How To Maintain Intimacy During Pregnancy Why, when and how you and your spouse should stay sexual while expecting. BY ESTHER LASTIQUE AND DR. JONI FRATER
Maintaining your sensual bond during pregnancy is important for your marriage.
“ Sex keeps mommy and daddy emotionally and physically connected, as you both experience the joys, doubts and fears that pregnancy brings.”
One of the most magical experiences in any couple’s life together is the anticipated arrival of a new member of your family. Both mom- and dad-to-be are filled with conflicting emotions and questions like: are we going to be good parents? Are we ready? Are we financially prepared? Are we going to be able to do this as a team? Will Daddy be replaced by the new baby?
All are normal concerns as this is a huge change in the family dynamics. The list can go on indefinitely. One of the core challenges many expecting couples face is how to stay intimate during nine months of physical and emotional changes as your baby prepares for arrival. Let’s start with busting the most common myth many of you may be worrying about (especially you dads).
Myth: Intercourse Will Hurt the Baby
Fact: Absolutely not true! Your baby will not be born with a dent in its forehead from your penis! The baby is encapsulated in a sac within the uterus that is filled with amniotic fluid, protecting it in a liquid cocoon for the duration of gestation. (When a woman’s "water breaks" it’s the amniotic sac bursting to alert you that labor has begun and the baby is ready to come out!) This sac is very strong and it does a great job of protecting the baby. In the final trimester, vaginal penetration may become uncomfortable for mommy, but baby doesn’t usually mind.
In truth, sexual intimacy during pregnancy is vital for all three of you. Sex keeps mommy and daddy emotionally and physically connected, as you both experience the joys, doubts and fears that pregnancy brings. Staying close during pregnancy is also the best way to ensure that your relationship maintains sexual intimacy after the baby’s arrival. Intimacy is vital for mommy-to-be, since her body is going through sometimes violent upheavals, both physically and hormonally. Telling her that you still find her beautiful and desirable is very important, as it gets all of her good hormones, especially our best friend oxytocin, flowing. (Oxytocin, also known as the cuddle hormone, is a huge part of the hormonal bonding of mother to baby and it plays a big role in sex. Upon orgasm, both men and women release a huge burst of oxytocin. For women, oxytocin bonds with her estrogen, which is why she wants to cuddle after climaxing. In men, oxytocin bonds with the hormone vasopressin, which is usually why he wants to jump out of bed and go tinker in the garage, or just pass out, since many men are spent after sex.)
It is also becoming medically evident that oxytocin can pass through the placental barrier, meaning that a shot of oxytocin for mommy (through an orgasm) is shared with the baby. High levels of oxytocin during pregnancy may help your baby develop more receptors for this hormone in their brain helping them to become a more loving person. And the rocking motion of sex is thought to be comforting to the baby and the act will bound the three of you together in a very intimate way.
Here’s another great reason to stay intimate: couples who remain sexually active during pregnancy have a significantly lower rate of premature births and low birth weight. As long as your doctor has cleared you for sexual activity during your pregnancy, go for it!
Okay, let’s talk about what you can expect during your pregnancy and how to best prepare yourself for maintaining intimacy. Your pregnancy is divided into three three-month intervals called trimesters. Let’s look at each one and discuss how best to stay physically and emotionally connected as a couple.
First Trimester: You’re having a baby! This is a time for roses and sparkling cider and a lot of physical affection. While mommy-to-be is probably too busy vacillating between being nauseous and throwing up to feel sexy, her hormones are on overdrive. Her brain is now flooded with oxytocin as her body prepares for the growth of the baby, so she may be very emotional and a little more needy. Her body is also changing so she needs constant reassurance that she is still beautiful and sexy in your eyes. This is a great time to splurge a little on flowers and cards, and to be physically present for her. Pet her, a lot! Touch is the best way to feed all of that oxytocin and calm her when she gets stressed. Gentle massage, brushing or running your fingers through her hair, and holding hands are great physical ways to show your love.
