Pleasures Of Loving
Sex and its impact on a pregnant couple
Sex Positions and Sexual Intercourse During Pregnancy
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If you are like most couples you will probably discover the have less inclination to make love once the woman in the relationship is pregnant. There are all kinds of reasons for this: often the couple find that physical attraction is not quite the same once the woman's body changes, and sometimes a couple find that they are emotionally disinclined to make love.
Unfortunately there is a third group of people who avoid making love during pregnancy because they misguidedly believe that sex will have some negative impact on the baby or is likely to damage the pregnancy.
Fortunately the great majority of couples are well aware that they can carry on having sex of any kind during the entire length of pregnancy, perhaps varying the way in which they make love or the form in which their sexual desires are expressed according to how they feel at each stage of the pregnancy.
A small number of couples believe that when a woman is pregnant they have some kind of responsibility to reduce or perhaps even stop making love altogether.
But the interesting thing is that pregnancy does not alter a couple's sexual feelings: of course having a pregnant woman as your partner may change how you feel about sex as a man, but the interesting thing is that the majority of men find pregnant woman to be quite sexually attractive.
For a woman, there can be all kinds of issues about body image; however, many women find that when they are pregnant they move fully into their sexuality in a way that they have not experienced before and find themselves feeling extremely sexual and more aware of their feminine sexuality.
It's a sad fact that in our modern society a great deal of shame and guilt around sex stems from historically inculcated religious injunctions.
To explain what I mean, Christianity has often taught that the only possible reason for making love is to start a pregnancy. If this is so, it follows, at least in some minds, that there is some question about the rightness of making love with a pregnant woman. Furthermore, even nowadays the medical profession have been responsible for providing poor guidance to pregnant women about what is acceptable in terms of making love.
It's not so long since doctors advised that sex shouldn't take place in the last three months of pregnancy, or for three months after the baby was born. We now know better, and the correct advice is that unless the doctor advises there is a sound medical reason for avoiding sex during pregnancy, a couple are free to engage in sex in the way that I described above – which is to say, just as freely as they wish, and in whatever form they wish.
It's certainly true that sex during pregnancy may be more difficult as the woman's body swells. She'll be tired for one thing, and for another, not all sexual positions are as easy to get into when one partner is large.
It's been said that there is likely to be a reduction in sexual activity during pregnancy, but this is not necessarily true. For an engaged and aware couple, even if intercourse decreases, it's certainly possible for other forms of sexual activity to substitute: masturbation and oral sex, or even non-oral sensual touching and petting can be very satisfying, and maintain the bond between the man and woman within a pregnant couple.
However, having said all that, there are certain patterns we can identify as being consistent between different couples. The first is a reduction of sexual activity in the first and third trimesters, and an increase in the second trimester.
This is clearly related to fluctuations in woman's hormones, higher levels of estrogen making her want sex more in the second trimester. It is of course also possible that a woman needs the emotional reassurance that her husband still loves her and wants her, either as his relationship partner or as a sexual being, or both.
Some factors which really will affect pregnancy during sex are the morning sickness and discomfort that some women feel. Clearly these are unlikely to promote sexual desire, as is the tiredness that a woman may experience at any stage of her pregnancy.
One way to deal with this is to choose sex positions during pregnancy which allow the woman to make love passively whilst her man makes love to her. That way she can enjoy the benefits of sex during pregnancy without becoming more exhausted and tired than she already is.
If your doctor has advised you to avoid intercourse, either for the whole of pregnancy, or for a short while, it may be because you have had some slight bleeding from the vagina, some kind of abdominal pain, or a history of miscarriage.
These are certainly very good reasons for not having intercourse in the early stages of any pregnancy, but there is no necessity to assume that this caution should extend to the second and third trimesters.
The only way to establish the facts is to talk to your doctor and consult with him or her as to when it will be acceptable to start engaging in regular intercourse again.
Of all the myths about sex during pregnancy, one of the most pernicious is the suggestion that orgasm can induce early labor. This is completely untrue: an orgasm certainly can cause uterine contractions but it most certainly does not cause the cervix to open, which is the factor in a woman's body that is responsible for the induction of labor.
Naturally sexual intercourse will become more difficult as the pregnant woman's abdomen expands, but a little experimentation with sex positions during pregnancy will allow a couple to overcome this physical factor, which may otherwise inhibit sex.
Many doctors actually suggest that the psychological benefits of the intimacy which is provided by sexual intercourse is far greater than the risks associated with sex during pregnancy.
However, certainly once the cervix begins to dilate towards the end of the pregnancy, it may well be advisable to avoid intercourse. This is certainly true, at any stage of pregnancy, if there are signs of acid reflux or hiatal hernia.
One of the questions that sometimes arises in relation to pregnancy is whether or not it's common for men to have sexual affairs outside their primary relationship. The answer is that it's much less common than people might assume: the percentage of men who do this appears to be fairly stable over time at around 7%.
