Sexual Desire & Your Pregnancy

Your sexual desires may fluctuate dramatically during pregnancy. When you don't feel like having sex, you may be appalled by the thought of it. Conversely, when the desire strikes, you may move mountains to be with your partner. Such extreme fluctuations are commonly prevalent during the first trimester, when hormones are known to spin a tad out of control.

During your first trimester, newfound maternal feelings may cause motherhood and sexuality to seem "mutually exclusive," lowering your sexual appetite. In at least one medical study of 112 pregnant Swedish couples in 1991, researchers found that a full 40% of women experienced at least some decline in their desire for sex for varied reasons during the first trimester. Sometimes, it's your partner who may be apprehensive.

However, somewhere around your 14th week of pregnancy, you should begin to feel a new surge of confidence and energy as your sexual appetite returns. Most of the unpleasant symptoms of your first trimester fade, and you may discover a whole new set of physiological changes occurring. An increase in blood volume, for example, delivers increased circulation to your genitals, producing a swelling in your labia and clitoris. Estrogen levels are now stabilizing at a much higher levels than normal, and you may have added vaginal lubrication.

If your breasts have been the focus of sexual stimulation in the past, brace yourselves for some pleasurable changes during your second trimester. As your milk ducts develop, the tissue inside your breasts can become compressed, putting additional pressure on sensitive nerve endings. Your breasts are likely have magnified sensitivity whenever touched or stroked. In addition, studies show that breast stimulation increases the production of the hormone oxytocin, the "biochemical of lust." As these levels rise, so does the desire for more sex!

Note: You may experience leaky breasts during sex, and this is perfectly natural.

By around the 24th-26th week of pregnancy, a woman's sexual desire usually decreases. Obviously, the enlarged tummy is a challenge to sexual comfort, while the pain associated with increased weight (particularly backaches) can make it difficult to find a position where sex is comfortable, let alone erotic.

The additional genital circulation that once made sex so pleasurable during the second trimester can now be so extreme that even a light touch or stroke can be painful. The extra weight of your growing baby can leave you feeling fatigued too. In addition, feelings of unattractiveness can prevail and, combined with a lack of sleep that can dominate the third trimester, sex may once become the furthest thing from your mind. Studies have proven this to be perfectly normal.

Increases in the Male Sex Drive

Renowned parenting expert Armin Brott, author of The Expectant Father, reports that just having the knowledge that they can make a baby causes most men to feel an almost immediate desire to make more! Many men also report that they feel much closer to their partners when they find out they are pregnant. For many men, closeness can only be expressed erotically, so it's not hard to see why sex will be at the forefront of their attention during this time.

For men, apprehensions aren't likely to occur during the first trimester. However, when you enter your second trimester and your pregnancy starts to show, he may turn from a raging tiger into a nurturing teddy bear, at least for a little while.

Studies show that once a pregnancy becomes visible, some men develop a fear of having sex - afraid that their actions may somehow harm their partner or their baby.

Some Common Sex Fears

Not so long ago, "sex" and "pregnancy" would never have been mentioned in the same sentence. Pregnant women were often viewed as fragile and rumors about sex harming the baby or themselves was discouraging. Because the topic was so rarely discussed, superstitions and half-truths about the dangers of sex during pregnancy were passed-on from one generation another. Today, however, even the most conservative sectors of American culture recognize the viability - and even necessity - for sex during pregnancy.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that as long as a woman is feeling good and the pregnancy is not in any jeopardy, she is free to have sex as much as she wants - right up until the day of delivery. Unfortunately, even with these encouraging words, old fears die hard - and many couples continue to experience unnecessary concern.

Sex During Pregnancy Will Cause Miscarriage

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common causes of miscarriage are genetic factors and infections. If neither of these two conditions exists, most doctors agree that sex will not cause a miscarriage in an otherwise healthy pregnancy.

Sex During Pregnancy Will Cause Premature Labor

As early as 1993, at least one very large study involving more than 13,000 women found that preterm labor was less common among women who had intercourse at least once a week during their pregnancy. More recently, a 2001 study involving nearly 600 women and published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that sex during pregnancy was not only safe, it actually had a protective effect against early labor.

Sex During Pregnancy Will Hurt The Baby

Experts from Harvard Medical School have concurred with research that states "it is virtually impossible to harm a fetus by having sex," citing the fact that your baby literally floats in a pool of fluid inside your uterus - and that pool is protected by your abdominal wall and your entire pelvic structure. All of this serves to cushion your baby against everything but the most severe blows to your stomach. Even with deep penetration uterine muscle and amniotic fluid, will prevent your partner's penis from ever coming near the baby or causing any harm. The cervical mucus plug that guards the opening of your uterus will prevent sperm and/or bacteria from coming in contact with your baby.

Sex During Pregnancy Will Cause Bleeding & Cramping

It is important to note that, even without sex, bleeding in early pregnancy occurs in as many as half of all women, and for over 60% there are no serious problems. This is normally caused by a fragile cervix.

