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Sex and Relationships

In a low-risk pregnancy, sex is perfectly safe, although your levels of desire may fluctuate throughout pregnancy. Most women report that their interest in sex is the same or slightly reduced in the first trimester. In the second trimester, it varies from woman to woman, and in the third trimester libido often falls.

Sex during pregnancy

During the first trimester, the hormonal changes that cause nausea, vomiting, and fatigue can naturally result in a reduced interest in sex. However, other pregnancy changes may increase your desire, such as an increased blood flow, which produces swelling in the clitoris and labia and extra vaginal secretions. In the second trimester especially, vaginal lubrication and intensity of orgasm can increase, which may be accompanied by gentle contractions; these are normal and are nothing to worry about. Many women find that their libido falls toward the end of pregnancy since a bigger belly makes sex more awkward and uncomfortable, and they may also feel increasingly anxious about the birth.

How your partner feels

As with women, men display a range of feelings toward sex in pregnancy. While some may find their partner's new, fuller shape particularly sensuous, others may feel apprehensive about sex, fearing that they may harm the baby. Some men may feel a combination of these emotions. Unless there are concerns about your pregnancy (see When to seek advice), it's generally thought that sex won't cause harm, since your baby is well protected by the amniotic fluid and your uterus.

When to seek advice

Some women experience vaginal bleeding after sex in pregnancy. This is most likely to be harmless and is often caused by the increased blood flow to the cervix in pregnancy, which can cause it to bleed on contact with your partner's penis. If this is the cause, the bleeding should resolve after the birth. However, since there are other possible causes, report any bleeding to your doctor.

In addition to the size of your belly causing discomfort during sex, some women experience pain during sex toward the end of pregnancy as the baby moves farther into the pelvis; or they may find that the contractions that can accompany orgasm become increasingly uncomfortable. These symptoms are unlikely to be a cause for concern, but it's worth mentioning them to your doctor for reassurance.

There are some circumstances in late pregnancy when intercourse may not be safe. This can be the case if you've had a previous premature labor or risk factors for premature labor, such as a weak cervix, or if you have placenta previa , or leakage of amniotic fluid, which can mean your water has broken.

If you have any concerns, don't be afraid to ask your doctor for advice. Being able to enjoy sex in pregnancy will help you and your partner feel close during this time of transition. Indeed, psychologists have found that couples who enjoy sex in pregnancy are more tender toward each other and communicate better after the birth.

What to do

An intimate pregnancy

During pregnancy, fatigue, feelings of insecurity about your new shape, and concerns about the safety of sex can all take their toll on your relationship. Allowing yourself time to adjust and keeping the channels of communication open will help you and your partner enjoy this new stage in your relationship.

  • Talk to each other about your feelings and be aware that, for both of you, levels of interest may fluctuate.
  • If your belly makes some positions uncomfortable, experiment with alternative ones that accommodate your size, such as side-by-side, rear entry, or woman-on-top positions.
  • Enjoy other ways to maintain intimacy besides intercourse, such as touching and massage.

excerpted from:

Excerpted from Pregnancy Day by Day.
Copyright © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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