If you are surprised or worried that your sex life has changed during pregnancy, try this memory exercise. Think back in your life and consider any 40-week period since you’ve been an adult. Now think about what was happening in your sex life over those 9-10 months. Have you ever had a period of time (excluding when you weren’t having any sex at all, not even with yourself) when your sex life actually stayed exactly the same? Probably not.
Our sex lives are always changing. Sometimes we want more sex, sometimes we want less sex. Sometimes sex is easier to get than other times. The same is true during the 40 or so weeks of pregnancy. But when it comes to sex during pregnancy many of us think about a decline in sex as inevitable and also a problem. We are at once worried that if we stop having sex it might be a harbinger of a sexless relationship to come AND we may genuinely not feel like having sex as much, for a variety of reasons.
The truth about sex during pregnancy is that some people want sex more, some want sex less, and most people say it changes over the course of three trimesters. What it looks like for you depends on you, your partner, and your experience of pregnancy. It’s complicated, which can make it hard to untangle sometimes, especially if you aren’t used to talking about bodies and sex openly with your partner.
If you’re already noticing a change, and you aren’t sure what it means or where to start, findgirlsdating.com give six common reasons sex may change, and six things you can if you want to address the change in some way.
You Know Too Much About Pregnancy
By the time you’re pregnant (or living with someone who is) you already know a lot about pregnancy and pregnant bodies. What you know may have no connection to what it’s really like, but if you grew up in the world, you’ve been exposed to thousands of messages about what it means to be pregnant. ost of us learn that a pregnant body is fragile, that it is sacred, that it is to be monitored and worried about. We are taught to be in awe of pregnancy, but that awe is more magical/spiritual than sexual. Sexualizing a pregnant body is not something we learn about (except from a certain sub-genre of pornography…which itself isn’t the best place for learning about sex).
What You Can Do: You can’t forget what you’ve learned. You can learn new things, but the old knowledge doesn’t get erased. Who we are as sexual beings is as much a result of what we’ve learned and what we know as it is our hormones. One of the reasons that sex changes during pregnancy is we learn in a thousand tiny ways that pregnancy isn’t a sexual time. It’s ironic of course, since sex educators tie reproduction to sex all the time. But still, there it is. If you want to change something about how sex is happening (or not) during pregnancy, instead of trying to “forget” what you already know, take some time to unpack it by talking with your partner. And then learn something new!
Your Patterns and Routines
If you’re pregnant and in a relationship chances are the person you’re having sex with is someone you’ve had sex with a bunch of times already. You know each others bodies, you know what each other likes, you know what each other expects. You already have a sexual routine and patterns that you’re used to. One of the reasons that sex can become a flashpoint during pregnancy is because more than other parts of our lives, we can get stuck in sexual patterns and routines, where we come to believe that we know all there is to know about our own and our partner’s sexuality.
This is never the case. There is always something new to discover. Neither of you can never know everything there is to know about your partner, since you can’t really know everything there is to know about your own sexual body and desires.
But it’s easy for us to forget that fact and think that we know the limits of our sexual lives. What makes pregnancy such a shock to the sexual ecosystem is that you have these patterns, and you don’t usually think about them or talk about them. Let’s break it down a bit further.
The Third Party
As soon as you know you are pregnant it’s hard not to spend at least some time imagining just what it is that’s growing inside you. Whether you think of the embryo, a fetus, a person, an unusually fast growing collection of cells, or something else, all of the sudden a pregnant person isn’t just one person. They are a person with something (or someone) inside them.
One of the common reasons people give for having less sex during pregnancy is fear of harming the fetus or the pregnant person. What doesn’t get talked about is the experience of all of a sudden having to think about a third party in your sex life at all. This is not a minor change in your sex life.
Where before there were two people having sex, now there are the two of you plus one. Regardless of what you think that one is, your awareness can’t help but be drawn to it sometimes.
If the sex you are having is genitally focused, then this new third party is right there, all up in that action, as it were. This can feel confusing and even inappropriate, to the point where people simply stop having sex so they don’t have to deal with these unusual feelings, which can often be more unconscious than conscious.
What You Can Do: There’s no one way to “deal” with this, because it’s about your individual experience and that will be different for each of us. It’s also perfectly okay to give this some thought and then put it away. Sex during pregnancy needn’t be a form of psychoanalysis (unless you want it to).
For some people the third party may be no big deal. For some it might feel great. For others it can feel like something is holding you back, making sex less enjoyable. And for others it can make having good sex seem impossible. Start by checking in on your own about this, before you talk about it with your partner.
It might help to alleviate any concerns you have about safety by talking with your doctor or midwife. But after that there may be more to consider. Give yourself time and permission to acknowledge that there may be more going on for you. You may want to ask yourself some questions:
- During sex do you become aware of the fetus? If so, what sorts of things are you thinking about?
- When you’re having sex do you find yourself thinking about the future in ways you never have before?
- Do you feel like you are holding yourself back from sexual connection or sexual abandon?
If there’s questions seem bizarre to you, that’s fine. But for some people they aren’t. And even if they don’t fit for you, maybe asking them will prompt other questions you have been mulling over consciously or not.