During pregnancy, the entire genital region becomes filled with blood; the cervix becomes more vascular and descends lower into the vagina. The tiny capillaries lining its surface can sometimes break during intercourse, resulting in a very small amount of spotting for approximately ten to sixty minutes following intercourse.

In addition, many women experience mild uterine contractions following sexual stimulation. Similar to Braxton-Hicks contractions, which occur spontaneously throughout pregnancy, cramping following sex is not a labor contraction. Such contractions rarely last for more than one hour after sex, and are generally considered harmless.

Important Note: If mild cramping or bleeding does develop following sex, experts from Harvard Medical School advise resting an hour or two in bed, during which time symptoms should subside. If they don't, or if cramping or bleeding is severe, call your doctor or nurse-midwife immediately.

Condoms & Sex During Pregnancy

If your partner has any risk of a sexually transmitted disease, then a condom can help protect you from contracting any infection from him. Physiologically, the mucous plug situated between your cervix and uterus will block most bacteria from reaching your baby during pregnancy. However, if your partner's sexual activities are at all in question, a condom is still recommended. We encourage open, honest communication between partners during this time. Talk about it, and talk with your doctor, nurse-midwife if you feel uncomfortable. Remember, you're not the first woman to go through this.

If your partner ejaculates into your vagina, chemicals found in semen will sometimes cause mild stimulation to the cervix, which in turn can bring on a harmless but painful bout of cramping. Using a condom can prevent this.

Below is a list we've created to address some of the most common fears about sex during pregnancy:

Orgasm During Pregnancy Will Cause Bleeding

Many women are frightened about climaxing during pregnancy. These fears are unfounded. While orgasms do cause your uterus to contract, those contractions do not result in cervical dilation, and that's why they won't initiate labor. In the study on premature labor reported in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2001, researchers found that an orgasm occurring late in pregnancy - with or without intercourse - appeared to reduce the risk of pre-term delivery.

Depending on your particular health-circumstances, your doctor may determine that sex may cause problems, so please heed the advice and abstain. Make certain that you clearly understand your doctor's instructions, including why sexual activity is being limited and for how long.

When it comes to sex during pregnancy, be aware if any of following conditions exist:

Vaginal bleeding at any time during your pregnancy. Remember that light spotting is often a normal part of pregnancy, particularly following intercourse. If you are diagnosed with placenta previa, a condition in which the placental sac, which holds and supports your baby during pregnancy, slips downward to cover a portion of your cervical opening. This, in turn, may increase the risk of early cervical dilation and premature labor, both of which can sometimes be aggravated by sexual stimulation.

If you are carrying more than one baby, you may have to refrain from intercourse starting late in your second trimester and into the start of your third trimester. In some instances, your doctor may extend or renew the "no intercourse" orders in the final weeks of your pregnancy to help ensure against early labor and give your babies as much developmental time in your uterus as is possible.

Sexual Intercourse Positions During Pregnancy

Woman on Top

Your partner lies flat on his back, while you perch over him. Since lying face-down may be difficult, many women find it much more comfortable simply to straddle their partner and remain in a semi-sitting position. This posture also enables you to control the thrust of your partner's penis, which may help make intercourse more comfortable for you.


In this position, you lie on your left side, your body curled in a C position, with knees drawn up and arms in front. Your partner, who should be facing your back, mimics the position, curling or "spooning" around you. His arms can go around your body, so he is free to touch your breasts or your vagina. For intercourse he enters your vagina from behind, while both of you remain lying on your left side.

Side by Side

This position can be very helpful if you are experiencing any vaginal irritation during intercourse. In this position, you lie on your left side facing your partner, who is lying on his right side. He slips one leg over yours (your leg can be straight or bent), which allows him to enter your vagina at an angle. Not only will this help keep his weight off your tummy, it also enables him to control the thrust of his entry, which in turn may be more comfortable for you.

Edge of The Bed

In the late stages of pregnancy, when even lying on your side becomes difficult, this position can be helpful. Sit on the edge of the bed, legs spread, with both feet planted on the floor. Then, slowly lower the upper half of your body back onto the bed, keeping your buttocks as close to the edge of the mattress as possible. For intercourse, your partner can stand or bend over you, with entry through the front of your vagina. Because this position allows your partner the deepest penetration, be careful not to thrust too hard.

Hands and Knees

Begin by kneeling with the calves of your legs tucked under your thighs. Then, rise up slightly, stretching your arms out to place the palms of your hands on the bed. Your partner enters your vagina from behind. To help stimulate you, his hands can wrap around your body, cupping your breasts and stimulating your genitals. This is the best position to allow for manual stimulation and may increase your chance of a multiple orgasm.

A Final Word

While sex may not be the first thing on your mind during pregnancy, try to remember that a warm, nurturing, intimate relationship can not only put that wonderful "glow" in your cheeks, it may also help draw you and your partner closer together. Staying physically close during pregnancy can also go a long way in establishing the fact that becoming parents doesn't have to mean you must stop being lovers.