What to expect in the bedroom when you're pregnant
Raging hormones and fears about hurting the baby means your sex life can change during pregnancy. Arlene Harris reports on what to expect in the bedroom when you're expecting.
Sex may be the cause, but for many women, pregnancy can bring about feelings of uncertainty when it comes to being intimate with their partner while they are with child.
In some cases, feeling less than amorous can simply be down to physical conditions such as nausea, hormones and weight gain. But sometimes, both women and their partners can feel worried about damaging their unborn child, and so, make an often unspoken pact to remain largely celibate until the baby is born.
However, conversely, some may feel an increase in libido - and while this is no bad thing, it can prove difficult if both partners are not at ease with the situation.
Siobhan Riordan gave birth to her first daughter last year and admits to feeling very passionate during her second trimester - but this caused problems with her husband as he was afraid to get too close to his wife in case he hurt their growing baby.
"When I was about five months pregnant, my libido was very strong," she says. "But while I was very comfortable with the idea of sex, my husband was worried that it could damage the baby. Luckily, he was with me during an antenatal appointment when I asked the doctor's advice and he said there was nothing to worry about but told us to try alternative positions to ensure there was no weight on my tummy - we had good fun practicing."
Margaret Hanahoe is the assistant director of midwifery at the NMH and co-author of eBook From Bump to Birth. She says some women become completely disinterested in sex at the beginning of a pregnancy, but others, like Siobhan, may feel different later on.
"Let's be honest, symptoms such as sore and tender breasts, morning sickness and wanting to wee all the time, will all affect your inclination to get intimate," she says. "However, many women find that while their libido may drop in the first trimester, it returns with a renewed vigour by about week 14, so an increase in sex drive can be particularly strong in this second trimester, as you feel less tired and more relaxed.
"Sometime in mid-pregnancy, many couples also find that they have to rethink sexual positions. A lot of women find a side-by-side position, with the woman facing away from the man, the most comfortable."
The experienced midwife says a partner's libido may also change so it is important to communicate.
"Some partners may be influenced by concerns about the pregnancy, or how they perceive their pregnant partner," she says. "Some find their pregnant partner even more attractive as she grows - while others do not.
"The bottom line is whatever way your sex life swings, keep talking about it - even if you are not 'doing it' - so that both of you understands why this part of your life has changed. And find other ways to stay close and intimate."
Hanahoe also offers some advice on 'safe-sex' during pregnancy.
"One pleasant benefit of pregnant sex can be the absence of worry about getting pregnant, but you should not have sexual intercourse if you are bleeding with a threatened miscarriage, or if you have a urinary tract infection," she advises.
Tell your midwife/obstetrician if you are experiencing any pain during intercourse as this could be a symptom of a urinary tract infection, which will need to be treated.
Penetrative intercourse will not hurt your unborn baby. The woman's cervix is sealed with a thick mucous-plug and the sac of waters around the baby acts as a cushion to protect your baby.
Don't worry that orgasm or sex might trigger labour - because unless you are ready to go, sex cannot start things off.
However, if you are feeling up to it during the last few weeks of pregnancy, the prostaglandin in the man's semen can actually ripen and soften the woman's cervix, reducing the chances of going overdue and helping it to dilate in labour. This is why sex is often prescribed if you are past your due-date.
You should not, however, have penetrative sex once the waters have broken, to avoid infection.
Although 80pc of miscarriages occur during the first trimester, doctors at the famous Mayo Clinic in the US say sex during this time is not likely to be a factor.
"Although many couples worry that sex during pregnancy will cause a miscarriage, sex isn't generally a concern," say the clinic's pregnancy experts. "Early miscarriages are usually related to chromosomal abnormalities or other problems in the developing baby - not to anything you do or don't do."
As long as your pregnancy is proceeding normally, you can have sex as often as you like - but you might not always want to as emotional issues can often cause as much worry as physical symptoms.
"At first, hormonal fluctuations, fatigue and nausea might sap your sexual desire," the advice continues. "As your pregnancy progresses, weight gain, back pain and other symptoms might further dampen your enthusiasm for sex. But your emotions might take a toll on your sex drive, too.
"Concerns about how pregnancy or the baby will change your relationship with your partner might weigh heavily on your mind - even while you're eagerly anticipating the addition to your family. And fears about sexual activity harming the baby or anxiety about childbirth might team up to sap your sex drive."