Pregnant women have less sex than they’re used to having, particularly in the last trimester, research suggests. Considering that pregnancy sex is usually safe, free and a good way for partners to stay close during what can be a stressful time, why is this?
“Women aren’t having intercourse during pregnancy for many reasons,” says Shannon Clark, M.D., an assistant professor in the department of OB-GYN at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. “They’re experiencing physiological and hormonal changes that impact their desire, they don’t have a lot of energy, they’re carrying around more weight, and their growing belly may get in the way.” They also often fear that having sex could be risky. Here’s Clark’s advice on overcoming these hurdles:
PROBLEM: Low or mismatched desire.
SOLUTION: Communicate, especially during the first and third trimesters when many women are tired, nauseous or uncomfortable and feel insecure about their changing bodies. The problem is, many men take this lack of interest in sex personally and see it as rejection. No one is a mind reader. “The woman needs to talk about these changes with her partner,” Clark says.
PROBLEM: Fear of hurting the baby or triggering labor.
SOLUTION: Get the green light from your doctor or midwife to put your mind at ease. According to Clark, as long as you have no risk factors that may rule out intercourse (these include cervical incompetence, placenta previa, carrying multiples or a history of preterm labor), you’re not going to imperil the pregnancy. Plus, the baby is well-protected from poking as well as bacteria by the cervix and amniotic fluid. And contrary to what most people believe, intercourse won’t trigger labor, even at full term.
PROBLEM: Sex is awkward or uncomfortable.
SOLUTION: Try new positions; just avoid lying flat on your back or having direct pressure on your belly. “The best positions, especially as the pregnancy progresses, are with the woman on top, either in bed or on a chair,” says Clark. “Lying on her side, ‘spooning’ with her partner, is also a good option.”