Pregnancy is a time of physical and emotional change. Personal history, symptoms and attitudes about becoming a parent influence the feelings that a woman has about her body and about making love during pregnancy. The pregnancy may alter how a woman and her partner feel about making love, and differences in sexual need may arise.
The best way to deal with these differences is to talk, to listen and to be open to each other's feelings and concerns. In addition, questions about sexual practices and their effect on the baby and the pregnancy should be discussed with a health care provider during prenatal visits.
Pregnancy Changes and Sexuality
For many women, the first three months of pregnancy can bring fatigue and nausea. If these symptoms are present, a woman may not feel like making love.
Pregnancy brings an increased blood supply to the pelvic area. During the second three months of pregnancy, after the first trimester symptoms have passed and before the growing uterus makes positioning more of a challenge, many women enjoy sexual intercourse.
A woman's breasts increase in size during pregnancy, enlarging even more with sexual arousal. For some women this is the first time that they truly enjoy having their breasts fondled, while others experience these changes as uncomfortable breast tenderness.
As the pregnancy progresses and a woman begins to lose her waistline, positioning and comfort become important in lovemaking. A woman may become depressed as the shape of her body changes. As the baby begins to move down into the pelvis, a woman may be bothered by increased pelvic pressure. She may not like the idea of intercourse and her partner also may worry about hurting the baby.
In addition, orgasm may be somewhat frightening during pregnancy. Upon reaching orgasm, the uterus contracts in a rhythmical fashion. In a pregnant woman, these contractions last longer and in the third trimester they can occasionally turn into long, hard contractions that may feel uncomfortable. Sensitivity to each other's wishes is vital. Cuddling and massage may be an alternate way to share time together.
Pregnancy and Safe Sex
Partners need to be honest and realistic about sex during pregnancy. Open communication may help to defuse frustration. Because AIDS/HIV infection is transmitted through sexual activity, always practice safe sex. HIV infections can be transmitted to the unborn child. If you have questions about what is safe sex and want to discuss concerns in confidence, call 1-800-FOR-AIDS and ask for a health provider.
Sexuality and High Risk Pregnancy
For most women and their partners, sex during pregnancy is fine as long as both partners consent and are comfortable. However, certain problems can occur during pregnancy that put the fetus at risk for premature delivery.
If you are experiencing vaginal bleeding, preterm labor or ruptured membranes, you should not have sexual intercourse and you should avoid having orgasms. Your health care provider will tell you if sex could be harmful, but do not hesitate to ask if you have questions or concerns.
Suggestions for Making Love During Pregnancy
Some hints for satisfying and comfortable sexuality during pregnancy include:
- Side lying, with partner behind woman
- Woman on hands and knees, partner kneeling behind
- Woman sitting on partner's lap
- Water soluble lubricant jelly, such as Astroglide or KY Jelly. Do not use baby oil or Vaseline.
- Lubricated condom
- Full body massage
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
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