How Pregnancy Changes Your Sex Life
Uwe Porters - Mid-wife / Pregnancy & Postpartum Expert
To say that a lot changes when you’re pregnant is basically the understatement of the century. Aside from the obvious hormonal and physical changes that happen when you grow a human being, the entire experience causes seismic changes in how you relate to your body and your sexuality. For some, getting pregnant was the fun part. For others, pregnancy can be a source of complicated emotions especially for anyone who has experienced loss or struggled with fertility issues. With so much happening both physically and emotionally, it’s no wonder your experience of sex can change.
In this post, we are going to tell you about how pregnancy can cause changes to your sex drive (and don’t worry - it’s not all bad!) as well as some tips for how to pick up your sex life after you have a baby.
How Pregnancy Changes Your Libido
When you’re pregnant, you have a surge of new hormones. This causes changes in energy levels and mood and for many women, this can also cause a change in libido, or sex drive. For some, it causes an increased desire for sex (yipee!) and for others, it can decrease your libido (womp womp).
Libido will also change throughout your pregnancy. Here’s a breakdown of what you might experience in each trimester:
First Trimester Sex
For many women, the first trimester is pretty rough. Morning sickness is at its worst, with nausea sometimes lasting throughout the day. Many women also feel exhausted and require much more sleep both through the day and at night. This makes sense.Your body is working super hard to turn some tiny cells into a fully-fledged human! You may also have sore breasts and bloating. So, it’s not surprising that for all these reasons, sex may not be at the top of your agenda!
That said, sometimes those pregnancy hormones can make you feel really good and some women report being more interested in sex. This is common too. Estrogen is at an alltime low during your first trimester so this explains why your sex drive and lubrication is very low.
Second Trimester Sex
Many women start to feel better in the second trimester so sex is a much more appealing idea. For most, morning sickness and nausea has calmed down or is gone altogether. Hormones and extra blood flow to your genitals might also make it easier for you to orgasm. That’s why so many people recommend this time of a pregnancy for a little holiday with your partner. You’re feeling better, you most likely look a little pregnant, but still feeling mobile and energetic enough to enjoy a holiday and some fun with your partner!
If your belly is already quite big at this stage, finding positions that are comfortable can sometimes be a challenge, but it can also be fun too! Try something new and remember to communicate with your partner.
Third Trimester Sex
Many couples worry that sex could potentially harm the baby. We’re here to to tell you that you cannot hurt your baby by having sex or having an orgasm. So if you’re in the mood, go for it. The baby is blissfully unaware of what you’re doing! And the feel-good endorphins from an orgasm can benefit the baby too!
As you approach your due date, you may feel physically uncomfortable in most positions that were previously enjoyable for sex. Experiment with new positions and find one that works for you.
Also, if you’re feeling less sexy and more tired than usual, that’s understandable and very normal. If you don’t feel like having sex, talk to your partner and explain what’s going on.
Third Trimester Sex Positions
There’s a few options that can make sex more comfortable and enjoyable as you reach the end of your pregnancy. Here are few of our favourites:
- Spooning or side lying position: No weight on your back and with a pillow in front under your belly makes this position extra comfortable. When your partner is behind you, you can also put a pillow between your knees for extra pelvic comfort.
- Woman on top: You are in control of depth, stimulation and rhythm.
- All positions standing up or on all fours: Let your arms lean against the wall or on a chair so you don’t have to carry all that weight yourself.
- Missionary: This position is perfect if you are comfortable. Don’t let your partner lean with all their weight on top of you and for extra comfort scooch down so your pelvis is at the edge of the bed. Put a pillow underneath your pelvis and let your partner kneel or stand between your legs in front of you.
Sex and Fertility Issues
Many couples are naive when they decide to try for a baby. They believe that the second they stop using birth control, they will conceive easily and quickly and they believe making a baby will be sexy and fun. While this is the experience of some women, many couples struggle to start their family and the entire process of having a baby can throw your sex life into crisis.
Infertility issues are often the first major crisis a couple will go through together. Whether it’s miscarriage, baby loss, fertility treatments like IUI or IVF, the experience can cause major stress and grief, and couples often deal with it in different ways. Added to the grief, is that fertility treatments are often expensive and money can be a major source of stress for couples, especially if they have different opinions about how to spend their money. All of these challenges can cause a couple to feel disconnected and this will undoubtedly impact your sex life.
This is a big topic and we do not want to gloss over it. Here are a few things that can help if you are struggling right now. Know that we are here for you and if you want to talk, get in touch through the support function of our website.
- When dealing with infertility issues, sex can feel very administrative. Sex on demand or on a schedule is well… not very sexy. Try to have sex outside your fertile window - just for fun!
- Agree with your partner how much you want to share about your experience with family and friends. Sex is such a private topic, but sometimes, talking about it can really help make you feel less alone
- Let go of expectations. There’s no right or wrong way to do this.
- Consider seeing a therapist. Infertility issues can impact every aspect of your life. Talking to a professional can help, especially as a couple
- Communicate! Talk to your partner about how you’re feeling. Stay honest and it will help you feel connected.
Is it Normal to Feel Pain During Sex After Childbirth?
For many women, sex can be painful after having a baby. Some reports suggest the majority (70% will report their first time after childbirth was painful) of all women have reported painful sex after giving birth. 41-83% of the women report a sexual dysfunction in 2-3 months postpartum. Pain usually occurs at about 6 weeks after having a baby and it can continue up to six months postpartum (and sometimes longer).
In addition to pain, some women also say that orgasms feel less intense. For many women, their experience of sex with the same partner after delivery is completely different. Only 11-19% will talk to their healthcare professional about any persistent pain or dysfunction. This needs to change!
What Causes Pain During Sex After Childbirth?
Pain during sex after childbirth can have various causes. Tense and sensitive scar tissue could be a factor, or something as simple as vaginal dryness caused by hormonal issues can make sex more painful. For some, the pain can also be triggered by emotional reasons. You may feel more tense (you do have a new life to take care of after all!) and sleep interruption or deprivation can wreak havoc on your mood.
Sex may feel different and that’s OK. But pain is not normal. If you’re experiencing pain, contact your gynecologist or midwife and talk to them about what’s happening. Life is too short not to enjoy sex with your partner!
How to Pick Up Your Sex Life After Having a Baby
Undoubtedly, your sex life will change after you have a baby. That’s OK. If you’re struggling to find that spark, here are a few tips that can help.
- Communicate with each other. Tell your partner how you feel and that you might be a little nervous or worried that sex will feel different. Remember that your partner is probably excited to have sex again so it can be helpful to discuss expectations and desires with each other. This will help you feel close and connected which can help make sex more enjoyable.
- Try to relax. Take your time to arouse each other and spend longer than you normally would on foreplay to make sure you’re in the mood and feeling relaxed.
- Use lubricant. Some women experience vaginal dryness after childbirth due to hormonal changes so lubricant can help make sex more comfortable and enjoyable for both you and your partner.
- Do pelvic floor exercises. The weakening of the muscles in your vagina is not only related to pregnancy and childbirth, but it is also due to the natural aging process. Your vagina can also become a bit wider after having a baby. Just like working out the rest of your body, doing regular pelvic floor exercises can help you tighten the muscles. This can make sex and orgasms feel more enjoyable.
This article was written by Guud ambassador, Uwe.
Uwe has been a practicing midwife for more than ten years. She is also the mother of two beautiful children. She likes to break taboos about childbirth and the postpartum experience. She is the author of two books related to pregnancy and childbirth. To learn more about Uwe, check out this post and watch her video here.