When you're pregnant, people tell you that having a baby will change your life, and they're absolutely right. What they probably DON'T tell you (even though you're most likely finding it out on your own!) is that it will also change your sex life. But, as with any change, these changes can be either good or bad and it's up to you as a couple to make them (for the most part!) good. We have three children under four and have been married five years. I am NOT a marriage expert, I am simply writing about this one, somewhat unique aspect of married life. These are just our personal experiences, if you have any questions about whether something is okay for you, be sure to check with your ob/gyn or midwife.
What I've found during pregnancy is that while my sex drive had widely-varying peaks and valleys, my husband's (God-given) drive stayed pretty constant. Just because I felt too sick or tired or fat or awkward for sex, it didn't mean that my husband was uninterested. Keeping that in mind when he would look at me longingly even though sex was the last thing on my mind was very helpful in putting his needs ahead of my own.
In early pregnancy, things can generally continue as normal. The cervix does become a little more sensitive during this time, so you may experience some spotting after more vigorous intercourse, but this is normal. Bright red bleeding is always a cause for concern and you should see your ob/gyn or midwife immediately. You may also experience breast tenderness, so be sure to tell your husband what feels good and what just hurts. And, husbands, be sure to listen to your wife and accommodate her!
Many women experience some fatigue during the early months, so it's important for the daddy-to-be to take that into consideration and to try to help ease her load as much as possible. Remember, her body is not only working to take care of her, it's busy making a whole new person! Mommy should try to find those moments when she has the most energy and take advantage.
Of course, we all know about morning sickness! Some women have severe cases that last all day and some have none at all. If you're experiencing morning sickness, don't be afraid to pass on intercourse, but still offer your husband manual sex or offer to hold him while he masturbates. If you find that you feel better at a certain time of the day, then go for it then.
As you move into the second trimester, you may notice an increase in your libido due to increased blood flow to the pelvis. ENJOY THIS! Use this as a time to really wear your husband out! There are places on-line that sell maternity lingerie or you can even buy a larger-sized baby-doll piece that can often fit into late pregnancy. Because you may not feel like sex later, initiate as often as you can during this time. You might be feeling some pressure on your stomach around now, so use this as the perfect time to try out some new positions.
During this time, the mommy-to-be might start to feel less attractive as she starts to show. Husbands should definitely do whatever you can to affirm how beautiful you find your wife. As her body changes, remember that what she likes in bed will likely change. Keep a constant dialogue with her about her likes and dislikes (good advice for ANY time, but if you haven't done it before, pregnancy is a great time to start!). Don't be afraid to compliment her even when she's not there. Compliments I've heard second-hand have been some of the best I've received from my husband.
During the home stretch lots of women deal with fatigue again. But, this time you have the addition of 25-35 pounds (or, if you're like me, 50 extra pounds!). Needless to say, intercourse can become pretty difficult in the final trimester. We found that we used oral and manual sex far more often during this time. Because I think intercourse is essential to a healthy marriage, I would recommend continuing to have it during the final weeks of pregnancy, but husbands need to know that the intimacy generated from intercourse alone can be enough to satisfy a large, pregnant lady and that continuing on until she orgasms might be more of a turn-off for her than going for the quickie and then allowing her to orgasm another way or forget about the orgasm altogether. I would not recommend this as the norm during other times, but late pregnancy/early parenthood does throw some curves with which we need to roll.
Some men and women worry that seeing their wife give birth (or being seen by their husband while giving birth) might turn them off sexually. If you struggle with these concerns, talk through them both with your spouse and possibly with another couple who has been through the experience. Most couples find this event brings them even closer together and hearing this can ease some fears. Finding out as much about childbirth as possible can also help ease fears, so take a childbirth class together.
Eventually the big day arrives (don't forget that semen contains prostaglandins and may help labor start - another reason to continue having sex in late pregnancy!) and you welcome into the world and your home a new person! And, as much as you thought pregnancy changed your sex life, this little human will change it doubly so! Again, it's up to the two of you to make those positive changes. Some people or books might lead you to expect negative changes, but when you expect the positive changes, I believe they are likely to follow.
