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Is pregnancy putting your sex life on pause?
November 17th, 2011
07:13 AM ET

Is pregnancy putting your sex life on pause?

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him on his website, GoodInBed.

If you and your partner are expecting, congratulations! All that conception sex I talked about last week has finally paid off. And after months - or more - of timing your sexual rendezvous to an ovulation schedule, it may seem like there’s no better time to take a timeout in the bedroom.

After all, you’ll likely be preoccupied with all sorts of pre-baby activities, from registering for strollers, to choosing a name, to painting the nursery. Factor in the physical and emotional changes of pregnancy, and sex may be the last thing on both of your minds.

But you don’t need to put your sex life on hold for the next nine months. In fact, conception and pregnancy can increase your sexual intimacy with your partner, and you may never feel closer.

Of course, the hormonal changes of pregnancy can make many women feel nauseated, achy, stressed, tired, cranky, unattractive, or simply too tired to even think about making love, points out Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., author of “Sex and the Baby Years.” Others can feel strong, sexy, and ultra-feminine and actually experience increased sexual desire.

A woman’s feelings about her own attractiveness may not always line up with the way her male partner feels. A 2010 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that 41.5 percent of women said they felt less attractive or sensual while pregnant—but 75 percent said their partners didn’t find them any less desirable.

In general, though, the way a woman feels about sex and pregnancy is very individual: According to another study in that same journal, about 40 percent of women reported wanting more sex than they had before they were pregnant, while one-third of women had less sexual desire.

Women aren’t the only ones who find themselves grappling with mixed feelings about sex during pregnancy.

“Because pregnancy’s changes are most obvious in a woman, we often forget how this life-altering experience can affect expectant dads,” says Hutcherson. “Lots of men still find their pregnant partners attractive, or even more so. They may also feel a sense of masculine pride knowing that they got their partner pregnant.”

And some guys simply feel closer to their partners during pregnancy, which they may express sexually.

Yet other men experience decreased desire when they and their partners are expecting. Here are some of the most common reasons for a guy’s lower libido during pregnancy:

- Fear of harming the baby. It’s natural for a man to worry that intercourse will somehow hurt a growing fetus. But this is practically impossible. “A developing baby is shielded by the strong muscles of the uterus, as well as by the amniotic sac and fluid,” explains Hutcherson. “Simply put, a penis isn’t large enough to do any damage.”

- Financial concerns. If you’re an expectant father, you’ve probably lost some sleep worrying about your new responsibilities, from affording a new baby to wondering whether you need a bigger house. The current economic downturn can amplify these concerns—hardly an atmosphere conducive to romance.

- Good manners. If a pregnant woman doesn’t seem interested in sex, her guy may back off and not pressure her. But because he might be completely off-base, it’s best to talk about desire (or lack of it) before vetoing sex altogether.

- Jealousy. Some men can feel left out of pregnancy and jealous of all the attention their partners are getting.

- Lack of interest. Let’s face it: Some men just aren’t into pregnancy sex—and that’s normal, too. They may have trouble seeing their pregnant partners in a sexual light, or may find the physical changes of pregnancy unattractive.

“I hear many complaints from women who feel sexier than ever and want sex, but are met by lackluster responses from their male partners,” Hutcherson tells me. If this is the case in your relationship, try not to feel rejected. And start getting proactive.

It may just take a little foreplay to jumpstart arousal. Consider this, too: Increased blood flow and sensitivity in a woman’s genitals can lead to more intense and pleasurable orgasms during pregnancy, particularly the second semester. The ability to give his partner amazing orgasms can be a turn-on for many men, presenting a sexy win-win situation for some couples.

Finally, don’t forget that once your baby is born, you will likely need to wait six to eight weeks before you can resume intercourse. When you do get the go-ahead, you may be so stressed out and tired that sex sinks to the bottom of your to-do list. Sex may be different during pregnancy, but I also urge you to take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy your sex life - before it changes forever.


soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Ellie Bou

    This is very very interesting! Helps with my studies here at the Plan My Baby Site

    November 17, 2011 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Ochi Sunday Ochim

    This is awsome. A big thanks to Ian Kerner and the CNN family

    November 18, 2011 at 21:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. oge uwadiegwu

    Thanks, this will go along way in helping partners expecting

    November 19, 2011 at 00:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. okolo maryann

    Thank u very much, I have really learnt alot, hope to see more of this.

    November 19, 2011 at 00:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Katumba james frank

    People need to understand more. Keep on posting more

    November 19, 2011 at 00:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. dretta

    .... i know i'm just trolling but...

    fetus: ow ow ow ow... wow dad really? 15 seconds? sheesh....

    November 19, 2011 at 00:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • skidude2000

      🙂

      December 1, 2011 at 08:37 | Report abuse |
  7. ijaiya lukman adewale

    I have learnt a lot with this piece,it's educating and amazing,keep it up guys!

    November 19, 2011 at 01:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. eric kayode

    I would like more of dis lesson.

    November 19, 2011 at 01:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Fortune

    This is so timely and welcoming but how can i make love to a pregnant woman, please tell me.(styles)

    November 19, 2011 at 01:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Yemi Osunsanya

    Every bit of it was well digested. Great job.

    November 19, 2011 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. debbie imirhe

    This is so educative and intresting I like it and will appreciate more of it.

    November 19, 2011 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Sabrina

    Second semester? Is this a pregnancy or an undergrad program we are talking about...

    November 19, 2011 at 20:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Merlyn

    Very informative, but did he mean trimester instead of semester?

    November 20, 2011 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. me

    Yes, it does!

    November 21, 2011 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Kelly

    His opinion is clearly incomplete as he neglects to examine the potentiality that men who can't bring his girlfriend/partner to orgasm may cheat in order to determine if the failure is his or her inability. I believe that faking an orgasm on the woman's part stems from that fear, that repeated failures for her to orgasm, and his awareness of this, may cause him have a diminshed sense f cofidence as a lover and a man and to search out another partner to see if he can bring her to climax. By faking it, his confidence in himself as a man and a lover remain intact and in her mind, the potential of him cheating to boost his confiednce is reduced.

    December 8, 2011 at 12:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Iffat Nahar

    Soon after I told my partner that I am pregnant our activities in bed started changing. We started having little to almost no sex at all. Although my drive for sex increased something keeps turning him off the mood. However, he finally managed to get over his fright and we started making out in quite a different position than we did before. It was great. – pregnancyhowto.net

    May 14, 2012 at 02:45 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.