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The couples’ guide to sex & intimacy during pregnancy

Sex is often one of the last things on a parent-to-be’s list of questions for their doctor. Between ultrasounds, proper nutrition, rest, and preparing for the arrival of a newborn, life becomes consumed with everything baby. This change in focus and energy leaves many parents-to-be unsure about how sex fits into their lives now that pregnancy, and eventually a newborn baby, is involved.

Sex during pregnancy

Your sex drive can change dramatically during pregnancy, and can even change from trimester to trimester. A fluctuating libido may bring about feelings of anxiety as you try to make sense of all the changes happening to your body. Some people will experience a dramatic increase in their sex drive, while others will find they’re just not in the mood. There are a variety of reasons pregnancy can cause changes in your sexual desire. Fatigue, feeling nauseous, body image concerns, and fear of causing harm to the fetus are just a few of the reasons parents-to-be give for being uninterested in sex.

Amanda Pasciucco, a licensed marriage and family therapist and AASECT certified sex therapist, says that, mentally and emotionally, pregnancy initiates this nesting process where the baby becomes the primary focus, instead of the sexual connection between partners. “Interests start to become parenting instead of partnering (the couple focuses on becoming a parent unit instead of a romantic partner unit),” she explains.

Because of this, sex and intimacy often get put on hold. Before long, many couples find themselves wondering what happened to their physical connection. Communicating with each other about needs, desires, and feelings, while showing patience, kindness, and understanding will help couples work through this stage.

Pasciucco recommends a few exercises on mindfulness around sexual connection that can be very useful during pregnancy and postpartum. She recommends that couples sit knee to knee and stare at each other for three minutes, with the focus being on eye gazing. Just taking the time to look only at one another and not focus on their busy days or making any plans, helps couples strengthen their bond.

Sex after childbirth

Yes, you will have sex again. It just might take some time and patience. Whether you give birth vaginally or by C-section, your body will need time to heal. It’s always best to follow your doctor’s recommendations when it come to getting sexual postpartum. And while there is no set “waiting period” before you can have sex again after birth, many health care professionals will advise you to wait four to six weeks. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the chances of a problem occurring, like bleeding or infection, are small about two weeks following birth. If you had an episiotomy or a tear during birth, you may want to wait to have intercourse until the site has completely healed.

And it’s perfectly normal not to be interested in sex right away, or for several months, after childbirth. Being intimate does not always have to result in intercourse. Many couples find other ways to show affection, meet their physical needs, and still stay connected to one another. The key is to make an effort to be bonded physically as much as possible. Kissing, holding hands, and cuddling are all ways to show affection. As a new parent, if you’re struggling with the desire to be physical, or you find that you’re not emotionally ready yet, it’s important to share those concerns with your partner. Sexual connection comes from open communication between partners and if you are not being honest about what you need, it may be difficult for your partner to support you in the best way possible. One example of how to introduce this topic is to say something positive about your partner, state your concern, and close with an alternative solution to the problem you are facing. Pasciucco believes this is a compassionate way for couples to begin the process of reconnecting and recommends couples make a commitment to return to sex when both are physically and emotionally ready.

About the author:
Sara Lindberg is a freelance writer focusing on parenting, health, and wellness. She is passionate about all things fitness and health and loves spending time with her husband, daughter, and son.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Sex after pregnancy: Set your own timeline.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, July 2 2015. Retrieved July 12 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/sex-after-pregnancy/art-20045669.
  • “A Partner’s Guide to Pregnancy.” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Frequently Asked Questions, 032. May 2016. Retrieved July 12 2017. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/A-Partners-Guide-to-Pregnancy. 

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