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7 Fears and Truths About Your Intimate Relationship During Pregnancy

You’re pregnant. So that means you’ve had sex at least once, right? Now ‘you’re up the duff,’ but what does it mean for your sex life? Let’s look at a few fears and some truths about your intimate relationship during pregnancy.

7 Fear : Harming the Baby

Truth: Many mums-to-be and indeed some fathers-to-be are concerned that sexual intercourse will somehow hurt their unborn baby. This is not the case. If you are having a normal pregnancy you won't hurt your baby by making love, even with your partner on top and you can continue doing the wild thing until your waters break! 

Research has even indicated that women who have regular sex during pregnancy may be less likely to give birth prematurely (Read and Klebanoff 1993, Sayle et al 2001). Having orgasms may also be related to a lower chance of giving birth early (Amy et al 2001).

The thick mucus plug that seals your cervix helps guard against infection. The amniotic sac and the strong muscles of your uterus (womb) also protect your baby. 

There's no physical way the baby could be harmed by you or your husband

If you orgasm, you may notice your baby moves around more. However, this is because of your pounding heart, not because he knows what's happening or feels discomfort. The general recommendations from medical experts is that if you want to have sex, feel like having sex and your partner is similarly inclined, then go for it. 

A healthy sex life is a major component of a couple’s relationship and it brings its own benefits in enhancing communication and feelings of intimacy and connection.

If the dad-to-be is nervous about having sex with his increasingly pregnant partner, they should know that their baby is well protected. It is an egg surrounded by a pillow and another pillow and that there is no way they will hurt the baby.

6 Fear : Sex is Dangerous to My Pregnancy

Truth: Every woman’s experience with sex during pregnancy is different but generally intercourse does not present any danger to you or your growing baby. In fact, sex during pregnancy can have a variety of benefits.Firstly, sex at any time is known to improve the immune system. Research suggests that the more sex a person has, the less sick days they experience. 

This is especially true for pregnant women whose immune system is suppressed by the growing fetus. Increased levels of IgA antibodies can help ward off colds and fevers.

Secondly, sex can be an excellent form of prenatal exercise. Coitus interruptus assists your muscles to work strongly and effectively giving your pelvic floor a first class workout. A woman’s pelvic floor is like a trampoline holding all organs in your pelvis and helping with bladder control. 

Sex during pregnancy can benefit your body

Kegel exercises before, during and after sex strengthen the pelvic floor leading to less incontinence and possibly an easier labour. Similarly, stronger pelvic muscles ensure a faster recovery from childbirth.

Thirdly, regular sex during pregnancy, particularly in the second trimester, is effective in lowering systolic blood pressure which keeps preeclampsia at bay. Preeclampsia is a serious condition of pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine and swelling of the hands, feet and face.

5 Fear : It'll Mess with My Hormones

TruthHormones produced during pregnancy have many documented health benefits and these hormones can become more active and influential with sexual intercourse:

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) is the key hormone present during pregnancy. It’s produced by what ultimately becomes the placenta and its job is to tell a woman’s body that there is a life form growing in her womb and that her body needs to build a nest for it. HCG also tells the ovaries to shut off the production line of maturing an egg every month.

Progesterone is made early in pregnancy by a cyst on the ovary called a corpus luteum, then after the first trimester it’s production is taken over by the placenta. Progesterone keeps the uterine muscles relaxed and plays a role in the immune system helping the body tolerate foreign DNA; i.e. the foetus. This hormone also relaxes blood vessels throughout the body, decreasing blood pressure. Sex can help this process as orgasms produce progesterone.

It can actually improve your hormonal state

Oestrogen, the other female hormone is also important for a healthy pregnancy as it triggers the foetus’ development. It helps stimulate hormone production in the foetus’s adrenal gland, and it enhances the mother’s uterus enabling it to respond to oxytocin. These processes tend to give women their healthy glow.

Oxytocins are produced during sex in the last trimester and can help with contractions. Again, when a woman climaxes, a rush of this hormone enters her body. Orgasms boost your mood by releasing endorphins which fosters attachments and closeness between couples and their growing baby. Oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’ released during sex has pain blocking and pain tolerance rising qualities. Fewer aches and pains caused by a growing uterus will be experienced.

Prolactin is a hormone in women produced after orgasm. This ‘happy hormone’ helps you feel relaxed and sleepy. This can be a welcome change if you have experienced interrupted sleep or insomnia due to your growing size and constant urination. Not forgetting what health benefits a man can bring to sex during pregnancy, semen contains prostaglandins which soften and dilate the cervix in preparation for labour. Sperm also contains a special protein called HLA-G that increases the chance of a successful pregnancy.

