Sex During Pregnancy

If you and your partner are expecting, 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.

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