self-consciousness stemming from any of the above, as well as
- Change in body image
- Weight gain
- Areola spreading
- Increase in size of the Montgomery Tubercles (how’s that for a sexy body part name?)
- Anything under the sun, rational or irrational, at any time
- [Insert your own personal cold shower here]
Sometimes it’s just plain hard to get aroused when you’re emotionally shaken up for whatever (or no) reason. Men are not immune to their own personal brands of pre-coitus coitus interruptus. Based upon what I know about the male of our species, and my loving husband’s begrudging help, your baby daddy’s list might include:
- Fatigue not stemming from pregnancy
- Concerns about his partner’s safety
- Concerns about the baby’s safety
- The heebie-jeebies about performing so close to his unborn child
- Confusion about or discomfort with his partner’s changing body
- Changes in the way the vagina feels
- Subtle changes in his partner that aren’t necessarily physical
I’m going to expand on those last two. “Changes in the way the vagina feels.” Being a writer is super fun sometimes, because you get to write about your personal experiences, like that right there! I was on pelvic rest for the first three months or so of this pregnancy. When it was finally safe to get it on, we both noticed two things: my nether regions were much drier than before, and we were both incredibly sore after sex. We just assumed my discomfort was from the lack of natural lubricant, but his had us stumped. I eventually got up the nerve to ask my midwife about it, and she said it was because I had become much more acidic than pre-pregnancy. She suggested taking chlorophyll supplements. I didn’t get any. Not because I don’t value her expert advice, but because I found something that killed two painful birds with one stone and was already in my kitchen: coconut oil. We use it for everything. I mean it… Ev. Ree. Thing. I buy the organic, cold pressed, blah blah, hippie kind, and it’s great. Now I keep a little jar of it in our master bathroom so I can dash in there when the mood strikes. It’s a bit inconvenient to have to hit pause before, but it’s a lot better than feeling like our fun bits are going to fall off after. And the coconut-y scent is delightful.
The last entry on that list is something I really didn’t expect, and that my husband timidly mentioned a few days after I first grilled him for man problems. He said that I smell differently. Not bad! he was quick to add, just different, and stronger. My body and my breath, while not unpleasant, smell completely foreign to him, and he said that trips him up sometimes. I actually thought this was terribly sweet, and was glad to know that he wouldn’t be easily fooled if he was stricken blind and some strange woman pretending to be me tried to seduce him. I’ve joked that this change in aroma is Nature’s way of telling prospective males “Move along, this one’s already been fertilized!” Maybe there’s an evolutionary angle here. I’m too tired to Google it.
Feeling like swearing off sex for the remainder of your pregnancy, or your life? Well, my job here is done! Just kidding. I wouldn’t leave you high and dry. (Too soon?) There are some clear benefits to sex during pregnancy as well. What to Expect has a nice little list of things to make intercourse more appealing, including:
- Stress relief
- Better sleep (thanks to the hormone prolactin)
- Calorie burning
- Immune system boosting
- Sex helps bring you and your partner together by increasing intimacy and fostering a sense of closeness in general.
There have been a few times that I haven’t felt like sex at all, but I was feeling down, insecure and lonely- even though my husband was home. I initiated things and once we got into it I felt much better. Afterward, my melancholia was gone, and my husband felt nice because hey, who doesn’t like to be wooed? I found this post while doing recon for this article, and though it’s short and basic, I liked that there was a blog out there for dads by a dad. If your partner is still iffy, send him there. A few other pluses are:
- Sex is a good cardiovascular workout
- The hormones released can ease aches and pains
- Increased blood flow to the abdomen and genitals can also increase your sexual sensitivity and make for amazing sex
- Increased blood flow is good for baby
- Sex makes you (and your partner) happy!
If you’re still needing a nudge in the sexual direction, I found this series of three short videos informative (it’s not porn, I swear). It’s important to communicate with your partner, especially in the last trimester. Your comfort level and needs may be very different near the end of your pregnancy. Let him know, and get creative. Try different positions to find what works for your growing belly. At this stage in the game, avoid lying on your back. If sex is followed by light spotting- which can be totally normal- try a more shallow entry position, like spooning.
Sex can also have some other benefits at the end of your pregnancy. If your cervix is ripened and receptive, the high dose of prostaglandins present in semen can help further ripen the cervix and help it efface and dilate. Both orgasm and nipple stimulation cause your body to produce oxytocin, another important hormone during labor. The uterine contractions that accompany orgasm can also potentially kick start things. If it’s not time, it’s not time, but I’ve already informed my hubby that the minute he sets foot back onshore in November it is go time. I’m due in about the middle of his hitch home, but I want to do everything I safely can to get this show on the road so that he can be present for the birth of our first son and spend as much time with us after as possible. You should, of course, speak to your midwife or doctor about sex in the last weeks of pregnancy, and take caution if you’re worried about or at risk of preterm labor. And I want to think it goes without saying, but don’t have sex once your water breaks. You’d be surprised by the amount of times I’ve seen women ask this in my pregnancy groups on Facebook. Once the dam has been broken, the vagina should become a one-way street facing outward. Anything going in (including the gloved hands of healthcare professionals) introduces bacteria and increases the risk of infection.
Bottom line: Sex got you into this mess, but it can also help you and your partner become closer, relax, have some fun, and it may even get you out of it. My biggest piece of advice would be to take it easy on yourself. I feel super gross and unattractive at all times now, but I know my husband still loves me, and sees me as the hot babe that’s carrying his son (the huge boobs help). I’m sure if I polled the partners of everyone reading this, they’d feel the same way. So take it easy, don’t over think it, and happy sexing.
Anna has been married to her husband Dustin for 10 years, is a SAHM to nine year old Shelby, and is expecting a little boy this fall. She is also the editor-in-chief of the Beaumont Breastfeeding Coalition newsletter, and is a freelance writer and editor on the side. She’ll get her novel published… One day.