Second Trimester: Okay, here’s where life can get very interesting! As her nausea subsides, you might begin to notice a few changes in your blossoming wife. Her body is beginning to look curvier and she may begin to show a belly bump. And her hormones—well, watch out! Even if your spouse was never sexually aggressive, her hormones are in control now, so you may find yourself begging for nap time after she has chased you around the house a few times! If she has never experienced being multi-orgasmic, now is the time to experiment.
With her hormones raging, all of her erogenous zones are of fire because she is carrying around about 50 percent more blood than usual, lighting all of her nerve endings on fire and making climaxing easier than ever. Remember that all of that extra blood will be flowing to her genitals and breasts, so she may look different too. She’s also very lubricated, so it may seem like she’s always ready. Many of those sexy spots will be very sensitive, so be gentle in your touch to start, but don’t be surprised if she wants you to be more aggressive once things get cooking. And don’t forget, you’re already pregnant so there’s no need to worry about barrier protection. Spontaneity rules! Try everything and anything you’ve been meaning to try—she’ll be game! And be sure to focus on her orgasm: during the second trimester, they’re like potato chips—she can’t have just one!
Oral sex is great during her entire pregnancy, especially during this trimester since she is so readily turned on. And she may crave more than just orgasm—she needs your touch too. As her body stretches and swells while the baby grows, the best medicine is your touch. Massage is a wonderful way to stay connected and reduce her swelling, while letting her know how much you love her.
Enjoy this time and stay creative. Sex during pregnancy can be challenging as her body changes and you begin to make room for the baby. By the fourth month, your wife will no longer be allowed to lie on her back for sleeping or sex, due to the pressure it puts on the major blood vessels that feed the baby. Besides, you don’t want to feel like your smothering them! The best position for intercourse during this trimester is "Woman on Top," so she can control the level of penetration and one of you can stimulate the clitoris during intercourse. You can also rub her belly during intercourse, bonding the three of you in a very intimate way. Another position that works well is "Reverse Cowgirl"—woman on top but facing away from you. It has all the same benefits of Woman on Top, while your penis stimulates a different part of her vagina since you’re at a different angle. Make sure you stimulate her clitoris in this position with hands or toys for her to have a great orgasm too. As she gets larger through this trimester, you will notice that certain positions can become uncomfortable. Just stay committed to maintaining your senses of adventure and humor and you will be fine! (And keep your gas tank and wallet full—cravings for bizarre foods always strike in the middle of the night!)
Third Trimester: At this point, it’s time to make room for baby. Positions that let the baby hang free should be the most comfortable for all of you. The most popular is rear entry or "Doggy Style." This allows either one of you to also stimulate her clitoris and breasts during intercourse. Bear in mind that at this point, positions that allow you to look at each other or kiss during intercourse are difficult, so be sure there is a lot of touching and kissing before and during your entire sexual experience.
When intercourse becomes too cumbersome, in the last month or so, oral sex is the best avenue to stay connected. This is a great way for her to climax repeatedly, and if she wants penetration, you can use fingers if intercourse isn’t possible. Do a good job, and she might be tempted to return the oral favor!
Labor: What you may not know is that historically, midwives often massaged the woman’s vulva during labor to bring about orgasm. The hormones released allow the muscles of the pelvis and the vagina to relax, preventing tearing or the need for a painful episiotomy. Today, many birthing assistants will give you some privacy to allow the spouse to bring about the orgasm for the same result. Try it and find out if labor can be orgasmic too!
Here is our best advice: stay connected by staying sexual. Your marriage will be stronger, your love will be deeper and you will be anxious to return to your sexual relationship after Mama has healed from labor. Just remember to keep your creativity, sense of adventure and your sense of humor high and enjoy this journey. Whether it’s your first pregnancy or your fourth, never forget that every pregnancy is different and with it is a new opportunity to relish in the love you have for each other that has created life.