Shifts in libido: what happens to your sex life when there's a baby on the way

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"Body changes and sheer fatigue may also lead to lack of interest in sex."
"Body changes and sheer fatigue may also lead to lack of interest in sex."

Sex is probably what got you into all this, right?

Then it may come as a surprise that what you know about the birds and the bees get turned on its head for this phase of your life. But it's not all doom and gloom – we've got the scoop you need on the next nine months of lovin' to make sure it's as fun and comfortable as possible.

Read: Has your sex drive disappeared along with your bump? Here's some help

Shifts in libido

The same hormones that help your body grow a human cause many changes in the libido department. You're also going through physical and emotional changes. These can leave you feeling more in the mood than usual, or even a lot less. And that's okay.

"Hormones play a big role in sexuality – and are affected differently in every pregnant woman. In some, the dial gets turned up, in others down."

"Body changes and sheer fatigue may also lead to lack of interest in sex. This is all perfectly normal," says Henny de Beer, clinical midwife specialist.

"Your feelings around sex during pregnancy may be erratic rather than erotic. You and your partner must talk about this to ensure mutual understanding. Keeping a sense of humour and maintaining moments of togetherness may lead to some inspiration."

Hot tips for the trimesters

Sure, pregnancy can leave you feeling less in the mood than ever. But those hormones and other body changes can also leave you feeling more pleasure than ever.  

It's not just your body that changes as pregnancy progresses – your libido (and hormones) fluctuate throughout. This means that each trimester brings unique challenges and some excellent pros.  

First trimester

"In the early weeks of pregnancy, sex may be the last thing on your mind," says certified sexologist and psychotherapist Dr Elmari Craig.

"Pregnancy symptoms, like morning sickness and fatigue, are common in the first trimester. Although your baby is still just a tiny little thing, his presence causes dramatic changes in your body. After all, breast tenderness, nausea and fatigue are real passion killers!"

But, as you cruise toward the later part of the trimester, you may find yourself feeling sexier.

"In this trimester, oestrogen and progesterone levels rise and contribute to a drop-off in libido. Around week 10, these increased hormone levels will decline. At that point, fatigue and nausea usually start to improve, which can assist in bringing about an increase in libido, as energy levels start to increase," explains Henny.

Also read: Sex and your pregnancy: What you need to know, trimester by trimester

Second trimester

Often referred to as the honeymoon phase of pregnancy, this trimester will have you feeling all kinds of good.

Henny says that increased vaginal lubrication and a hypersensitive clitoris due to increased genital blood flow bring you extra pleasure now.

This, says Dr Craig, is the scientific explanation for the "awesome pregnancy orgasm". Her advice to dads is to take advantage of this passionate phase by planning a romantic getaway.

Third trimester

As you're steaming towards your due date, you can expect another decrease in libido. "Fatigue and the strain of extra weight probably contribute to this," says Henny.

And if you do happen to feel like doing the deed, that growing belly can get in the way. "You will need to experiment with different positions to find what's most comfortable for you."

"As your belly grows, the missionary position will become impractical. Likewise, a position where the woman is lying on her back is not advised in advanced pregnancy. The weight of the uterus compresses the inferior vena cava, minimising blood (and oxygen flow) to the baby, which can also leave you feeling dizzy," says Dr Craig.

"Many couples prefer the 'spoon' position during late pregnancy, where both partners lie on their sides, with the man behind the woman, so her bump doesn't get in the way."

"You can experiment with different variations of rear-entry, side-by-side and sitting positions. Don't forget sensual or erotic massage, oral sex and manual stimulation. These are wonderful alternatives to sexual penetration. With a bit of improvisation and an open mind, you can still have lots of fun together."

Must read: 'Will the baby feel it?': Eight sex questions every pregnant person has asked, answered

When you shouldn't

Both Dr Craig and Henny agree that sex in a healthy pregnancy is safe. If your pregnancy is high-risk, though, your gynae may advise you to lay off the loving – in which case you should listen.

"Early pregnancy bleeding should be considered high risk, and abstinence should be encouraged during this time. In a high-risk pregnancy, when there are already risks like a low-lying placenta or even premature rupture of membranes, it is advisable not to engage in sex as it can lead to bleeding or increase risk of infection in the case of placenta praevia or premature rupture of membranes," advises Henny.

Have some fun!

Try to see this phase in your life as a way to cement the bonds of love and intimacy between you and your partner. Yes, it will be different, but that also means more opportunities for exploring your desires and finding new ways of doing things.

As with most things in a relationship, communication is critical. Talk to each other about your wants and needs, be open about things, and see how you can take your relationship to new sensual heights.

Is it true?

Penetration will hurt the baby.

This is a big misconception. "Baby doesn't know you're having sex and is protected from harm by the amniotic sac and the muscles of the uterus," says Henny.

Remember, too, that the vagina is quite flexible and stretches during sex. For the same reasons, you also don't need to worry that baby-to-be will see or feel anything – even if your man is well endowed.

Orgasms can bring on a miscarriage.

"Orgasms can cause contractions of the womb, but this is different from labour contractions. If you have a normal pregnancy, orgasms with or without sex won't increase your chances of premature birth."

"There is a chemical substance in semen that can soften the cervix and assist with birth, but sex won't cause labour. Although semen can contribute to the birthing process, it cannot start it," explains Dr Craig.

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