There’s a dirty little secret about pregnancy that might be left out of your prenatal class, and it’s got nothing to do with tips on what to pack in your hospital bag. It’s that for some women, being knocked up sends their libidos into overdrive.
Lauren Byrne says that her first pregnancy really increased her sex drive, and pumped up her body image, too. “I loved my belly and had these great boobs,” she says. But her second pregnancy was a different story. She was so sick that she had no sexual desire whatsoever. “I was throwing up every day. I told my husband, ‘Don’t touch me, don’t even look at me,’” she says. “It was not a good nine months for us.” Throughout your pregnancy, there’s going to be a range of physical and emotional changes that affect both your desire for sex andthe pleasure that you get from it. Here are some of the things that could be going on.
Ottawa OB/GYN Doug Black says that many women will experience an increased libido, especially late in the first trimester and beyond, when hormones are high. Also, he says that blood flow to the sexual organs, breasts and vulva is increased, heightening sexual pleasure. That was Toronto mom Jenny Ellis’s* experience. “From second trimester right up until delivery, I’ve never wanted sex more,” she says. “I would wake up horny in the middle of the night. It was crazy.” And it wasn’t just the hormones —Ellis says that not feeling self-conscious about her body for once was a relief. “You’re not fat, you’re not jiggly, you’re not anything—you’re just pregnant!” Ironically, Ellis found that her increased sensitivity meant that intercourse was uncomfortable, so she took matters into her own hands. “Let’s just say I spent a lot of quality time with myself,” she laughs.
Precautions to take
Of course, not every couple experiences nine months full of sweet loving. They may struggle because of the pregnant partner’s discomfort or fatigue, body image issues, stress and, in a few cases, serious medical concerns. “The one thing we worry about is bleeding,” says Black, citing potential causes such as placenta previa (where the placenta sits over the cervix), a prematurely open cervix or a history of preterm labour, as reasons why a doctor might tell a mom-to-be to refrain from sexual activity. But even if you’re not waddling to the bedroom with glee, Calgary psychologist Anu Sharma-Niwa says it’s still vital to maintain intimacy in other ways. “If you aren’t feeling like you want to make love, you need to keep communicating with your partner so he or she doesn’t feel isolated from you during what’s supposed to be a special time for you both. This could include kissing and cuddling, but also just finding time to talk about the mixed bag of emotions that comes with this transition into parenthood,” she says.
Can sex really induce labour?
What about using sex to speed things up at the end? Black says that although there’s no firm research suggesting that it will definitely help kickstart labour, it’s certainly fun to try. When you orgasm there’s a rhythmical contraction of smooth muscles in the genital region, including the uterus. If you have a male partner, his semen contains prostaglandin and when you climax your body releases oxytocin (two of the chemicals used artificially to induce labour), so there could be some benefit in having unprotected sex close to your due date.
Get frisky or don’t, but keep your partner close either way. Because once your baby arrives, feeling connected is what will get you through those exhausting and wonderful first few months.
* name has been changed
** Finding pregnant sex awkward or even painful? It might be a good time to try some new positions. Because deep penetration can hurt later in pregnancy, try lying side by side in “spoons,” which keeps penetration more shallow.
Stay in touch
Subscribe to Today's Parent's daily newsletter for our best parenting news, tips, essays and recipes.