One thing that does happen, though, is that most men in a relationship with a pregnant woman experience an increased level of sexual fantasies about other women. Nonetheless, overall, a small reduction in sex, or a temporary absence of sex altogether, does not seem to motivate most men to seek sex outside their relationship.
Some of the simple changes that occur with pregnancy can produce body image problems for women because of the development of conditions which they did not expect such as enlarged breasts, while other health problems can be accentuated. Hiatal hernia may be a real issue for some women, as can acid reflux, because of the raised pressure in the abdomen.
Hiatal hernia is a trickier one to deal with, because apart form a hiatal hernia diet that is designed to alleviate symptoms, there isn't really much that can be done in the early stages of the condition - and only in the very advanced conditions would surgery be indicated.
It's entirely possible that either or both members of the couple can become awkward or comfortable with sex, whether that includes oral sex, masturbation for intercourse, at any stage of pregnancy, and unless the couple have a means of communicating their thoughts and feelings to each other, it's entirely possible that one or other member of the couple will feel that their partner has gone off them.
The answer to this is to actually communicate clearly and honestly about what you're thinking and feeling, and find other ways of supporting each other which may involve more gentle kissing and touching rather than sexual activity, or even something as simple as sitting together staring into each other's eyes.
All of the forms of sex that you use in your normal sexual life are of course entirely possible during pregnancy, though you may wish to use different positions for sexual intercourse. Massage, oral sex and masturbation are very common substitutes for sexual intercourse and can be very pleasurable for a pregnant couple.
Up to about the end of the first trimester man on top sex is generally fairly easy, but it may be uncomfortable for the woman and couples may be concerned that the baby will be harmed. In either case, a little adaptation is shown in sex positions described here and this will give you plenty of options such as woman on top and side by side sexual positions.
Clearly the woman on top position which involves the woman sitting on her man and riding his penis is the safest of all, although if a woman has backache it may not be particularly comfortable.
Another good alternative is a side-by-side sex position with both couples lying on their sides facing the same way, so that the man can enter his partner from the rear. It's also entirely possible to enjoy side-by-side sex facing each other, if you keep your chests apart. Just by being creative with these sexual positions you'll find you can enjoy a very satisfying sex life.
For example, woman on top sex can be done on a chair rather than a bed, and for rear entry sex, a woman can be on her hands and knees rather than lying down. It's entirely possible that you'll find some new sexual postures and practices which you enjoy and which you can continue with after the birth of the baby.
However if you find that sex is difficult, it may well be enough to enjoy masturbating together.
I think these days most people would accept that masturbation is is proper and normal sexual practice, but if you have a difficulty with masturbating in front of your partner (an act which most men find very erotic indeed) then try oral sex or massage, which is an extremely sensual and extremely fulfilling way of expressing your sexual feelings towards each other.
The advantage of massage is that it allows the communication of deep emotional feelings without any kind of genital interaction. It's also an ideal way for a couple to be in close emotional and physical contact with each other without worrying about any kind of sexual activity.
There are many ways you can also show affection to each other, including kissing, holding, petting gently and touching each other in a way that expresses your love for each other and your physical and emotional closeness. These are good ways to ensure that your partner understands that you find him or her attractive even if you're not engaging in intercourse.
Some faulty beliefs about pregnancy include the following: that women lose interest in sex when they become pregnant; that men will lose interest in their wives as their bodies swell; that women cannot reach orgasm when pregnant; that intercourse too soon will cause a miscarriage; that intercourse with a man on top is dangerous; that intercourse can stimulate labor; that intercourse and in particular unprotected sex can pass bacteria into the woman's vagina which can reach the baby; that thrusting into a woman's vagina can damage the baby; and finally, that a baby can feel what is happening during intercourse. It's worth emphasizing that every single one of these is a myth, and you should ignore them all.
Naturally, some women will feel unattractive as their bodies change: but others will find that as their breasts increase in size they finally become the size and shape they've always wished for, leading to very sexual feelings.
Men may find that they become extremely nurturing towards their partner and the baby, in a way that surprises them and they would never have expected. A woman may feel she is ugly whilst her partner would describe her as blooming and find her a real turn on. The truth is, there is no way to understand how the feelings that a couple experience during pregnancy will change.
The man is likely to be uncertain about how his partner is feeling and behaving, and either partner may well find the other less attractive: this is only natural.
But the truth is that when sexual activity diminishes, it is likely to diminish at the expense of the relationship, so if a man finds his wife appealing and attractive in a more compelling but different way than he did before, it's worth bearing in mind this is a good thing for both partners and needs to be expressed.
And not only this, but the mix of feelings which a couple express and experience during pregnancy can be both subtle and shifting. This is why it is important both the man and the woman are honest and open about what they are feeling, both around their excitement as well as their anxiety, and their optimism as well as their vulnerability.
Both partners will need reassurance and support from each other, and making sure that you give and receive in equal measure will ensure a fulfilling pregnancy and a relationship that survives long after your pregnancy has finished.