Sexuality during pregnancy

During pregnancy, many misgivings can arise, particularly regarding sexuality. Here, we discuss causes, consequences and desire trimester by trimester, against the indications of reports. No instructions are available on sexuality during pregnancy. Different viewpoints exist for different couples and even within the medical profession. Thus, the correlation between sexuality and pregnancy should be studied to highlight the different conceptions and untangle truths from myths.

Sexuality and pregnancy: apprehensions and their causes

Most couples develop apprehensions as soon as a pregnancy occurs. This considerably impacts their sexuality, depending on their location. In a contemporary society where sexuality appears relatively trivialised, surprisingly, a pronounced taboo develops when a woman becomes pregnant. The mother-to-be and father-to-be each have ideas about their future roles and responsibilities.

Consequently, sexuality is often disturbed for fear of harming the baby or triggering a premature delivery. Some even refer to the baby as a “voyeur baby”.

This discomfort is more specifically characterised in the father who, mentally, imagines himself in an incestuous relationship, with consequent loss of sexual desire.

Moreover, when a woman has a history of pregnancy complications, she immediately withdraws and avoids sexual contact, fearing that she will recreate the conditions that led to this scenario.

This is a legitimate fear, even if it is illogical. The husband tries to support his wife as best he can during this difficult phase.

He either remains at her side and discusses the subject with her or gives her space and time so that she can face her “motherhood” as she sees fit.

The consequences of these apprehensions

The different apprehensions that arise during pregnancy can create positive or negative consequences depending on how the couple handles them.

A good strategy for sexual adaptation of couples during pregnancy undoubtedly involves communication. “There are always three of us in a relationship: the other, me and the relationship that connects us”; each is responsible for their “end” of the relationship.

Therefore, effective communication is needed. This communication is particularly important during pregnancy because a woman’s body undergoes changes that affect not only sexuality but also her body image, how she perceives herself and how others perceive her. One study reports that 74% of women and 61% of men have talked about sexuality several times with their partner or someone close to them during the gestational period. This positively impacted their relationship.

However, lack of communication within a couple expecting a child can lead to a failure to adapt their sexuality to the pregnancy. Consequently, a huge gap can be created between the spouses as they attempt to find solutions individually.

Many studies report infidelity during pregnancy when the couple is not in harmony. According to Pierrepont’s study in 2016, 4.5% of women and 6.0% of men were unfaithful during pregnancy. According to a study by Doucet-Jeffrayet Miton-Conrath in 2004, 2.8% of men said they had had an extramarital relationship during their partner’s pregnancy. However, a survey by Bajos et al. in 2008 shows that outside pregnancy, 3.6% of men and 1.7% of women in couples reported having had an extramarital relationship in the last 12 months.

In addition to infidelity and separations during pregnancy, domestic violence may also occur. The latter can be within oneself or towards oneself, expressed as depression, and towards the other in the form of psychological pressure or physical abuse. This violence may continue in the postpartum period and influence the family harmony, with divorce occurring some time after the child’s birth.

Understanding the evolution of sexual desire during pregnancy

It is essential to understand the evolution of sexual desire during the gestational period to communicate well about sexuality during pregnancy. Although not all women experience their pregnancy in the same way, certain similarities allow us to establish a grid for understanding sexual desire at each stage of pregnancy.

Sexual desire during the first trimester

Apart from the unfounded fear of a miscarriage that may occur in the first trimester because of sexual intercourse, the libido is often absent. This period is highly emotional. Rising hormone levels create bodily and biological changes that leave little room for sexual desire. Between nausea, constant fatigue, vomiting and irritability, the couple must cope with a tumultuous trimester.

The second trimester or “the honeymoon of pregnancy”

According to Dr Catherine Solano, a sex doctor, the second trimester is often referred to as “the honeymoon of pregnancy”. The woman’s body has had time to adjust to the changes due to pregnancy. The nausea has disappeared, the breasts have increased in size and the belly is not as uncomfortable as it will be later. The man finds his partner sexier, and the woman will feel better about herself.

Sexual desire is reborn in a more beautiful way. Interestingly, vaginal lubrication and female sexual sensations increase due to the intense circulation of blood in the sexual area. Therefore, women are more inclined to have sex, and some even experience their first orgasm during this period.

The third trimester or the home stretch

Inhibition of sexual desire in the third trimester is due mainly to discomfort associated with body changes. No studies have found a correlation between vaginal contractions induced during orgasm and the onset of labour. Therefore, it is possible to have sex up to the end of the pregnancy without risking the lives of the baby or the woman.

The positions usually used will no longer be available due to the larger volume of the belly. It will be necessary to be creative and find new sensations that will please both partners. It is noteworthy that a sexual act does not only involve penetration, so sexual activity can continue to flourish, even with a larger belly.

Sexuality and pregnancy: contraindications

“Many doctors forbade sexual relations to women at risk of premature delivery and did so more as a precautionary principle than because the risk was proven”, Dr Catherine Solano, a sex doctor, explains. In many cases, sexual intercourse is prohibited only as a precautionary measure, as she points out. However, cases of force majeure may occur, where it becomes essential to stop sexual intercourse or to have it protected. These include the following:

- In the case of placenta praevia (covers the cervix), vaginal penetration by the penis, such as during vaginal touching, can cause bleeding.

- In cases of threatened premature delivery, orgasm can cause contractions that change the cervix.

- When STIs or STDs are discovered during pregnancy, it is recommended that a condom is used to prevent transmission and ensure the baby’s safety.

Even if no correlation exists between sexuality and the progress of the pregnancy, couples with harmonious sexuality should not be discouraged from having sex. If the child can feel the mother’s emotions, it is particularly important to keep her in a positive emotional state, and sexuality is a good way to achieve this goal.