Your Body Changes
Throughout our life out body is constantly changing. But there are only a few times when our body undergoes such dramatic changes in such a relatively short time span. Do you remember puberty? Do you recall it as a time when you were in love with your body? When you felt especially grounded? Probably not. Pregnancy isn’t the same thing as puberty, but denial leads most of us to think about our bodies as relatively fixed, something we can know. And when our bodies prove us wrong (which they do during pregnancy) it can mess us up a bit.
If you are pregnant your body is not only changing, but working in ways it never has before. One stunning example of this is that your body creates a brand new organ, from scratch, only to jettison it 40 weeks later. Hormones change the way your muscles and ligaments stretch and feel, which in turn can change how you move through the world. Breasts change in size, look, and sensitivity. Many people talk about feeling as if their vagina is changing as well.
What may seem like small changes to the way you hold yourself, the way you sleep, the way you move through space, can nonetheless feel like they throw you off your sexual routine. The answer doesn’t have to be a halt to sex for the next nine months.
What You Can Do: We all have issues with our bodies. If you’ve tried in the past to talk about this with your partner, and if it didn’t go well (it often doesn’t) you may feel like bringing it up now that one of you is pregnant is way out of line. But it isn’t. Talking about how your body is changing doesn’t need to become a therapy session, and it isn’t about disclosing every thought and feeling. But if you feel like there’s something you can’t talk about, that creates a difficult space that can grow as quickly as, say, something else you’re growing.
If you’re living with your partner then you are both aware of these changes and you’re probably both making adjustments based on them. Not talking can lead to feeling resentful, and in the silence both of you are probably making stuff up about how the other feels. Even if you aren’t sure what to say, making space where it’s okay to talk about how physical changes are impacting your life is crucial.
Your Desires Change
Hormones are the convenient scapegoat for all sorts of emotional and psychological changes during pregnancy. They get blamed for sexual changes also. Research on this is inconclusive. At least one study that measured hormone levels during pregnancy and tracked sexual activity did not find a correlation between the two.
But desire for sex – both to have it and what kind of “it” to have – will undoubtedly change during pregnancy. This becomes a bigger problem when we assume that our patterns and routines are what’s “normal” and anything else is strange.
How much sex you want and what kind of sex you want changes across any time period. Many people who menstruate, and more than a few people who don’t, talk about how their desire for sex rises and falls according to a rhythm that is felt both internally and externally.
It can be confusing if our sexual desires change in ways that don’t match all those early messages about pregnancy. A person who finds themselves in their second trimester with a desire to explore a kind of rough sex they’ve never had before might worry not only about the safety issues, but about what it means to be pregnant and want to have rough sex? Does it mean there’s something wrong with them?
The answer is no. And what kind of sex you actually have will depend on many things. But what is certain is that denying desires you have (whether you act on them or not) will impact your sex life.
What You Can Do: Start by knowing and acknowledging that changes in sexual desire are okay, and that the range of sexual activities open to a pregnant person are vast. Most healthcare professionals agree that unless there is something happening that specifically cautions against it, there’s nothing wrong with having an active sex life through your entire pregnancy. If hearing this from a doctor or midwife will help, then ask. It might seem strange but for some couples, pregnancy is a time when their sex lives change for the better because they have to stretch and expand beyond their routines.
What Feels Good Changes
There are some predictable changes across pregnancy that may affect how a pregnant person responds sexually. For example, breasts get bigger and more sensitive. Someone who previously loved nipple stimulation may find it irritating or painful, or just unwelcome. On the other hand someone who never liked it might now love it. Changes in body shape, size, flexibility, as well as lubrication can all mean that what felt great before – that magic move or spot that always “worked” – does nothing or turns you off completely.
These changes often become a problem when communication breaks down.
Sometimes the pregnant person goes along with sex as it used to be. They either ignore or choose not to tell their partner if they aren’t enjoying sex, or if some things are uncomfortable. This understandably leads them to not wanting to have sex at all. In this scenario their partner may be aware that something isn’t “clicking” without knowing why. An awkwardness develops and if you can’t talk about it, it easily creates a wedge between you.
Sometimes the pregnant person does say that things aren’t working, but does so in a way that feels like a rejection not of technique but of their partner. The partner hearing no, combined with their own ideas and concerns about sex during pregnancy, can result in them deciding it’s better to give up and not initiate sex in the future. Again, if no one talks about what’s going on this can easily lead to a complete halt to sexual intimacy during pregnancy.
What You Can Do: Have a conversation, when you aren’t in bed and aren’t about to have sex, about what it’s like for each of you to ask for what you want and hear yes or no from your partner. If one of you finds it hard to say no, or to stop in the middle of sex because you have a cramp or are feeling pain, work together on what would make it easier. Maybe you choose a funny code word that means “I don’t want to stop having sex, but need to take a break from what we’re doing at the moment.”
Maybe you agree to check in more during sex (this doesn’t have to be a big deal once you get in the habit of it, it could be as simple as an “ok?” or even a moment of exchanged looks). If you’re the pregnant person, you may also want to take some time to explore your body on your own through masturbation. There’s always something new to learn, even about ourselves.