In the second trimester of pregnancy, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself quite hot and bothered—and not just in the this-extra-weight-is-making-me-sweaty way. The same hormones surging through a pregnant woman’s body that cause uncontrollable sobbing and mood swings can also be the source of unbelievable sexual pleasure.
For both the woman and her partner, these 40-ish weeks are a time of extreme change. Often there is hesitation about sex while expecting, not just because of worries about the fetus, but also because all the bodily changes mean that some major shifts in sexual behavior and mindset may have to be taken to fully enjoy the moment. But there's no reason to sacrifice being intimate with your partner for nearly 10 months. Sex together is probably pretty great—it's how you (likely) got to this point in the first place. So long as you know what you're getting into, you can get it on, no problem. A few pointers for having incredible pregnancy sex, ahead.
1. Oral is amazing.
All your nerve endings—but especially those in your nether regions—are on high alert when you’re expecting, thanks to said surging hormones. Your clitoris may be swollen and hypersensitive, just like your breasts, lips, and other erogenous zones. What’s more, the extra vaginal discharge produced during pregnancy doubles as lubricant. Whether or not you were a huge fan of oral stimulation before pregnancy, it should definitely be on your before-baby bedroom bucket list.
Don’t be surprised if your partner notices a slight (or not-so-slight) difference in your flavor now that you’re a mom-to-be. Reports have shown that men find the taste of their pregnant partners more metallic or salty during oral sex than when the women were not pregnant. There’s no data as to why, but the different taste often disappears after the pregnant woman’s orgasm.
2. Preferred sex positions may need to change.
Sex with a swelling belly can present some mounting challenges, so to speak, but nothing insurmountable. One oft-ignored position is stirrup style, something all pregnant women are used to. Scoot down to the edge of the bed and raise your knees as though your feet are in stirrups (yep, just like at the OB-GYN’s office), with your partner standing at the ready. If you need to adjust your height, place a pillow under your butt. Spooning is also a popular, because lying on your side relieves some of the pressure from your bump. With penetration from behind, you'll each be able to find the angle that sends you both over the edge. Climbing on top (a.k.a. cowgirl), either forward-facing or reverse, allows you to control the angle, speed, and depth, while leaving plenty of room for your belly. And of course, there’s doggy style: when you’re on your hands and knees (or elbows and knees), you’re perfectly positioned for rear entry if your partner's kneeling.
If you have a pregnancy complication such as spotting, an incompetent cervix, early dilation, or low-lying placenta (placenta previa), you may be cautioned against having an orgasm during sexual activity, or even from engaging in any form of anal and vaginal intercourse because of possible hemorrhaging. Some doctors shy away from this discussion, so you may have to bring it up yourself.
3. Don't stress about the baby—it's Fort Knox–level protected.
No need to worry about knocking down baby’s front door: Multiple studies have shown that having intercourse is perfectly safe throughout pregnancy, so long as there are no underlying health issues (as mentioned earlier). Your baby is protected by amniotic fluid as well as a cervical mucus plug that keeps semen or lubrication from entering your uterus.
There’s a very slight chance that sex in the last week of pregnancy may make for a smoother labor with less need to induce, thanks to the ways semen and intercourse can change cervical mucus. Whether this is myth or reality, it can’t hurt to try (and it may be your last chance at coitus for quite a few weeks!).
4. Respect your partner—and yourself.
Sex drive ebbs and flows whether you’re pregnant or not, but if you’re feeling less-than-your-usual-sexy-self because you’ve gained weight or developed a few new curves, try tamping down your negative self-talk. Instead, practice positive affirmations that allow you to celebrate the wonderful power of your body to create and nurture the life growing inside of you, like My body is literally creating life, and there’s nothing more incredible than that. Allow your mind to embrace the power of your body!
That said, don’t force yourself to feel like you must perform—and don’t let your partner make you feel bad for not putting out, either. This goes both ways: A pregnant woman’s partner may not feel up to the act, either. Don’t take it personally! Studies show that most men find their pregnant partners more attractive, even if they don’t want to have sex—they may be fearful of hurting the baby (as discussed above), or anxious about money, parenting responsibilities, and other life-changing matters. Just strive to keep the lines of communication open and to discuss your anxieties so you can problem-solve together.
More than 60 percent of women report getting busy in their third trimester. If you’re part of the 40 percent not sexing it up, don’t fret! About two-thirds of new mamas have vaginal intercourse within eight weeks after giving birth, and 94 percent are back in the saddle (sexually speaking) within six months. Let the countdown begin!
5. Stay protected—pregnancy isn't the only thing condoms prevent.
Just because you can’t get pregnant while you’re already pregnant doesn’t mean you should put away the condoms, especially if you're not in a monogamous relationship. The possibility of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and infections—which only condom use can help prevent—still exists. Pregnancy is a great time to encourage your partner to get tested for STDs so you can have absolute peace of mind—and he can show solidarity with the hundreds of needle pricks and blood tests you’ll encounter throughout these months.
If you have even the slightest concern that you might have a sexually transmitted infection or disease, do not avoid talking to your doctor out of fear or shame. For starters, your doctor has certainly seen worse, but more importantly, left untreated, some infections or diseases can complicate your health and put your baby at risk.
6. Intimacy is important.
Sex and intimacy are only kissing cousins, not identical twins. If you or your partner isn’t interested in fooling around, or you can’t get busy because of doctor’s orders, there are countless ways to feel close to each other—and to express your mutual love and attraction. Foot massages, back rubs, and other nonsexual touching can help you feel physically connected. Sweet gestures like love letters pack a powerful emotional punch as well: Send a text listing three qualities you’re grateful for; tape your sonogram image to the bathroom mirror; take in a play or go on a babymoon. Better yet, just snuggle together naked. This may be the last time for quite a while that it'll be just the two of you cuddled up without a tiny baby in-between.
Nancy Redd is the bestselling author of PREGNANCY, OMG!, the first-ever photographic guide to all the bizarre, hilarious, and often unanticipated changes a woman’s body can go through. For more on the book, watch Redd on the Today Show here.