Wrong beliefs about sex in pregnancy are legion. These are some:
- women lose interest in sex when they are pregnant
- men are no longer sexually interested in their wives when their bellies start to get bigger
- women cannot have an orgasm when they are pregnant
- intercourse during the first stages of pregnancy will cause the woman to miscarry
- men usually look around for another sex partner when their wives are pregnant because they don’t get enough sex
- from the moment of conception on, intercourse with the man on top is dangerous to the mother and baby
- masturbation is dangerous during pregnancy
- intercourse during pregnancy produces labor regardless of the month
- intercourse, oral sex and sperm pass bacteria to the woman, which leads to physical problems
- babies can feel what is happening during intercourse
- the weight of the man and his thrusting can damage the baby.
During pregnancy many people – women as well as men – find that their feelings about themselves and their partners affect their sexual practices. These feelings range from optimism and excitement to depression and self-doubt. Not everyone feels the same way during pregnancy and feelings readily change as a pregnancy progresses.
“I feel so unattractive. I’ve lost my shape and I am fat.”
“My breasts are finally the size and shape I’ve always wanted them to be. I feel so sexy.”
“How can he want to look at me or touch me?”
“I couldn’t believe how nurturing I felt. I thought men weren’t supposed to feel that way.”
“She feels ugly and I feel she is blooming. It’s a real turn-on for me.”
“All the attention she and the baby are getting is starting to annoy me. Frankly, I feel left out.”
Some women feel deeply that they have lost their attractiveness when their pregnancies become obvious. They feel their changing appearance is bound to be confusing for their man, who will also be uncertain about how his partner is behaving this way; indeed one partner may find another less attractive: it does happen. Either way, sexual activity diminishes to the detriment of the relationship. on the other hand, a man may find his wife just as appealing, perhaps in a different, more compelling way. The mix of feelings can be subtle and shifting. Suspicion can breed suspicion, which is why it is important for both people to be open about their excitement as well as their anxiety, about their vulnerability as well as their optimism. Each partner is likely to need support and reassurance from the other at some stage in the pregnancy: giving and receiving it will make for greater mutuality and greater fulfillment.
If a couple’s sexual activity is reduced during pregnancy, this can easily lead to their feeling estranged from each other. They become concerned, but are unsure whether the increased distance between them is a spontaneous effect of the woman’s being pregnant or whether they can do something about it. They can, of course, change the situation for the better. The barrier that is being built doesn’t have to be there, and it doesn’t have to go on growing. They can discuss their concerns and come to understand each other’s anxieties. Sexual expression during pregnancy can be a very important way of keeping close, of avoiding the separateness that concerns many people.
It is natural that there should be some strains on the relationship – couples hope that the baby will be alright, and that they will successfully adapt to their imminent role as parents – but it is through continued intimacy that the couple can adjust and move together.
Intimacy built during pregnancy through mutual understanding can be a positive feature of the relationship after the child is born.
SEX DURING PREGNANCY
Most couples find that they have sex less often once the woman has become pregnant. Sometimes the reason is physical, sometimes it is emotional and sometimes people avoid having sex because they believe, wrongly, that intercourse will damage the baby or disrupt the pregnancy.
Many couples continue sexual activity throughout pregnancy in a natural way, varying the kinds of sexual expression and the frequency according to how they feel at each stage.
Some couples however believe that pregnancy means they must reduce or even eliminate altogether the expression of their sexual feelings. Those who believe that sex and pregnancy don’t mix are responding to ancient superstitions and myths, reinforced by age-old religious injunctions.
(If, as Christianity has often taught, the purpose of sexual activity is to start a pregnancy, there must, for example, be some doubt about the rightness of intercourse with a pregnant woman.)
Poor guidance from doctors about sex during pregnancy has also contributed to the confusion and ignorance about what can or can’t be done.
Also, pregnant women sometimes think they are less attractive and on occasion men agree with them – which tends to reduce the frequency of sexual activity.
The likely reduction in activity may take the form of a decrease in all forms of sex, or it may follow a pattern that has shown up in some research in which there is a reduction of sexual activity in the first and third trimesters, and an increase to the usual or even to a higher rate during the second.
Why this pattern should arise we do not know but it may be because a woman’s hormones make her want sex more at this time, or maybe she needs the emotional reassurance of sex.
The nausea and discomfort some women feel during pregnancy may result in their being unable to enjoy sex. Even though this discomfort is usually confined to the mornings of the first trimester, a general uneasiness is created which may cut down on the frequency of intercourse in the second and third trimesters too.
The woman may be so fatigued that she lacks the energy and enthusiasm to have intercourse. Some women find that not feeling just right is enough to prevent them from initiating or participating happily in sex.
Sometimes couples are advised by doctors to avoid intercourse, at least for a short while, due to slight bleeding, vaginal or abdominal pain, or if the woman has a history of miscarriage.
These are good reasons for not having intercourse early in the pregnancy, but the fear that this information produces in the couple may lead them to avoid having intercourse throughout the pregnancy. Couples should ask their doctor when it is alright to resume regular sex.
Intercourse will become more difficult as the woman’s belly grows if the couple are not familiar with appropriate positions.
This is a real physical factor inhibiting sex, but a little experimentation easily gets round the problem.
Q: “Can an orgasm during pregnancy cause labor to start early?”
A: “No. Although orgasm causes the uterus to contract it does not cause the cervix to open, which is what is needed to induce labor. In the very last stage of pregnancy, the ninth month, your cervix may be ripe for labor, and it is possible that the contractions of orgasm may hasten what is going to occur anyway, but it is not something you need concern yourself about.”
Q: “I read that sex late in pregnancy can in some circumstances endanger the fetus. What are the facts?”
A: “Most doctors believe that the psychological benefits of the intimacy intercourse provides during pregnancy are very important. Some doctors, though, advise against intercourse once the cervix starts to open (dilate) during the ninth month and other doctors are now advising their patients to reduce the frequency of intercourse during the last trimester as well. This doesn’t present too much of a problem for most couples as the frequency of intercourse during the last few months tends to decrease anyway.”
A: “No. Although some men have extramarital sex during their wives’ pregnancies it is less frequent than many people believe. Most men are able to achieve sexual satisfaction throughout their wives’ pregnancies without seeking another partner. Only a small proportion (less than 3 percent) of men in one study whose wives were pregnant had sex outside the marriage. The men did however report an increase in sexual fantasies about other women. The authors concluded that a temporary decrease during pregnancy in a couple’s sexual contact was normal.
Q: “I’m seven months pregnant and lately I’ve just wanted to kiss and cuddle. Intercourse or oral sex just isn’t for me right now. My husband thinks I’m turned off to him, but I’m not.”
A: “Intercourse and oral sex may be awkward or become uncomfortable during this stage, even when they were enjoyable during the early stages. You can’t expect your husband to read your mind, so share your feelings with him. Kissing and cuddling are important ways of expressing feelings, and if your husband understood the situation his ability to respond would be improved. There is no need for you to drift apart, misunderstand each other and lose the rewards of being close, even late in your pregnancy.”