The Nest

Sexuality and Maternity: A Guide to Sex During & After Pregnancy

Your body will go through a whirlwind of emotions, sensations, and feelings during and after pregnancy. That’s not surprising. Thousands of books and blogs are dedicated to exploring just how and why your body and emotions change or fluctuate both during and after pregnancy. However, finding resources on how maternity affects your sexuality isn’t as simple.

Each woman’s experience with pregnancy is unique — some sail through pregnancy with relative ease while others may struggle. Furthermore, the specific ways in which different women struggle also differs. However, you can expect certain predictable changes to your sexuality, mood, and sleep patterns.

In this comprehensive guide, we discuss everything related to sexuality and maternity. We start with the question women ask most often, is sex during pregnancy safe?” Moving from that, we discuss when you can or cant have sex during pregnancy, the changes you can expect through the trimesters, and finally, how you can recover your sex drive after childbirth.

Continue reading for a comprehensive guide to sexuality and maternity.

Sex During Pregnancy: Is it Safe?

It’s completely safe for women to have sex during pregnancy unless they’ve been specifically told otherwise by their doctors. In fact, certain stages of pregnancy may also be linked with an increase in sex drive. And as we explore later in this article, sex during pregnancy can also have certain benefits. However, you should also abstain from sex in certain situations (which we’ll discuss later.)

Sex During Pregnancy - Is it Safe?

Some women avoid sex during pregnancy because they’re afraid it might harm the baby, increase the risk of a miscarriage, or induce early labor. However, during a typical pregnancy, sex doesnt harm the baby because of the amniotic fluid, strong uterus muscles, and mucus plugs around the cervix. Numerous studies have proven that vaginal sex doesn’t increase the risk of premature birth or labor.

However, in some cases, orgasms and sexual penetration can induce Braxton Hicks contractions during the late stages of pregnancy. Braxton Hicks are mild contractions experienced towards the end of the final trimester. However, these contractions don’t lead to early labor or birth, so there’s nothing to worry about. You should only abstain from sex upon the doctor’s recommendations.

Vaginal Sex

Vaginal sex during pregnancy doesn’t harm the baby. The amniotic fluid, uterine walls, and cervix keep the baby safe at all times. However, you should listen to your body and do what feels comfortable. Some women experience discomfort or pain during deep penetration when they’re pregnant. If that’s the case, avoid deep penetration. Most pregnant women say that the most comfortable position is sex while lying on the side.

Oral Sex

Women can safely engage in oral sex at all stages of pregnancy. In some cases, women even prefer oral sex to vaginal sex during the latter stages of pregnancy. However, your partner should avoid blowing into your vagina because it can potentially cause an embolism or blood bubbles. While incredibly rare, an embolism can potentially cause heart failures and other life-threatening problems.

Anal Sex

Women can safely engage in anal sex as long as they’re comfortable and not suffering from health conditions related to the lower digestive system, such as hemorrhoids. Women often develop hemorrhoids when the weight of the fetus pushes against the intestines, making the surrounding veins swell. In this case, anal sex may cause discomfort, pain, or bleeding. As always, do what feels comfortable to you.

Masturbation

Women can safely engage in masturbation with or without their partners during pregnancy unless told otherwise by the doctor. In fact, masturbation during pregnancy is incredibly beneficial because it relieves tension while placing all the control in your hands. Any sex toys you use must be cleaned thoroughly to prevent bacterial transmission in the vagina. However, you should avoid masturbation if your doctor has asked you to limit orgasms.

When to Avoid Sex During Pregnancy?

When to avoid sex during pregnancy

  • When your obstetrician or healthcare professional has advised against sex or orgasms.
  • When you have cervical issues, that can increase the risk of miscarriage or premature labor.
  • When you’re pregnant with twins.
  • When you have a placenta previa that covers the cervical entrance.
  • When your cervix opens prematurely due to cervical incompetence.
  • When you have a history of premature labor.
  • When you have unexplained vaginal bleeding.
  • When your amniotic fluid is leaking.
  • When your water has broken.

