One minute, you’re worrying that you haven’t had sex for weeks, the next you’re wondering how you can fit in a quickie, or two — thanks to your hormones.
Try to remember that sex is a great stress reliever. “Sex in a normal pregnancy can be healthy and fun, as long as both partners feel like it,” says midwife Jules Robertson. After all, it helps release natural endorphins in the body and lifts your mood. So, let us guide you through the ins and outs of pregnancy sex.
SEX TRUTH #1: Everything is “normal”
Of course, this is true at any time in life, but when you’re pregnant — thanks to your hormones — you tend to stress more about whether your desires (or lack of them) are normal. “If we don’t experience what we think of as a ‘textbook’ sex drive, we question whether there’s something’s wrong with us,” says sex therapist and social psychologist Dr Petra Boynton.
As Catherine, 32, mum to Charlotte, 14 months, knows, “Thanks to a mix of morning sickness and mood swings, I completely went off sex when I was pregnant with Charlotte,” she says. “I began thinking I was some kind of freak and stressed that my libido would never come back.
Thankfully, it did and I’m now four months pregnant again. This time, I’m so eager but my husband pretends to be asleep, so I’ll give him a break.”
Dr Boynton explains that your sex drive can alter not just in different pregnancies but in different trimesters, and even on different days. “Depending on your hormones, one day you might feel tired and unsexy, the next you really, really want to have sex,” she says.
You’ll also notice that your sex drive peaks and falls as your pregnancy progresses. “During your first trimester, you might not want to have sex at all as you’re floored by pregnancy symptoms. In the second, you’re hopefully blooming and the increased blood flow to your vagina can make orgasms more intense,” she notes. “By the third trimester, just the size of your bump can make sex tricky, but if you’ve still got the urge, there are ways — and positions — to satisfy it.”
The key, according to Dr Boynton, is not to over-analyse it. “What’s normal for you might not be for someone else. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong. As long as you and your spouse feel happy about your sex life, that’s what counts.”
SEX TRUTH #2: His libido may change
Okay, so while you’re being hassled by your hormones, he’s got other issues messing with his head — and his libido. “Seeing Kate grey with morning sickness made me realise how fragile she was,” says Donald, 38. “I know it sounds ridiculous but I was too scared to have sex with her, in case she broke. Now that she’s in her second trimester and showing, she’s got this amazing glow about her. I’ve never wanted her more.”
But what if your spouse is in the mood for sex, but physically feels a bit, well, squeamish? “By the time my wife hit the third trimester, I was less keen on the whole idea of sex, even though I wanted her like mad,” says Sam Deng. “Sometimes, I could feel the baby kicking during foreplay. It was impossible to ignore the idea that there was a third person in the bed!”
It’s a normal reaction, says Dr Boynton. “If you tell each other how you’re feeling and agree that it’s okay just to cuddle up together until both your sex drives are back on track, no one’s left feeling rejected.”
SEX TRUTH #3: Sex won’t harm your baby…
Recent research shows that nearly a quarter of new parents don’t want sex during the first trimester because they’re scared they’ll harm the baby. And it’s the men who worry more.
But midwife Verona Hall reveals that this just isn’t possible, however well-endowed your man is. “The cervix is well cushioned and roughly 2 to 4cm long, so a man’s penis is not going to pass through the vagina, into the cervix and hit the baby’s head,” she assures.
So, when is pregnancy sex unsafe? “Only if your pregnancy isn’t progressing normally,” Hall explains. “If you have a history of miscarriage, pre-term labour, or bleeding during pregnancy, perhaps because your placenta is low-lying, so ask your gynae for advice. Otherwise, it’s perfectly safe to have sex right up until your waters break.”
SEX TRUTH #4: …But it can make you bleed
In fact, it’s not unusual to experience bleeding up to two weeks after sex. “This is because the capillaries in the vagina are closer to the surface in pregnancy than usual,” Hall explains. “The friction and knocking of sex can therefore cause some bleeding.”
Which isn’t to say it isn’t worrying — or worth a visit to your doctor. “I bled after sex when I was eight weeks pregnant, and was too scared to sleep with my husband until about 16 weeks,” says Kerry Tay, 32 weeks pregnant. “When I bled again, my gynae ordered a scan, which showed that my pregnancy was progressing well. So, this gave me the confidence to enjoy sex again.”
If you get mild contractions during sex, don’t worry. “An orgasm can stimulate a wave of tightening,” Robertson explains. “It won’t harm your baby and the feeling should pass. If it doesn’t, or becomes painful, call your doctor.”
SEX TRUTH #5: Pregnancy could improve sex
Just because you need to find new bump-friendly positions or creative ways to have sex — without the intercourse. “Try masturbating each other, having oral sex, or using sex toys, all which are safe in pregnancy — and beyond, “Dr Boynton says.
“I’ve always been a bit of a missionary fan, but now my bump is bigger, it’s out of the question,” says Carolyn, 32, 30 weeks pregnant. “I prefer my husband to be behind me as it helps me control the speed and depth of sex. Lying side by side, or me going on top takes the pressure off my bump, too.”
SEX TRUTH #6: He still fancies you!
“I planned to have sex for as long as possible, but when I hit 30 weeks, I suddenly developed stretch marks all over my stomach,” says Jill, 29, mum to Ellie, 6 months. “I was really puffy from water retention, too, and just couldn’t see how my husband could fancy me.”
It’s a common misconception. “Although my wife kept complaining she was fat and ugly, I fancied her more than ever,” Sam says. “Her boobs, in particular, were amazing.”
So, what’s the solution? “Get your man to tell you what he likes about your body and do the same for him,” Dr Boynton suggests. “You might be shocked when he says he loves your bigger bottom or womanly curves — and you’ll certainly feel better and more desirable.”
SEX TRUTH #7: He’s not a mind-reader
While he can assemble an Ikea cabinet effortlessly or change your car tyre, he can’t read your mind. So, it’s now more important than ever to tell him how you’re feeling and let him share his concerns, too. “Learning to have an open but sensitive conversation now teaches you the value of communicating once baby’s here,” says Dr Boynton.
The trick is to use respectful listening — asking a question and then really listening to the answer. “Women often think they’re being clear about something but the man isn’t really hearing it,” Dr Boynton adds.
So, set aside 15 minutes each day to share exactly how you feel about sex, your relationship and your future, and work out ways to help each other.
Most importantly, relax. “It’s only going to get more complicated when you throw a baby and broken nights of sleep into the mix, so, make the most of the time you have together as a couple,” Dr Boynton advises. “After all, it’s how you became pregnant!”
Photo: ING Images