Sex and Pregnancy: Staying Close as a Couple
Pregnancy can be a time of increased closeness and bonding for couples as they look forward to the birth of their child. Sexual relations can be an important part of that bonding process; however, some couples are hesitant to continue sexual activity during pregnancy out of fear that they may injure the developing baby or cause complications that can bring on labor. In most cases, these fears are unfounded; couples can usually enjoy sexual relations throughout the pregnancy as long as both partners are comfortable and interested in continuing this aspect of their relationship.
Changes In Sexual Desire
Many women experience changes in their level of sexual desire at various periods during their pregnancy due to hormonal changes in the body. This can translate into increased sexual desire during some stages and lessened sexual interest at other times. Some women feel increased sexual desire throughout their pregnancy, while others may feel tired, stressed, and disinterested in sex altogether. All of these hormonal reactions are normal and subside some time after the baby is born.
Some women feel uncomfortable or unattractive due to physical changes caused by pregnancy. Swollen ankles, an expanding waistline and bouts of morning sickness can leave any woman feeling unappealing and in need of reassurance. Expectant fathers can often soothe wounded pride and feelings of insecurity with compliments, cuddles and other expressions of affection. Even if sexual intercourse is off the menu temporarily, couples can still enjoy warm, affectionate closeness and bonding time together.
Emotions During Pregnancy
Moodiness and stress during pregnancy can also cause difficulties in creating the proper atmosphere for sex. Many couples feel overwhelmed with plans and financial responsibilities during this time and may feel rushed, pressured, and tired simultaneously. A weekly date night can help rekindle emotional and sexual closeness for some couples; even if the date consists of simply curling up on the sofa and watching a movie together, the quiet time alone as a couple can strengthen the emotional bond and create the right mood for sexual intimacy.
When To Say No
Some women should not have sexual intercourse during pregnancy due to specific physical conditions that can be worsened by this activity. These conditions include placenta previa, unexplained bleeding or discharge, dilated cervix or cervical insufficiency, cramping, and premature labor. Additionally, women should not engage in sex after their water has broken or if they believe they may be in labor. Women with a history of miscarriages or premature births may also wish to avoid sexual relations during the third trimester, since the contractions caused by orgasm can sometimes trigger labor contractions during this time.
For most couples, sexual intercourse is permitted and even recommended as long as it is comfortable for both partners. The closeness and physical contact experienced during sex can produce oxytocin, a chemical that has been shown to reduce stress and fear and increase levels of trust. Oxytocin is also instrumental in the bonding process between the baby and his or her parents and can help mothers produce and release breast milk during feeding, so providing lots of physical contact during the pregnancy can help couples create a loving, nurturing environment for their new baby from the very start.