Everything changes during pregnancy. There are new feelings, new emotions and new pleasures. And sex too will be different. We give you what you’ll need to know.
Pregnancy can be a wonderful time for a couple. Many people, even today, think this is a ‘no go’ time sexually, but this is not so. With the worries of contraception or trying for a baby removed, pregnancy can provide an opportunity for enjoying sex even more than before.
It is helpful when discussing pregnancy to divide the nine months into three equal trimesters. These three three-month periods differ physiologically and are usually characterised by distinct patterns of sexual behaviour.
Research has found that there is a general fall in interest in the first three months, an increase in the second three months, and a dropping off as the third trimester progresses. Some studies claim that sexual desire decreases progressively as pregnancy advances.
A loving parenthood
Sex while pregnant brings a couple closer together physically and emotionally, and loving and caring for each other during pregnancy provides a strong base for a loving relationship with their child. It also bonds a couple together. The majority of men’s first-time affairs occur during their partner’s pregnancy and around the time of the birth – perhaps because they feel ‘left out’. Sex while pregnant can reassure both partners that they are still loved.
During pregnancy, both partners should be sensitive to each other’s sexual needs. This might mean just cuddling, caressing, sensually massaging, or masturbating one another if either does not feel like intercourse.
But by exploring each other’s body and understanding the changing needs you both may have through the months, you will probably grow closer.
In these early months, and especially if it is a first baby, both partners will be getting used to the idea of the pregnancy and all this implies about their future life together. This will probably bring about certain changes in their sex life as well as in other areas of their relationship.
The greatest sexual advantage of pregnancy to many couples is that they do not have to use any form of contraception. Some say that this unhindered, free lovemaking opens up new doors to them. But this is often offset, at least to some extent, by the hormonal, physical and emotional changes that occur during the first 12 weeks.
Cuddling and holding
During this stage, if any of these physical or psychological aspects are a concern, inventive couples can find other ways of showing their love and affection. When cuddling, be gentle. Many women’s breasts are very tender indeed during these early weeks of pregnancy.
Some women say that they make love while pregnant only to please their partner, and this reluctance may be accentuated during the first three months. This may cause no problem, but it really is something that is worth talking through.
Quite early in pregnancy a man can start to feel that he has served his ‘usefulness’ to his partner and is no longer ‘necessary’, but if he is made to feel loved and wanted, he should be able to cope with a period of abstention.
Many people worry about sex provoking a miscarriage, but such fears are almost always unfounded. Unless the woman has a history of miscarriage, in which case it is sensible to refrain from intercourse and even orgasms from weeks 10 to 14, there is nothing to worry about.
Is the foetus safe?
At this early stage, many people think that the foetus is particularly vulnerable, and could be harmed during orgasm. Although it is true that the uterus contracts very forcibly during orgasm, there is no scientific data to prove that this harms the foetus.
It makes sense to kiss and cuddle more, to discuss your feelings about parenthood, to get in touch with each other in terms of your emotional and physical needs.
Learning how to massage your partner is a sensual experience at any time but especially useful and pleasurable during pregnancy. Two important areas are the breasts and perineum.
There is no evidence that any treatment of the breasts helps in the success of breastfeeding, but it makes sense to give a woman’s breasts and nipples a lot of attention during foreplay so that she becomes used to them being sucked as a preparation for breastfeeding.
Perineal massage may help avoid the necessity of having an episiotomy (cutting of the perineum) on the grounds that the woman is ‘too small’ to let the baby out. The woman lies on the floor or bed with the soles of her feet touching. Her partner then uses his fingers, well lubricated with baby oil, to massage the perineum, best done three times a week from about 12-14 weeks into the pregnancy.
From about 16 weeks onwards you can now extend the massage to include the vagina. The idea is for the man to insert two or three well-lubricated fingers into the vagina until the woman says that it is uncomfortable.
With his fingers inside her vagina he massages the perineum, encouraging the woman to relax her pelvic muscles.
It is best to insert the fingers one above the other in the early days because this stretches the vulval opening less. As time progresses the man can insert the fingers in this position but then turn them through a right angle.
The woman may experience a tingling sensation like pins and needles. When it becomes too uncomfortable, she tells him and he keeps his fingers still in that position until, after a minute or two, the intense sensations pass. He can now massage her vagina and perineum from inside.
The later months
Generally, the middle three months – the second trimester – are the best and therefore the most active period sexually for both partners.
The woman, now usually through the worst of her physical symptoms, is probably beginning to feel fulfilled as a woman as the reality of the pregnancy makes itself felt, while the birth is far enough away not to be a real concern.
Some women experience more sexual drive and arousal in this second trimester than at any other time of their lives.
Most men enjoy their partner being pregnant from this stage on. Many of the changes – fuller, rounder figure, larger breasts, shiny hair, no periods, better vaginal lubrication, apparently permanently ‘aroused’ genitals, better skin and so on – make women more attractive. A number of these changes mimic sexual arousal.
Some men now feel at their best, especially if their self-esteem had previously been poor. The tangible evidence of their masculinity helps such men to become more at ease with their own sexuality. This enables them to relax more and to be a better partner. Similarly, many women say that from about 12 weeks onwards they feel more cuddly and physical, though not necessarily always wanting intercourse.
The second trimester is by far the most comfortable for making love. Early problems are over and the woman’s bump is not big enough to get in the way.
All the usual lovemaking positions are possible, and many women feel that because they are producing extra vaginal secretions they are ready for sex at any time.
Some women feel almost permanently sexy during these three months, with an increased need for orgasms which they claim do not leave them feeling as satisfied as they normally would.
This may be because the time taken for a woman’s sex organs to return to normal after an orgasm is greatly prolonged during pregnancy, possibly because the whole area is so engorged with blood as a result of the pregnancy itself.
For the majority of couples, sex falls off during the last three months, and only a few carry on making love right up to the birth. The main difficulties for those who do continue making love are mainly centred on the woman’s size. The other worry that some couples have is that if they make love and the woman has an orgasm near the delivery date she will go into premature labour.
This can happen, but it is rare unless the woman has a history of premature labours. It is thought that intercourse or orgasm can trigger labour if the woman is very near delivery, and her cervix is ripe, but otherwise there is no danger.