Immediately following birth, you will probably be told that sex is a no-no for six weeks. Truth be told, I have yet to meet a couple that abstained the full six weeks! What is most important is to follow the new mother's lead as to when to resume intercourse. Some will be ready in a week or two, and some not for the full six weeks.
While you're waiting to start having sex again, it's important for mom to realize that dad's sex drive hasn't ceased to exist. Offer him what you can until you're able to resume intercourse. Oral sex, a helping hand, or even just holding him while he masturbates are all ways to bless your husband (and to fulfill the scripture that our bodies are not our own, but belong to our spouse!). Dads, don't be afraid to ask for release in these days/weeks and moms, don't be afraid to offer or even just to do something for him!
When mommy is ready to resume intercourse, it's important to take it easy. We've called this the "rediscovery" period. With each child, it's important to still ease your way back into sex. Try not to be disheartened when things don't go exactly the way you expected the first time (try to find the humor - there's usually plenty to go around!). Invest in some lubricant (K-Y, Astroglide, etc.), especially if mom is breastfeeding, as that often causes vaginal dryness. Things have changed yet AGAIN, so continue to talk to one another about what feels good and don't be afraid to change technique from week to week, day to day, or even from the beginning of love-making to the end!
During the early weeks of the baby's life, it is quite possible that you won't have sex as often as or as passionately as EITHER of you would like. Remember that this is just a season and that this season will probably pass more quickly than you might think! Find time whenever you can and again, try to find the humor in those more frustrating moments. And, when you can't make love, snuggle together with the new life you have and enjoy THOSE moments of intimacy as well.
If you choose to breastfeed, this can present some unique situations in the bedroom. The first thing to remember is that just because your breasts are being used for another function, it doesn't mean that you can't still have pleasure from them! I believe that scripture teaches us that our breasts serve a dual purpose and I believe we should enjoy BOTH!
Sometimes new dads might feel nervous about touching your breasts if you are nursing your child. If it still brings you pleasure and is something that you want in your lovemaking, be sure to communicate this to him. Reassure him that he won't detract from your supply, that he won't hurt you, that your breasts clean themselves so he can't hurt the baby, and that you still want him to enjoy them as well. Another possibility is that a new dad might feel jealous of the nursling. Again, it's important to reassure him that you still enjoy his touch and that you don't want to be without either. If you continue to show him that you desire him and you include him in parenting your newborn, it is likely that those feelings will diminish and fade completely.
While I'm sure they're out there, I have never met a mom of young children who hasn't at least occasionally felt "touched out." It's difficult to explain, but you know it when you feel it! I highly recommend lots of touch for young children (well, children of any age, really!), but there are days when having an infant at the breast all day, or having a sick toddler want to snuggle with you all day, or having a rambunctious preschooler climb all over you all day, that the thought of any sexual touch on top of that just makes you shudder. And, when hubby comes home from a long day at work and just wants to hug his wife, it can be pretty off-putting to be greeted by a woman who cringes at his touch.
It's very important for a husband to try to convey a loving attitude toward his wife, even when she's feeling touched out. One way to avoid being shut out completely is to try to find out how your wife is feeling before going in for a touch. If I'm feeling like I have no personal space, I like it when my husband will just talk to me and let us connect verbally first. When I've spent the whole day with limited communication with adults, those moments of being treated like just another grown-up can soften me to him for touch. However, husbands, it is important to remember that while your child has no sense of personal space, you CAN understand that and treat your wife accordingly.
Wives, it's important not to use feeling touched out as an excuse to chronically avoid sexual contact. If there are reasons that you're not feeling warm toward your husband, please don't use your children to put a block between you. Try to evaluate how you can overcome your feelings so that you can be more loving toward your husband. If you need him to offer more help, don't be afraid to ask (and then to let him do it, even if it's not the same as you!). Sometimes something as simple as a shower after a high-needs kind of day can help you get your body back and will allow you to feel more like accepting his touch. If you need to keep touch to a minimum, let your husband know that in advance. If you don't use these feelings as a way to avoid your husband altogether, he won't feel rejected if you want to keep touching to a minimum once in a while.
