Maintaining intimacy in baby making and pregnancy is not always front of mind. Feeling nauseas, unsexy or focused on the task of growing life can be barrier enough to maintaining sex in your relationship. But how do we view ourselves? And can we be pregnancy, nauseas and sexy all at once?
In a modern age where tight skin, tiny waists, voluptuous backsides and slim ankles epitomise “sexy,” pregnancy – and the physical changes that come with it – can leave us feeling less than sexy.
But think about how absurd that is.
The whole point of the birds and bees chat is that SEX itself is how we get from A to B-for-baby-making. The act of becoming pregnant is inherently SEXY, in that it relies on … sex. And yet, an unspoken stigma tells us that a woman’s sexual desire and others’ desire for sex with them leaves the conversation as soon as they begin to expect new life.
Pregnant or sexual? Mother or sexy? Can we be all?
Libido changes in pregnancy
Many women experience a libido lift during pregnancy. While every woman’s pregnancy is unique, sex drive typically peaks at the end of the first trimester and into the second trimester, after those nausea-inducing hCG levels find their chill and before the pre-birth discomfort and exhaustion hits.
In an even more titillating twist, increased blood flow to the genitals during baby-baking, makes for intense orgasms that categorically outperform morning sickness as a pregnancy side effect in many women.
New mum-of-one, Jayne, says the effects of pregnancy on her sexual appetite and satisfaction was a pleasant surprise.
“I didn’t necessarily feel any more or less sexy during my pregnancy,” she says. “But I noticed that my sex drive definitely went up!”
Can we be sexy when pregnant?
So why do many see pregnancy and sex as two mutually exclusive concepts? It’s likely that a huge part of the “sex-when-pregnant” stigma stems from archaic social ideas about what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a mother.
“Woman” is allowed to be sexy, but “mother” is just sensible hairstyles, lunchbox management and an incessant washing machine. There’s conjecture about why our brains have been seemingly hardwired to believe this, but a recent Global News commentary points to the Judeo-Christian values on which much of western society is based. In that article, Dr. Rose Robbins, a psychologist at the Ottawa Hospital, says, “There’s a common duality women deal with between the mother figure who’s asexual (the ‘Madonna’) and the Magdalene who is a sexual being.”
A woman can’t be both mother and sexual because some ancient texts written from a purely redundant cultural perspective say so. Perhaps more alarmingly, this outdated belief system has persisted for longer than the earth-shattering orgasm you could be having, whilst you’re up the duff.
Is it safe to have sex when pregnant?
Social constraints aside, the stigma around sex during pregnancy also owes a middle finger – though perhaps a gentler one – to concerns about the safety of sex when growing a baby. But the chances of harming a baby in the womb are considerably lower (like, zero) than the chances of harming a sexual partner’s ego when you reassure them that the size of their ship really doesn’t matter. Your developing baby is wrapped up in the protection of luscious amniotic fluid, and the uterus is a muscly little number, invasive to none. Unless a medical practitioner has advised you to abstain, feel free to get jiggy with it.
When does sex drive typically change in pregnancy?
Of course, there may be legitimate physical limitations to a robust sex life later on in pregnancy. That belly can’t just be popped off for a quickie, and any activity of a, erm, vigorous persuasion can cause very real discomfort. For Jayne, that unexpected sex drive surge began to be impacted by the physicality of carrying a baby near the end of her pregnancy.
“I definitely felt less into sex by about 38 weeks, due to the fact that I resembled a fridge,” she laughs. “The actual act of having sex was so logistically challenging at that size.”
It’s also common to have insecurities about the changes in your body, which can impact how you approach sex. Reflecting on her pregnancy, Jayne says that her husband’s reassurance was critical to maintaining her sexual confidence.
“I think getting used to my body growing and changing made me question and doubt my desirability, especially because it was the first time I was putting on weight in our relationship,” she says. “But my husband was very vocal in assuring me that I was just as sexy and desirable as before, and that my body was actually amazing with all it was going through.
“I ended up feeling more empowered and proud of my body than insecure.”
Staying intimate in pregnancy
Pregnancy is a great excuse to open your mind to what “sex” really is.
- It doesn’t have to be missionary - experiment with different positions that account for your changing body and take the pressure off any areas of discomfort.
- It doesn’t have to resemble a Hollywood love scene – have fun with it and laugh it off if something you used to do just doesn’t work with a bump in the mix.
- It doesn’t have to be fast and furious – take your time and enjoy this time of physical and emotional closeness with your partner.
- It doesn’t even have to be penetrative – explore other ways of giving and receiving pleasure. You might even put some new tricks in the bank for post-preggo playtime.
And, while we’re talking about the future, it’s worth making some noise about postpartum recovery. Most couples won’t resume the wild thing until at least six weeks after birth, and studies have found that sex typically won’t return to its pre-pregnancy frequency for another year.
Pregnant, mother, sexual, sexy. There's room for discussion in this sexy saga.