Sexuality is a source of health, pleasure, affection, intimacy, sensuality, creativity... And is present throughout life, although it manifests itself differently depending on which life stage you are going through. Pregnancy and the post-partum period are two of the most important life stages for a woman and her partner, and here, as at other times, sexuality has its own way of expressing itself.
Many couples have doubts about sexuality during pregnancy. Will having sex during pregnancy cause problems with gestation? Will my baby be affected? Will pregnancy change our sex life? In spite of the fact that there is much talk about sexuality today and it seems that everything has been said, sex still appears to be non-existent during pregnancy: nothing is said or reported and this often generates uncertainty. That is why it is so important for the couple communicate freely and that they both know who to turn to and where to go if they have questions.
There are numerous factors related to the sexuality of pregnant women and their partners. The sexual desire of the couple may or may not change during pregnancy. It may increase, decrease or remain the same. Each person is unique and the influence of hormones during pregnancy may cause changes in sexual desire. Some pregnant women feel more attractive and feminine and that lends them confidence so that they experience pregnancy as a period of enhanced sensuality. For others, however, the weight gain, fatigue, uncertainties regarding this new stage and hormones may cause a reduction of desire.
Even though, as already noted, not all women suffer the same bodily changes, in general there are certain common denominators:
Months one to three:
- The woman may feel a slight discomfort in the uterus during orgasm
- The labia minora and labia majora may become more swollen
- The vagina generates new blood vessels, so a small amount of bleeding during penetration is possible due to one of these being ruptured (this is not a problem and should not be confused with uterine bleeding)
Months four to six:
- The sexual appetite tends to increase since sickness has ceased and the physical changes have been assimilated
- Orgasm is achieved more easily
Months seven to nine:
- There may be difficulties adopting a comfortable posture
- Vaginal swelling takes longer to go down after orgasm
- Oxytocin is a hormone that is secreted during both orgasm and birth contractions which means that slight, generally painless contractions after orgasm, known as Braxton Hicks contractions, are common. These are not considered to be true labour contractions.
Not all women are the same. They do not suffer the same changes or feel things in the same way... And nothing is better or worse than anything else. We just have to understand that hormonal changes during pregnancy produce different effects on the sexuality of the woman: while some women’s libido increases, others suffer the opposite effect. The most important thing is that the couple talk about their experience, that both accept these changes and modify their previous concept of sexuality if necessary. Although sexuality can be a source of intense enjoyment during pregnancy (after all, the beginning of this stage that lies ahead was due to having sex), the woman must feel totally free to recognise that her sexual appetite has declined without feeling that she is being judged.
Finally, it is very important for the pregnant woman to conserve her erotic and orgasmic capacity. The first helps to improve her self-esteem (beyond any changes) and marital harmony, and the second helps maintain the elasticity and flexibility of the pelvic floor muscles, so necessary for childbirth.
Naiara Celades y Ana Muñoz
Graduates in Physical Activity and Sports Sciences, specialists in fitness and pre- and post-partum abdominal hypopressive gymnastics