Fostering intimacy during pregnancy—including having sex—can be difficult for expecting mothers and their partners. Understanding how pregnancy changes libido and learning the safe ways to engage in sex during pregnancy can help pregnant moms stay close to their partners while preparing for baby’s arrival.
Your Libido During Pregnancy
We know that pregnancy sends your hormones into overdrive, often causing expecting moms to feel more emotional than they had before they became pregnant. This change in levels of estrogen, progesterone, and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) can also cause changes in a pregnant woman’s libido—sometimes by increasing it.1 Add to that an increase in blood flow to the genitals, and expectant moms may find themselves more aroused than usual during some portions of their pregnancy journey.2 Unless your healthcare provider has specific watch-outs for you and your partner, you can have sex if desired. 1
While no two pregnancies are the same and no two women will experience the exact same pregnancy symptoms, research supports the following patterns of what you can reasonably expect to your libido during pregnancy:
First trimester: Hormone surges, nausea, mood swings—the earliest stage of pregnancy is not often when expecting moms are feeling amorous.3 Self-care and fostering new pregnancy intimacy with a partner are best to focus on in the first three months.
Second trimester: Women who experience a libido boost during pregnancy typically feel it during their second trimester. Hormone spikes—especially that of hCG—taper off, estrogen and progesterone continue to rise, and all-around comfort and energy typically increases.4
Third trimester: Here is where sex may become uncomfortable again, but in ways distinct from the first trimester.5 Fostering intimacy in other, non-sexual ways becomes important during this portion of pregnancy.
If you don’t feel like you’re in the mood during pregnancy, that’s OK. Not everyone woman experiences a lift in libido or even desires sex during pregnancy. There’s a lot more to intimacy during pregnancy or any time than sex, though.
Fostering Intimacy During Pregnancy
Intimacy—whether physical or emotional—is about so much more than sex, of course. While you and your partner are preparing your home and lives for your forthcoming little one, you may find it hard to devote time to your relationship and foster intimacy during pregnancy. Here are some things to try to keep the fires burning and your connection strong through birth and beyond:
Talk it out. Whether you discuss your changing body, shifting from being only a partner to being a mother too, or any other portions of the agony and ecstasy of a baby entering your life, keeping lines of communication open will help you and your partner continue to foster an intimate connection throughout pregnancy.6
Enjoy the senses—especially touch. If massages were already a part of your routine as a couple, keep that up. If not, take this time to explore each other’s bodies through touch and massage.7 Not only will the swollen feet and aching back that often come with pregnancy have a chance to be soothed, but it’s a fantastic way for both expecting mother and her partner to get to know and become comfortable with her changing body.
Dress the way you’d like to feel. If you want to physically connect with your partner but you’re not feeling as amorous as you’d like, consider finding yourself some maternity wear that makes you feel sexy. Your changing body may be throwing you for a loop but finding flattering clothing and lingerie can go a long way toward boosting your self-esteem and getting you in the mood for love.8
Take a babymoon. Some couples opt to enjoy one last intimate hurrah together before baby’s arrival—a second honeymoon of sorts.9 Whether or not sex is on the menu isn’t as important as the two of you spending uninterrupted quality alone time together. You don’t have to travel far—a staycation can accomplish the same thing if you leave your phones on silent.
Taking the time to strengthen your partnership can take time (which you may not feel you have a lot of while pregnant), but putting in the work while waiting for baby to be born can help your relationship stay strong after baby arrives—which may prove especially helpful for moms who find they have the baby blues or postpartum depression.
Safe Sex Positions During Pregnancy
A good rule of thumb for engaging in sex during pregnancy is if it feels good, it’s safe. That being said, there are certain positions that are safer for expecting moms and their pregnant bellies as her pregnancy progresses:
Positions with the expectant mother on top. Whether it’s cowgirl, reverse cowgirl10 , or another iteration of the pregnant partner being on top11 during sex, these positions are sure to keep both mom and her baby belly safe while being intimate.
Positions with both partners on their sides. Not only do side-by-side12 or spoons13 positions foster a lot of closeness and opportunity to enjoy being held, they ensure that mom stays comfortable and off her back.
Positions in which the penetrating partner enters from behind. Pregnant bellies can be shielded completely when the giving partner approaches from behind14, whether the expecting mother is on hands and knees, bent over, or standing15.
If you haven’t asked your doctor during your first prenatal visit about libido changes you have or might experience, there’s no rule that says you can’t inquire as your pregnancy progresses. You may find that your physician has helpful information about fostering intimacy and practicing safe sex during pregnancy that you haven’t already learned.