Benefits of Sex During Pregnancy

Benefits of sex during pregnancy

  • Bonding: Sex during pregnancy is a safe means of connecting and bonding with your partner in a period that’s often marked by emotional turbulence. Sexual intimacy can help you bond and sail through this period.
  • Physical Health: Sex can lower your blood pressure and burn some calories, which, in turn, can help you remain healthy.
  • Alleviate Pain: Orgasms release a pleasure-inducing chemical called oxytocin, alleviating pain and discomfort from backaches and other pregnancy-related concerns.
  • Improve Sleep: Sex during pregnancy alleviates mental anxieties and helps you sleep comfortably. That’s because sex burns calories and orgasms release feel-good hormones.
  • Boost Immunity: According to a study, sex increases an antibody called IgA that keeps the common cold and other infections at bay, boosting your overall immunity.
  • Recover Quickly: Sex strengthens your pelvic floor muscles, providing similar benefits as Kegel exercises. As such, sex during pregnancy prepares your body for recovery after childbirth.

Sex During Pregnancy: How Does it Feel?

Pregnancy may affect your sex drive and the experience of sex in unpredictable ways. Different women have different experiences — theres no typical response. However, increased blood flow to the genitals and a boost of hormones generally increase the sex drive, especially around the second trimester. However, some women experience a decrease in sex drive due to physical pains, discomfort, and hormonal fluctuations.

Sex During Pregnancy: How Does it Feel?

Below, we identify some of the most common changes you can expect while having sex during pregnancy.

  • Easier Orgasms: Some women experience easier orgasms during pregnancy due to the increased blood flow in the genitals and higher levels of estrogen and progesterone. In fact, some women also report having had orgasms for the first time during pregnancy.
  • Increased Sensitivity: During pregnancy, there’s a 50% increase in blood flow to the vulva, pelvis, vagina, and clitoris, engorging and enlarging the tissues. Blood flow also increases around the breasts and nipples. As such, you may experience increased sensitivity in these regions, which may also increase your sexual appetite.
  • Increased Lubrication: Some women experience extra wetness and instant lubrication during pregnancy. That’s because your body increases secretions and lubrication to fight bacteria and protect the baby. This can improve the sexual experience, but some women also say it enhances the sensation of vaginal laxity.
  • Bodily Changes: Women experience a weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds (10 to 15 kgs) during a 40-week pregnancy. While some may experience discomfort due to these changes, others feel more comfortable in their voluptuous figure. You’ll develop fuller breasts and rounder hips, which might affect how you perceive your body and sexuality.
  • Emotional Liberation: Women often experience emotional liberation during pregnancy. Without having to worry about weight gains and your changing figure, you can let loose and embrace your curvaceous figure. The emotional liberation of pregnancy can reduce stress levels and help you enjoy healthier sex life.

Your Sex Drive Through the Trimesters

Trimester 1 (Weeks 1 to 13)

Women often undergo a decrease in sexual desire and satisfaction during the first trimester of pregnancy. Thats because the first couple of weeks are marked by surging hormones, uncomfortable physical sensations, and mental stress, resulting in reduced libido. At this stage, an embryo implants in the uterine wall to produce a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), stimulating the production of estrogen and progesterone. This can lead to mood swings, nausea, stress, digestive problems, excessive tenderness, and fatigue. However, some women report the opposite — an increase in sex drive during the first trimester.

Trimester 2 (Weeks 14 to 27)

Women often undergo a sudden spike in sexual desire and satisfaction during the second trimester of pregnancy. The levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) spike around the 6th week, followed by a steady decline that reduces morning sickness and fatigue. However, the estrogen and progesterone levels continue rising to protect the growing baby. As such, the combination of increased hormones and reduced fatigue leads to an increased libido. Furthermore, the increased estrogen levels also cause increased blood flow to the vulva and vaginal lubrication, increasing arousal and sexual satisfaction.

