Enjoying Sex Throughout Your Pregnancy
It all started with making love. But now that you're pregnant, sexual intimacy might not be foremost on your mind: Your belly is ballooning and your mind is busy mulling nursery designs, so it's not unusual for sex to drop a few notches on the priority list.
But putting a little effort into your sex life before the baby arrives is worthwhile, says Laura Berman, Ph.D., a sex therapist and director of the Berman Center, a women's sexual-health center in Chicago. "The challenges of impending parenthood start during pregnancy, so it's a good time to work on maintaining that connection," she says.
And not just for the physical pleasure of it. Sexual intimacy, Berman explains, helps you feel emotionally connected to your partner. "That emotional connection is crucial to a healthy relationship between mother and father, which is the greatest gift you can give your child," she says.
Think of sex during pregnancy as a warm-up for the challenges to come. Once your baby is born, exhaustion, privacy issues and lack of time will be exacerbated, whether it's your first child or your third. And if you abstain from sex, Berman says, it can be tougher to re-establish intimacy later. If keeping that connection isn't enough motivation, consider the immediate benefits that sex offers. "Sex releases endorphins, relaxes muscles and helps you sleep," she says.
Common fears that intercourse could harm the baby aren't warranted in most healthy pregnancies, but certain conditions do require caution, says Jennifer Berman, M.D., Laura Berman's sister and director of the Female Sexual Medicine Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, Medical Center. "Sex is not considered safe when a woman has placenta previa [a condition in which the placenta lies low in the uterus] or an incompetent cervix, or if she is having preterm labor," she says. In these cases, consult your doctor.
On the other hand, a history of miscarriage doesn't necessarily mean sex is out of the question, Jennifer Berman says, but talk with your doctor to be sure. And don't forget that there are other ways to be close, such as cuddling and kissing.
Finally, if the only thing holding you back is that big belly, be creative. One position that works for some pregnant women is lying on one side with their partner "spooned" behind. From there, let your imagination be your guide.
Can sex bring on labor?
In a word: Yes. "However, intercourse will only trigger labor if you are close to or past your due date," says Jennifer Berman, M.D., who is co-host with her sister, Laura, of Berman & Berman, a sexual-advice show on Discovery Health Channel. There are three contributing factors:
* The uterine contractions that accompany orgasm
* Nipple stimulation, which releases oxytocin, a hormone that can trigger contractions
* Semen, which contains prostaglandin, another hormone that can trigger contractions