A good sex life is an important part of a healthy life – it can affect a woman’s self-esteem, well-being, and relationship. This is true whether she’s pregnant or not.
But despite the fact that sex and pregnancy are as natural as can be, put the two together, and it’s not unusual for couples to have questions and concerns. And it can be a pretty difficult topic to bring up with a doctor.
These are some of the reasons that gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Padmini Prasad decided to talk to women about their sex lives during pregnancy. She interviewed 50 women between the ages of 19 and 39, who were at different stages of their pregnancies.
Thirty of the women were into intercourse during their pregnancies, though only two were getting it on right up until they delivered their baby, Dr Prasad learned. But others found they were only up for hugging and kissing their partners, and 15 women didn’t have any sex at all.
Everyone is different, and the physical and hormonal changes taking place in a woman’s body mean that some will be in the mood for sex, while others simply won’t. There are all sorts of other ways to get intimate, including cuddling, kissing, oral sex, and masturbation.
Some women may feel more sensation and pleasure due to increased blood flow to their genitals during pregnancy. But for others, it could be just plain uncomfortable and painful, Dr Prasad explained. A woman’s breasts might also be more tender and sensitive than usual.
When it came to sexual desire, a low sex drive was an issue for 18 women, and 20 had problems reaching orgasm when they were pregnant. And just over 20 of the women said their partners had problems during sex, including trouble getting or keeping an erection, premature ejaculation, and lower libido.
For women who do have an orgasm, they might feel their uterus get hard and tighten afterwards. This can be uncomfortable, but it’s nothing to worry about – it’s just the ‘Braxton Hicks contractions’ which are a normal part of pregnancy.
And all the action can get the baby excited. After sex, it's also common to feel the baby moving around and kicking afterwards – again, this is perfectly okay.
It’s normal for desire and arousal to vary during the three trimesters of pregnancy. Sexual activity was definitely the lowest during the first trimester when many of the women said they felt nauseous and tired and just didn’t have much desire for sex.
During the second trimester, the women were in the mood for love once more. But then they had quite a bit less sex from the eighth month onwards, because of tiredness, weakness, and the size of their bellies.
Speaking of bellies, what sexual positions did these women and their partners find comfortable? Sitting up was most common, though the women also had intercourse on their sides, either spooning or with their partner in front of them, or in the missionary position.
Most women can have intercourse while they’re pregnant, as long as it’s not a high-risk pregnancy, and there are no complications, Dr Prasad said. And women don’t have to worry about harming their baby: the amniotic fluid and strong muscles of the uterus easily protect the baby during intercourse.
After giving birth, four of the women felt up for sex within a month. But it took longer for others – up to six months or more. A woman’s body needs time to recover and it’s a good idea to ask your doctor to make sure it’s okay to have intercourse again.
Being positive and happy about their pregnancy, and feeling attractive, can have an important effect on a woman’s sex life, said Dr Prasad.
And the secret to sexual satisfaction during pregnancy? 'Communication, openness, and a little experimentation'
Source: Poster and Abstract: Prasad, P. (2015). Sex and Pregnancy (An Observational Study). Presented at the Congress of the World Association for Sexual Health.
Do you have questions about having sex when you're pregnant or after delivery? Check out our forum, Let's Talk!