Trimester 3 (Weeks 28 to 40)

Your Sex Drive Through the Trimesters

Women experience some of their greatest physical challenges in the final trimester of pregnancy, leading to another dip in sexual desire. This stage is marked by excessive swelling, rapid weight gains, body aches, backaches, and much more, making sexual activity uncomfortable and difficult. While you may have the desire to have sex, you may find certain sexual positions uncomfortable. As such, at this stage, women are usually most comfortable having sex lying sideways. You can also experiment with different sexual positions, mindfulness, and other forms of intimacy with your partner.

Sex Positions & Tips for Couples

Sex Positions to Try When Pregnant

  • Doggy style — sex from behind

Pregnancy Sex Position Doggy Style

  • Cowgirl — you’re on top and facing your partner

Pregnancy Sex Position Cow Girl

  • Spooning side-by-side

Pregnancy Sex Position Spooning

  • Reverse cowgirl — you’re on top and facing away from your partner

Pregnancy Sex Position Reverse Cow Girl

  • Standing sex

Pregnancy Sex Position Standing

  • Seated sex

Pregnancy Sex Position Seated

Sex Positions to Avoid When Pregnant

  • Missionary position with you on the bottom (compresses blood flow after the 20th week)
  • Prone position — lying flat on the stomach

Other Sex-Related Tips for Pregnant Women

  • Don’t blow air up the vagina during oral sex
  • Use pregnancy pillows for support during sex
  • Use lubrication and sex toys for more comfort
  • Focus more on clitoral stimulation with toys or fingers
  • Listen to your body and do what feels comfortable
  • Always use contraceptives, such as condoms and dental dams, to protect yourself and your baby from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Restoring Your Sex Drive After Childbirth

Most women feel exhausted and drained after nine grueling months of pregnancy and the trials of childbirth. After all that physical and emotional exhaustion, its natural that your sex drive will be inhibited. In fact, obstetricians and gynecologists agree that women and their partners find that their libidos hit rock-bottom for six to nine months after the child's birth. A decrease in sex drive can be due to the trials associated with raising an infant, the physiological effects of pregnancy, and other emotional factors.

Below, we discuss techniques, mindsets, and methods to gradually restore your sex drive after childbirth.

Realistic Expectations

Women often feel sad or dissatisfied if their sex lives and sexuality don’t simply snap back into their pre-pregnancy levels. However, most of that dissatisfaction occurs due to false expectations propagated by media, celebrity magazines, etc. However, experts say that the first six weeks after childbirth are incredibly hard for women because of postpartum hormonal changes. As such, you must set realistic expectations, go easy on yourself, and realize that your sex life will improve over time, but you’ll need patience.

As such, both you and your male partner are likely to be less than enthusiastic about sex.

Youll probably have trouble having sex for the first few weeks after childbirth. Your estrogen levels may dip down to the menopausal range, and your vagina may seem dry and incapable of natural lubrication. On the other hand, studies have also shown that mens testosterone levels fall significantly when they become fathers or interact with their babies. As such, both you and your male partner are likely to be less than enthusiastic about sex. Attempts at sex may be listless, uncomfortable, or even painful.

At this stage, you must be gentle with yourself. It has taken you nine months to go through pregnancy; allow your body nine months to return to normalcy.

Make Time

The prospect of finding time for sex immediately after childbirth may seem impossible for some people. Your baby will probably demand all of your (and your partners) time and attention, and you might be skating by on a few stolen moments of sleep. Due to the lack of sleep, insufficient time, constant chores around the house, and emotional exhaustion, you might not feel very sexy… and thats okay. However, the best way to restore your libido is to make time for yourself, even when it seems impossible.

Instead, do whatever makes you feel good at the moment — take a nap, have a bubble bath, listen to music, whatever makes you feel good.

