Episode 130 – Sex & Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be a magical time- but it can also be a scary time.  There are so many unexpected changes, added hormones and a changing body.  This can have an impact on not only the woman, but to her spouse and their relationship.This podcast is packed full of information.  I will go through what you might expect concerning sex surrounding each trimester, myths and warning signs of when intercourse needs to be cleared with your doctor. Even if pregnancy isn’t in your future or it’s come and gone, this might be helpful to someone you know. It’s a good one to share.

Show Notes:

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References for this episode:

MormonSexInfo Podcast #40

Show Summary:

Pregnancy can be a magical time for a couple.  There is so much excitement and anticipation about the future and what this new bundle of joy is going to bring.  But, it can also be a scary time with a lot of unexpected changes to not only the woman, but the relationship and the sexual relationship.  So let’s talk about all of that.
First Trimester
In the first trimester women have a flux of hormones coming.  With those changes in hormones, women can get moody like with her menstrual cycle.  There is of course, for many women, also morning sickness, frequent urination, breast tenderness, and fatigue.  Oftentimes these symptoms can really make women feel NOT sexy.  They feel too tired for sex, they are constantly vomiting and not feeling well, so it makes sense.  So, the majority of women really don’t want sex much in the first trimester.
There is the small handful that the first trimester is different for.  Some women don’t get sick.  And for some couples, the first trimester is actually a time of celebration if it had maybe been hard to get pregnant in the first place.  
For men, nothing much changes in the first trimester of their wife’s pregnancy.  It often doesn’t seem real to them at first because while they are seeing how sick or tired their wife is, they aren’t seeing  a growing belly, quite yet.  Because of this, he may not quite understand why all of the sudden she doesn’t want to be sexual anymore.  What he may see is growing breasts, which may be enticing.  But, depending on how tender they are, their wife may not want him touching her breasts at all or want them touched in a different way, which can be very disappointing or enticing, depending on the situation and how you think about it.
On the flip side of this, some men really struggle with their wife being pregnant.  They now see their wife as “the mother of their child” and they don’t see her as a sexual being anymore.  They aren’t as attracted to her and so they use pregnancy as the excuse to not have sex.  And some men just have a lot of anxiety about things.  Some are worried that intercourse might harm that baby.  Many are worried about becoming a father and all that entails.  Needless to say, it can be stressful on both the wife and the husband, in different ways.
Second Trimester
In the second trimester there is more blood flow to the pelvis, so the labia and clitoris tend to be more sensitive and can be more stimulated.  An interesting note – many women experience their first orgasm, if they haven’t had one previously, during their second trimester, because of the increased blood flow.  Also many women have multiple orgasms for the first time.
In the second trimester you typically see a lessening or disappearing of symptoms you saw in the first trimester like nausea and fatigue. On the other hand, some women claim that everything is more irritating during this time.  Sensations are heightened and things that felt good before may actually feel irritating.  Some women don’t want to be touched at all.  Other women have a really heightened sex drive during the second trimester.  Her breasts are bigger.  Genitals have changed with the increase in blood and fluid.  Heightened hormones are making her feel in the mood more often.  So for some, it’s a great trimester!
Now, some men LOVE the changes in their wives bodies.  And some men don’t love it.  They may feel intimidated or just have complex feelings about their wife and the pregnancy.  It’s very individual for each couple.  So it’s important to communicate, talk, and negotiate things.  And we’ll talk more about this later.
Third Trimester
With the third trimester comes a growing belly and more discomfort and sometimes pain.  Intercourse itself can be more painful with the changes in the structure of the pelvis, vagina, and pelvic floor muscles.
It’s important to find positions that are comfortable.  Missionary position is not recommended during the later part of pregnancy because a man shouldn’t put his weight on her uterus and it can also put pressure on her back.
But, as long as there are no complications and restrictions from the doctor, intercourse is safe for most couples throughout the entire pregnancy up until delivery.
Changes in thoughts about pregnancy
 Some women love being pregnant and feel their absolute best during pregnancy.  They love the changes in their body and all that it entails.  But, about 50% of women have a negative body image during pregnancy.  They don’t like how their body has changed and feel very out of control.
Women have different thoughts about whether pregnancy is sexy or not.  So do men.  And this is very normal.  Unplanned pregnancies can cause different thoughts and feelings than planned ones.  Often couples, especially in the LDS culture, have only known each other a few months, get married, and have a baby right away and they really haven’t known their partner for a very long period of time and then you throw in pregnancy, emotions, hormones, and it throws what you did know out the window and into something completely new and different.
As a society, our thoughts about pregnancy have also changed.    I remember my grandma telling me that when she was having her babies you really tried to hide your pregnant belly as much as you could.  It wasn’t something that was celebrated.  Pregnancy was a symbol of fertility and sex and since that was NOT ok to talk about, then pregnancy just magnified those beliefs and it needed to be hidden.   Now, we have such cute fashion for pregnant mamas. Pregnancy is celebrated and shown off.   It shows how thoughts change over time.
After the baby comes
If there are issues with sex before or during pregnancy it can often be exacerbated afterwards when the mother is very much tied to her baby.  As women our instincts to take care of our child are strong.  And of course necessary.  As women we are very intimate with our babies.  We are getting many of our physical needs met with the baby, we prioritize their needs (as it should be) over our husbands.  We would never reject our baby’s need to be fed or held, but we often reject our spouse’s needs for physical affection.  We expect them to understand that we are tired, sore, and worn out.  And logically they do understand but emotionally they can often feel like they are being replaced.  He misses his wife.  It can be very lonely and he can often feel left out.
So, women need to be mindful of the husbands and what they could possibly be thinking and feeling.  Be understanding and willing to negotiate what they can reasonably do or not do.
Another thing that we need to be aware of is postpartum depression and/or anxiety.  So many times, as women, we feel like we are just supposed to put on the happy face.  Pregnancy and when the baby comes are supposed to be the happiest times of our lives.  We feel like we shouldn’t be this way.  We feel ashamed about having feelings of not being happy, struggling with our body, the pregnancy, the baby, or being sexual.  So we put a smile on our face and don’t actually get the help that we need.    But many, many women feel this way and it’s important to talk about it and get help if you need it.
After I had my last baby I struggled.  I was sleeping 9 hours a day, in addition to night.  I would take care of the baby when I needed to, and then pass him off to my husband, who worked from home, and would sleep some more.  I didn’t even realize how bad it was until a friend told me how concerned she was.  I had never had postpartum depression with my other kids.  I just thought I was tired.  But once I was able to talk to my doctor and get on some medication, I felt much better.
Occasionally, there are complications with pregnancy that prevent couples from being sexual in the ways that they are used to.  Bedrest, bleeding, preterm labor, leaking amniotic fluid are just a few reasons why a doctor may tell you not to have intercourse during a pregnancy.  In those cases, couples need to have frank conversations about how they are going to manage during that time.  They need to come up with actual strategies other than “he just needs to deal with it” or “she still needs to take care of my needs.”
I talk to a lot of women, and here I’ll talk to couples, about expanding your definition of sex.  Most people define sex as intercourse.  But sex is so much more than that.  It’s finding pleasure through touching each other in any way.  There are lots of ways to have mutual pleasure and satisfaction without having intercourse.  Think of it as “outercourse.”  Get creative.  In what ways can you find mutual pleasure and satisfaction?
But, most couples are ok.  50-60% of couples do fine with having sex throughout pregnancy.  Finding different positions that are more comfortable with the growing belly. As long as it’s ok with the doctor, you can successfully have intercourse right up until delivery.  And, if you do have questions, ask your physician.  If you don’t feel comfortable asking your physician, then find a new one.  You need to be comfortable asking your doctor about anything that has to do with pregnancy and sex.

