Pregnancy: Your changing sexual relationship

Many women experience ups and downs in their sexuality during pregnancy. Read on for relatable tips and scenarios.

changing sexual relationship
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Sexuality rarely stays at a steady level, and pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding can cause significant changes in sexual desire and sexual response. When both partners understand that these changes are normal, it’s easier to take them in stride.

Read more: Pregnancy: Sex drive at an all time high>

The Highs and Lows of Pregnancy
Linda, the mother of a nine-month-old baby boy, says: “In the first trimester of my pregnancy, I felt sick and exhausted most of the time. My breasts hurt and I didn’t want them to be touched. That was hard, because my husband really considered that an important part of making love. But I just wasn’t up to it most of the time.”

“But after I hit four months, everything changed. I felt the baby move, and I felt somehow very powerful — and very sexual. It was a great time for us sexually.”

With all the physical changes taking place in your body, it isn’t surprising that your sexual feelings change, too. During the first three months, when many women experience morning sickness and feel tired much of the time, interest in sex often wanes. (Although increased breast sensitivity and blood flow may boost some women’s sexual responses.) Sexual desire may increase again during the second trimester — as it did for Linda — but the pattern is unpredictable.

Antonia, the mother of five children, points out: “Each pregnancy is different. With some, I was very interested in sex right up until labour. With others, it just seemed too uncomfortable — I felt so heavy in my pelvic area and didn’t want to have sex.”

As pregnancy progresses, it may require some experimentation to find positions for intercourse that are satisfying. Any pressure on the abdominal area may cause discomfort, and the breasts may also be too tender to touch.

Women often feel uncomfortable about the changes in their bodies and worry that they are no longer sexually attractive during — and after — pregnancy. As Antonia says: “Let’s face it, much of the reason my husband was initially interested in me was because he found my body attractive. Well, it doesn’t look like that any more.”

Occasionally it’s the woman’s partner who experiences less interest in sex during pregnancy. He may feel he’s “intruding on” the baby, or feel ill at ease with her body changes. However, most men — including Antonia’s husband Mario — continue to be attracted to their pregnant partners. “Mario told me he loved my body because it gave him children — he even thought the stretch marks were beautiful because he knew they represented the babies I have carried.”

It’s important to talk with your partner about your feelings. If you are uninterested in sex because you feel so tired, or because your favourite position has become uncomfortable, let him know. Otherwise he may feel it’s him you don’t want. During one prenatal class, a father who had been working with his partner on conceiving a baby for over a year commented that he felt she lost interest in him once the pregnancy was achieved. It helped him to hear from other couples in the class that this decreased interest in sex is very common.

Originally published in October 2011. 

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