You can ask your mother, father, cousins, neighbors, or friends to look after your baby for just two hours a day. If you have the means, you can also hire a nanny to help with the baby. And when you have time, focus on relaxing and calming yourself. Dont focus on other chores and tasks, and dont even force yourself to have sex. Instead, do whatever makes you feel good at the moment — take a nap, have a bubble bath, listen to music, whatever makes you feel good.

Those two hours of relaxation will gradually make you feel more comfortable tending to your babys needs the rest of the day. Over time, you can even rediscover your sexuality. While in the mood, use a sex toy or vibrator like Obii for clitoral stimulation or vaginal penetration. And when youre prepared, mentally and physically, you can try having sex again. Even a short two-hour vacation from the trying task of raising a baby can help you rediscover your sexuality.

Biird Obii Cuddly Bird Clit Sucker

Gentle Touches

Young parents devote so much time to their babies that they often disconnect from each other. Besides the emotional exhaustion of raising a baby, the disconnection is also caused by physiological factors. When we hug, make love, kiss, or breastfeed, our bodies release oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that makes us feel emotionally fulfilled. After childbirth, women and their partners end up getting their oxytocin from the baby. This makes them gradually disconnect from each other, which, in turn, affects their sexual desires.

Even during the first couple of weeks, when you have no sexual appetite, make time for gentle touches.

To restore your sexual desires and libido, you must remember each other. Start talking to each other, even if its about something seemingly insignificant. Touch each other to release oxytocin and feel connected again. Even during the first couple of weeks, when you have no sexual appetite, make time for gentle touches. Give each other massages, foot rubs, and other forms of endearing acts that keep you connected. Do whatever feels right at the moment. As for sex, take whatever opportunities present themselves, such as the babys naps.

Over time, as you rediscover each others bodies and sexual desires, your libidos will also follow suit.

Be Honest

Young mothers often say they feel like sex has become just another item in their never-ending to-do list of tasks — do the laundry, clean the dishes, change the babys diapers, feed the baby, put the baby to sleep, have sex, etc. If sex has started to feel like a chore rather than something you actively look forward to, you need to reevaluate your desires and needs. You need to be honest not just with your partner but also with yourself.

Its only through honesty that youll eventually rediscover your libido.

You must have a clear and open talk about your changing needs, including what does or doesnt feel good. Perhaps you simply want to enjoy non-sexual time with your partner, perhaps you want some space, or perhaps you want to rediscover your sexuality on your own terms (whatever that looks like.) Its only through honesty that youll eventually rediscover your libido. And your sexual desires may never be the same as they once were, and thats okay too. Different isnt worst; its just different.

Self Care

The best way to restore your sexual desires and libido after childbirth is through self-care. Some women feel selfish about thinking of self-care” after pregnancy because they believe their entire selves should be devoted to the baby. However, to take care of the baby effectively, you need to be at your best as well. Theres nothing wrong with taking time off being a mother to simply… be yourself. However, self-care goes beyond simply relaxing and eating, though thats a part of it.

Over time, this will restore your sexual feeling… though you must have patience.

Make a conscious attempt to eat healthily, get at least a few minutes of exercise per day, and work on your well-being. You can also devote yourself to a few minutes of Kegel exercises per day to restore your vaginal health and strengthen your pelvic muscles. Kegel exercises are simple — tighten your pelvic muscles repeatedly, as if youre trying to keep from peeing. Over time, this will restore your sexual feeling… though you must have patience.

As long as you look after yourself and remain honest about your desires, youll gradually restore your sexual desires. While you might never feel like your pre-pregnancy self again, thats okay; you can simply discover the new you.

About Author
Ellie Cooper
Ellie is a freelance writer and pleasure enthusiast. She is very comfortable talking about vaginas, scaling mountains and eating spicy food, but not parallel parking. She lives with a very tubby cat named Charles who likes to get involved with the writing process by sleeping on her keyboard.
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