The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Is sex after the baby, like easy labor, an oxymoron? You’ve said arrivederci to sleeping until 10, to catching a movie at the last minute, to your sweet little B-cup bra. Do you have to kiss your love life good-bye, too? No, but as with everything else, you will probably need to make some adjustments.
The Pain, the Pain
Most doctors and midwives advise waiting four to six weeks after delivery to have sex again, but it’s different for every woman.
Nothing could be farther from the minds of most mothers-to-be than the possibility of having a sexually transmitted disease. But while there are no statistics on the number of prenatal STDs, it’s likely that pregnant women reflect the female population as a whole. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, this means one-fifth already have an STD, and one in 20 women will contract one in any given year.
During my first pregnancy, my husband, Dave, and I spent almost the entire nine months preparing for the baby: furnishing the nursery, buying a layette, picking out just the right stroller and car seat. We thought we were as ready for the baby as new parents could be. Not long after Steven arrived, however, Dave and I found ourselves bickering and losing patience with each other. We had prepared our home for a new baby, all right, but not our relationship.
When I was asked to write about sex during pregnancy, I was thrilled. What a great service I could provide, I surmised, especially since I’d already been down that road twice. Now if only I could remember what having sex was like. I’m kidding. Your sex life will continue but, like the rest of your life, it will change. While pregnant sex varies from couple to couple, here’s what I hear most often.
My libido increases greatly when I’m pregnant, and I try to have sex as often as possible.”
— Judy T., mother of three
“Seeing my wife’s changing shape and knowing that the baby in her belly was a product of our love made my desire for her grow.”
— John K., father of two
“When I’m pregnant, I feel more womanly, feminine and sexual. I like being full and round. Luckily, my husband likes me that way, too.”
— Abby C., mother of four
Many women experience changes in their sex drive during pregnancy--increased and decreased libidos are both common. That said, take a look at any circumstances, past or present, that may be putting a damper on your desire. For instance, have you experienced any vaginal bleeding or been at risk for preterm labor? Did intercourse during your last pregnancy initiate contractions? Or how about the fact that this time around, you are the mother of a young child and are likely exhausted?
One of the most common reasons for decreased interest in sex on the part of either a pregnant woman or father-to-be is fear that intercourse will hurt the baby. I'm always happy to reassure my patients that with rare exceptions, a couple can enjoy sex throughout pregnancy. Natural lubrication should not be a problem, and orgasms are perfectly safe.
Hormones can affect your sex drive, too. Pregnancy triggers constant high levels of estrogen and progesterone, both of which suppress the production of testosterone, a vital hormone where libido is concerned.
No. "It takes at least three to six months for your genitals to get back to normal," says Laura Berman, Ph.D., director of the Berman Center in Chicago and co-author of For Women Only (Henry Holt & Co.). A perineal tear or episiotomy can cause a tight feeling in the vagina, which can persist even after the site has healed (usually four to six weeks after a vaginal birth). To help combat the tightness, you or your partner can gently stretch the area using fingers that have been well lubricated with K-Y Ultragel or Astroglide (available at drugstores).
Whatever your life was like as a couple, pregnancy changes it irrevocably. Your focus, once centered on just you two, zooms in on the coming baby. So begins the transition to parenthood, an experience that can strengthen your bond as a couple if you communicate and nurture your relationship.
1. Address marital conflicts before baby arrives. Issues that spark small disagreements before baby comes can cause all-out arguments when you add stress and sleep deprivation to the equation.
The cliche among the new-parent set is that men always want sex and women never do. But believe it or not, some fathers are not exactly chomping at the bit after the baby arrives.
Some women worry that having a vaginal delivery might wreak havoc on their long-term ability to enjoy sex. However, a new study has found that the method of delivery--vaginal, Cesarean or vaginal with forceps or vacuum--appears to have little impact on sexual activity one year after childbirth. But the study did find that a woman's sex life before delivery predicted what it would be like afterward.
You might be referring to a recent report that intercourse hastens labor in full-term pregnancies and reduces the need for inductions. But another study, published just weeks earlier, showed completely opposite findings. "As these studies demonstrate, we still aren't sure if intercourse triggers labor," says Sean S. Daneshmand, M.D., clinic director of maternal-fetal medicine at the San Diego Perinatal Center at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women, who wasn't involved in either study.