As we have learnt, sex can not only be safe but also healthy during pregnancy. Making love during pregnancy boasts a number of big health benefits.

4 Fear : I Won’t Enjoy Sex When I'm Pregnant

Truth: There's a wide range of individual experiences when it comes to sexual desire during pregnancy. Some women have a heightened libido throughout pregnancy, while others find they're less interested in sex. Many women find that their sexual appetite fluctuates, perhaps dependent on how they're otherwise feeling physically and emotionally.

Many women report that sex feels different during pregnancy. Increased blood flow to the pelvic area can cause engorgement of the genitals. The heightened sensation that results may add to your pleasure during sex. You may have more vaginal discharge or moistness, which could also be a plus.

The big changes in your body are bound to alter your sex life. Some women, finally free from worries about conception and contraception, feel sexier than ever. But others are just too tired or feel too nauseous to make love, especially in the first trimester.

You might be surprised by how much you enjoy it!

Some mums-to-be find sex painful during pregnancy. However, this can be avoided by adopting sexual positions where penetration is shallow or under your control.

Your state of mind is another factor. If you feel positive about your pregnancy and the changes your body is undergoing you're likely to feel more sexual. But if you're not particularly happy about the pregnancy or feel insecure about your growing tummy or other issues, this can have a negative effect (Pauls et al 2008, Reamy et al 1982).

It's also not uncommon, however, for desire to wane again in the third trimester, particularly in the last few weeks. At this point, you may be too big, achy, or exhausted to make love comfortably. You may feel self-conscious about how your body has changed or preoccupied with the approach of labour and birth. 

3 Fear : My Partner Won't Find Me Attractive

Truth: A woman’s feelings of self-worth and attractiveness vary between individuals and at different stages of a pregnancy. Personally, when I was expecting I felt more attractive. My hips were curvier, my breast larger and I had a great sense of wellbeing due to raging hormones. One’s confidence can translate into sex appeal and a pregnant woman is often seen as sexier than ever. 

My husband tells me and it is generally recognised that men find pregnant women more attractive. An expectant mother exhibits all the positive attributes of femineity. A fecund, ripe, shapely and obviously fertile figure can be very attractive to the opposite sex.

You can't know what he's thinking until you ask him.

Most men come to view their pregnant partner as almost irresistible. Many ind their partner’s darkened nipples, full rounded tummy and bigger hips very sexy and alluring. They are turned on by their partner’s almost overt display of fertility and this can appeal to a man’s biological senses.

If you are positive about your pregnancy it appears obvious to your partner who could be keener than ever! As an aside, my husband tells me he was glad I never got fat ankles as he found that more of a turn off than a bulging belly!   

2 Fear : Sex Will Bring on Early Labour

Truth: In healthy pregnancies this is generally not the case. Whether or not having sex close to your due date during third trimester can bring on labor is an old wives’ tale, but having an orgasm causes the release of oxytocin, which can theoretically cause contractions, so granted, there is a modicum of truth in this fear. 

It's also true that semen contains prostaglandins which soften and dilate the cervix, however sex in the first and second trimesters will not bring on premature labour.

In my case I was particularly keen on sex in my third trimester as my baby was late and I viewed making love as a means by which I could encourage my daughter’s arrival.

This doesn't necessarily work for every woman

So in summary, sex is generally a positive thing in healthy pregnancies. Your intimate relationships will be different but no less satisfying and perhaps even more so whilst pregnant. We have looked at a number of benefits that sex brings to a woman’s pregnancy including preventing preeclampsia, increasing muscle tone and fitness levels, and assisting in creating stronger emotional bonds between the expectant parents. 

1 Fear : I Will Lactate During Sex

Truth: Lactation can occur throughout a pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester. It is your body’s way of preparing for childbirth. It is doubtful that you are actually producing milk. It is more likely to be colostrum, a pre-milk that is full of antibodies and nutrients.

Sex can cause your breasts to lactate due to major hormonal influences. Sexual arousal when breasts are stimulated can increase the volume of milk being produced and the amount of blood sent to the breasts.

This could happen to you, but I wouldn't worry about it.

Although there is no way to stop lactation during sex you can try a number of things to reduce it’s discomfort. Try wearing a bra with nursing pads in it to soak up any liquid. Encourage your partner not to touch your breasts during lovemaking.

Alternatively don’t worry about it at all! Lactation during sex is just another of the trials and tribulations of pregnancy. 

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