Pregnancy is a time of profound changes, both physical and emotional. During this 8-10 month time, the topic of intimacy is bound to come up. For some, it is an avoid-at-all-costs approach, for others, it’s a free-for-all. So let’s take the mystery and myth out and put it all out there. We’ll review the ups and downs of intimacy in pregnancy, and what you may expect from trimester to trimester. Get your partners to read this too, because communication is really key in navigating this intimate topic.
What does intimacy mean?
What is doesn’t always mean is intercourse. Intimacy can mean a whole lot of things other than intercourse, and it’s really important to keep that in mind. There will likely be times in your pregnancy when sex is the last thing you want, but cuddling and close time might be reassuring and comforting. Your partner can gently trace your new soft curves of your growing body, or massage your feet when they feel swollen and heavy. Any kind of closeness and familiarity is all it takes. Intimacy is such an important aspect of a healthy relationship, and a healthy pregnancy.
One of the most powerful roles of intimacy in pregnancy it how it makes our oxytocin flow. Oxytocin is our love drug, made in the depths of our brain, and released into our system during intimate moments, whether it be a hug from a close friend, a cuddle with your lover, or a fantastic orgasm. It is also necessary in birth as it creates contractions, and in breastfeeding to let down your milk. Oxytocin is also known to decrease anxiety, increase empathy and attachment, and is one of the hormones that helps us to bond with our babies. There is research showing that women who were exposed to higher levels of oxytocin in their pregnancies had an easier time bonding with their new babes and created stronger bonds. So keep the oxytocin flowing during your whole pregnancy – and be prepared for some potential obstacles.
What revs us up…
Some of the changes in pregnancy can really make it easy to get in the mood. Excessive hormones coursing through the body can make some pregnant people feel quite sexy, powerful, feminine. Swollen breasts and softening hips can be welcomed changes for some, making them feel more sexy. Add to that, a doubling blood volume, bringing a heightened reactivity of our nerve endings and you’ve got a recipe for a great orgasm, and perhaps a few more than you are used to. While some people feel more confident in their changing bodies, others are more self conscious.
What dampens the fire…
Those swollen breasts might be really tender, that burgeoning belly might feel nauseous, and those raging hormones might just make you feel really sleepy or grumpy. You may also have some discomforts of pregnancy that can make it hard to get comfortable. Sometimes the physical body changes are just too much to add sex to, but there is still lots of room for intimacy.
What most commonly gets in the way is the thinking part our brains, from both partners in the family. It can be hard for some to separate the lover from the mother, in our own minds or our partners’. Or hard to accept that moms can be sexy. Some partners are worried about hurting the baby with intercourse or orgasm. This is definitely not the case as your growing baby is well protected in a shock resistant sac. Communication comes in handy here, where voicing your hang-ups can clear the air and help you to reconnect in other intimate ways that supports both partners through the pregnancy. These obstacles might only be fleeting, depending on where in pregnancy you are.
What to expect: First trimester
For those pregnant with their first baby, this is often the most overwhelming time of change, both physically and emotionally. Some feel vulnerable with the unknown and new changes which can make them more emotional and inwardly focused. For women who have experienced a pregnancy loss or struggled with infertility, the first few months can be worrisome and they may feel protective of their baby. Most of the physical changes aren’t noticeable to others yet, and maybe the news hasn’t leaked, a hard place to be to reach out for support. Then there is the nausea, tender breasts, and exhaustion, it’s easy to get lost in it all.
Partners, this is the time to step up. This is when you get to woo your mama-to-be all over again. Remind her that she is desirable still, in that every changing body. Touch and closeness can keep you connected in tired, pukey times. Make out like when you fell in love, date again, make space for the lovers in you without expectation. This too shall pass….
The second trimester is generally known as an energetic, blissful one. Now your belly is visibly growing, you feel the life inside of you, and you’ve hopefully stopped throwing up. That blood doubling mentioned above is now at its peak, so watch out!! This might be a really randy time for some pregnant people. Just go with it. Let yourself feel great in that strong body. As your due date gets closer, you might be talking nothing but baby, which can sometimes dampen the fire. Make some space for baby free time with your lover, where you can connect before there is a wee one in between you. Enjoy this blissful time while it is there.
Now look at that strong body, a bit more tired with the extra weight and increased needs of the baby. Some see themselves as beautiful at this stage, some don’t see themselves through the changes. Often we crave intimacy at this point as we draw nearer to the unknown. You get to try new positions at this point as the logistics change with shifting bodies and bones. You might become leaky too; breasts starting to make colostrum, vaginal discharge increased with hormonal and pressure changes, and a bladder that just might not be holding up to the trampolining baby. So throw a towel on the bed and release some tension with a great orgasm. My favourite motto for this stage of the game: “what got the baby in will get the baby out”. Remember that ever important oxytocin? We need a whole lot of that for those contractions to birth our babies.
- Communication is key! Talk about your fears, misgivings, doubts, worries, fantasies, dreams, hopes. That is intimacy.
- Treat your pregnant self/partner with respect and awe – there is a tiny human growing inside of that powerful body.
- Saying no doesn’t mean rejection. It may mean quiet cuddles and sweet kisses.
- You can be a mama and still be super sexy.
- Intimacy is a whole lot more than just sex, explore each other in new ways.
Keep up the loving, and check back in for an upcoming blog post on intimacy in the postpartum…
Becca Raper is a Registered Midwife with Generations Midwifery Care. Learn more about Becca here.