While I have not personally experienced Postpartum Depression (PPD), I have experienced mild to serious depression during three of my four pregnancies. Besides the fact that it steals joy from what should be an exciting and joyous time, it can wreak havoc on your sex life.
If you experience depression during or after pregnancy, you DO have some options. First and foremost, take your depression to the Lord. Yes, this is usually a hormonal problem, but He can give you wisdom on how to deal with your emotions and your hormones. The Word shows us that the Holy Spirit is our Comforter and no one can offer you what you need more than our Heavenly Father.
Another important thing is to discuss your depression with your husband. Husbands, familiarize yourselves with the signs of depression! Don't simply dismiss it as hormones - take it upon yourself to know what is going on with your wife. My husband has been wonderful in helping me verbalize my feelings during my bouts of depression. The more you know about what you can do to help your wife through this time, the better you can be a servant-leader for her.
The thing I've found most helpful for me is to surround myself with supportive people. The web can be a great resource, but it can't replace flesh and blood relationships. Hooking up with a new mom’s organization (LLLI, MOPS, etc.) can help your outlook. The group of women I found has been incredible at supporting me when I've suffered with depression during my pregnancies and I believe they have helped keep me from depression following birth. Also, limiting time spent with negative people is important. This is a great place where husbands can help. If you notice that your wife seems more depressed after talking to some people, be available to support her during those conversations. Be the one to take the lead in explaining how you're happy with this new life. And, if necessary, help your wife to avoid those people if she can't make the break on her own.
If your depression is severe, you may want to discuss different depression medications with your doctor/midwife. They will want to weigh the risk/benefit in prescribing something for you, as there can be several negative issues associated with the use of psychoactive medication during pregnancy or nursing. An excellent resource on depression during pregnancy can be found here. For information about postpartum depression, see this site.
As much as sex will likely be the last thing on your mind when you're suffering from depression, it can be an excellent way to help overcome your depression. Sex releases endorphins which can positively affect your mood. It can help you feel closer to your husband and can allow you to open up to him in a greater way so that he can better support you. Anti-depressants can lower your sex drive, but since depression can ALSO lower your sex drive, sometimes the lessening of depression can be enough to make you more in the mood.
Regardless of your feelings, it is important to do what you can sexually for your husband while you battle depression. Even if it's as simple as holding your husband while he masturbates, this can show your commitment to your marriage. Husbands, encourage your wife as lovingly as you can to try to receive some sort of sexual blessing from you.
When we were pregnant with our first child, I was sure that I was NOT interested in the family bed. So rather than bringing our newborn daughter to bed with us, we would take turns snuggling with her on the couch and staying awake for hours on end. By the time our second child came along, we realized that getting up out of bed only to nurse a child was ridiculous, so we started bringing him to bed with us when he would wake up. With our third, we have moved to a full family bed, and simply sleep with her pretty much all the time. We find shared sleep allows us to sleep better, since no one has to fully wake to eat or feed. And, when we're more well-rested, we're both more interested in sex, another good thing! I believe you should engage in intercourse regardless of your feelings, but when the feelings are there too, all the better!
However, choosing the family bed can present some challenges to sex. If the bed is where most of the love-making occurs, it can be somewhat difficult with an infant or young child sleeping in that bed! This might be a good time to find some new places to make love. If you prefer a bed, you might want to invest in a good air mattress and air compressor. Also, the bed doesn't become an off-limits place, you might just have to change the timing. If the baby is safe and asleep somewhere else (car seat, couch, swing, floor, etc.), and you're both around, grab that opportunity to hop in the bed with just the two of you!
(As a side note, if you choose the family bed, remember to follow safe guidelines. Remove all heavy comforters and extra pillows. Be sure that your mattress fits tightly against your headboard. And, NEVER go to bed with an infant while you are under the influence of alcohol or narcotics - illegal OR legal.)
Copyright © 2001 Alise Wright
Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Image Credits in order shown: © Alanpoulson | Dreamstime.com © R. Gino Santa Maria | Dreamstime.com
© Todd Castor | Dreamstime.com © Vasiliy Koval | Dreamstime.com © Andrey Popov | Dreamstime.com