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Pregnancy sex 101

By Maya Khamala

When you conjure up the things that get your heart beating fast and your panties wet— pregnancy may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But contrary to mainstream messaging, having sex while pregnant can be an insanely sweet and hawt release, and there’s nothing wrong or dangerous about it. Not only do shifting hormones turn arousal into a whole new game, but pregnancy sex is also an opportunity for you and your partner (be they a parent to your baby or not) to fortify your bond. Bonus: there are also plenty of health benefits to pregnancy sex!

That said, it’s important to keep in mind that what’s true for one momma-to-be isn’t necessarily true for another.

What follows is a rough ’n dirty breakdown of what to expect when you’re sexpecting.

First trimester

In the first trimester, 75% of women  get “morning sickness,” which, for many, can last all day. The pregnancy hormone hCG, along with estrogen and progesterone, can slow digestion and cause this trademark queasiness. If you're exhausted too (which most are), your sex drive may take a hit. Sex-hack: try getting sexy before bed rather than early in the day. Thankfully, nausea typically ends by weeks 12-14.

Baffling but true: while some women find their libido dampened, others find themselves hornier than ever before. This is because, in addition to pregnancy hormones, there is extra blood flow to the labia, clitoris and vagina, making you hypersensitive—in fantastic way. 

Second trimester

Some couples may find their sex life reinvigorated in trimester two. If you didn't feel it before, you may now find your libido has increased. Your belly’s getting visibly bigger at this point, and you’ll probably start wondering about the logistics of sex. 

Many couples use this time to experiment with different sexual positions, games, and fantasies. While you’ll want to make sure you’re not getting into positions that put weight on your belly or have you on your back for too long, it’s different for everyone. Finally, remember: your libido may also decrease, and that’s ok too.

Third trimester

By the third trimester, you may notice some leakage from your nipples. This is colostrum, a pre-milk that some begin producing at this time. Sometimes, sexual stimulation can prompt its release. While the drip may take you off guard, this is totally normal and healthy. Simply grab a towel and get back to your pleasure! 

If you notice any minor bleeding after sex, don't panic. The cervix is soft and engorged during pregnancy, so a little spotting after intercourse in the third trimester (and sometimes, earlier) isn’t rare. While generally harmless, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know for your own peace of mind. 

Despite what you heard, late-pregnancy sex does not induce labour before your body is ready. Instead, the prostaglandins (a compound contained in semen), uterine contractions, and oxytocin released during sex may simply facilitate the processes already prepping you for delivery—even if you weren’t aware of it yet.

Pregnancy and body confidence

The body changes noticeably during pregnancy, and sometimes, your body confidence may feel a tad shaken. This can last well beyond the term of a pregnancy and into post-childbirth for some. 

Living as we do in a culture which simultaneously sexualizes thin, “flawless" women and valorizes motherhood can be extraordinarily overwhelming. To make matters worse, many men are prone to the Madonna-Whore Complex, a way of thinking that divides women into two categories: pure vs tainted; nurturing vs depraved; asexual vs sexual; and loved/respected vs desired. Men with this complex may love their pregnant partner but have trouble desiring her. If this is the case, it may be time to consider therapy.

Aside from this, be sure to take the time you need to do things that make you feel alive and empowered—whether it's a mud wrap, a beach day with friends, a solo pleasure session, or an honest and intimate conversation with your partner (or yourself!).

Pregnancy sex positions

During pregnancy, sex is all about trial and error. As long as you're comfortable, most positions are ok, but here are a few worth trying out:

Side-lying: Lie on your sides facing each other in a “V." Wedge a support pillow under your back, and drape your legs over their hip. This position will keep the weight off your back and belly.

Pregnant goddess on top: Straddling your partner as they lie on their back doesn’t put pressure on your belly, and it lets you stay in control of depth, stimulation, angle, and speed.

From behind: Prop yourself up on your knees and elbows as your partner enters you from behind. This position takes pressure off your belly. A pillow can provide extra tummy support.

Oral sex: Your partner can kneel between your legs, or you between theirs. Just make sure they don’t blow air into your vagina—in rare cases this may cause an air embolism to block a blood vessel, a potentially life-threatening situation.

Anal sex: While safe, do take extra precautions to avoid any cross contamination (when bacteria from the anus gets into the vagina)! While you should always take such precautions to avoid vaginal infections, introducing bacteria to the birth canal can be harmful to a baby.

Mutual masturbation: Mutual masturbation is when you sexually pleasure each other, either manually, or with vibrators (or other toys). Alternatively, each partner can touch themselves while the other watches. Mmm.

Pregnancy sex safety

You heard it here first: it’s safe to have sex throughout your entire pregnancy, right up until birth. If your partner is worried about “harming the baby,” assure them that the baby is safely out of reach. Facts: when aroused, the vaginal canal lengthens, plus your cervix is sealed with a thick mucus plug that protects the fetus. These conditions prevent harm from occurring—even during deep penetration. As long as you're listening to your body, and your doctor/midwife hasn’t flagged any concerns, you should be good to get it.

If you experience minor cramps when you orgasm, don’t worry. This is often caused by a combination of increased blood flow to the pelvic area during pregnancy, and normal post-sex uterine contractions. This can last up to a half hour.

Finally, since STIs can cause serious health issues for you and your baby, be sure to use a condom if you're not in a mutually monogamous relationship, and/or if you have sex with a new partner.

Bottom line: whether you want sex when you’re pregnant or not, that's all good. You’re the star of the show, after all. Remember: there’s more to intimacy than sex. If sex is difficult or unappealing, try cuddling, kissing, or massage. Hot tip: keeping the lines of communication open with your partner is probably the best thing you can do for your love and sex life—both during pregnancy and well beyond.

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