 Now, let’s get a few myths out of the way.  Unless otherwise directed by your doctor, you can not hurt the baby with intercourse.  The baby is safely tucked up inside the uterus and it doesn’t matter how long your penis is, it’s not going to hit the baby.  Sex, intercourse, and orgasm will not hurt it.
If you do experience any pain from hitting the cervix, talk with your physician.  You can also use a great product called OhNut! OhNut! is a wearable, stacking ring made of a body safe polymer.  It slips onto the penis making it comfortable and pleasurable for him while making it so that he can’t penetrate as far so it’s more comfortable for her.  If you are interested in purchasing OhNut! You can use the code Amanda7 at checkout to receive a discount on your purchase.
I also get asked which lubes are safe during pregnancy.  All kinds are safe.  Doctors usually recommend you stay away from lubes with glycerin in them, which I recommend that as well, not just during pregnancy.  To find out more about great lubes, listen to Episode 96 of the podcast.

Wrapping it up
Sexual desire is different for all women.  And it’s different in pregnancy for all women.  Some women want it all the time.  Some women don’t want it at all.  Some women have peaks of where they want it.  It’s all normal.
But a good rule of thumb is that pregnancy is not the time to attach meaning to a lot of things when it comes to sex, your body, or how your partner is thinking and feeling.   It can be a changing and challenging time for both men and women and we need to just open up the space for things to be different.  And that different is ok.
Some phrases I hear often from couples during this time are
  • You don’t want me
  • You don’t love me
  • You aren’t attracted to me
  • You don’t prioritize me
  • You are too sexual
  • You aren’t sexual enough
And as a couple, you may experience all, or none of those.  But remember that this time of your life is different.  It won’t always be this way.  You need to give yourself and your partner a little bit of grace.  Emotions run high.  We say things we don’t mean.  Or we say things we do mean, but it only means it is what we are thinking in the moment and doesn’t mean anything about the other person.  So don’t take things too personal.

And remember to communicate.  Communication is key.

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