Linda Jenkins, a nurse, childbirth educator and author, discusses why intimacy during pregnancy is important, and how touching and sexual relations can be fulfilling to both partners.
Linda Jenkins, RN

Intimacy needen't stop
All love relationships involve some form of intimacy. Deep friendships thrive on it: marriages are nurtured by it. A note, a smile, a touch... each can have profound effect.

For most couples, sexual intercourse is an exciting, enriching, intimate part of a relationship. Unfortunately, during pregnancy, intercourse is not always possible. But just because pregnancy has reached a point where intercourse is either uncomfortable, against medical advice or simply rather awkward, INTIMACY NEEDN'T STOP! Intimacy is needed by both partners, perhaps even more than before the pregnancy.

Intimacy comes in many forms. The right words, a comment or unsolicited compliment, can do wonders in maintaining intimacy. The wise could keep in mind that words well chosen can often brighten, or at least lighten, a seemingly difficult situation.

Taking the time to do things together gives you both greater opportunity to share in the happiness of this pregnancy. A secluded spot, some favorite gourmet delights, a little time and you have all the ingredients necessary for an intimate picnic for the two of you.

The power of touch
Touching is essential to life and living. While a delightful aid to relaxation, it can also be a source of sexual gratification. Some couples know this; others may enjoy learning the possibilities together. The more familiar you become with touching and being touched, the more pleasurable it becomes. Some men resist looking at, touching, and caressing their mate's bodies during pregnancy, often justifying their reluctance by saying that it is a woman's experience. How wasteful to lose the beautiful moments of pregnancy which may occur only once or twice during a lifetime.

Use the time to the fullest to enjoy the growing child resulting from your intimacy. A massage can soothe away tension while enhancing intimacy. It offers the perfect time to explore with touch and sight the growth of the unborn child, and what it does to a woman's body. Toss away preconceptions about areas that are out-of-bounds. Ask your partner what is pleasurable for him or her. This can be a starting point for one of the most important forms of communication in your relationship. It may overcome obstacles which have often prevented intimacy in the past.

Take your time. Many books are available on massage and some even focus on the pregnant woman. These books teach the strokes and techniques which relieve stress and produce sensual pleasure at the same time. George Downing's The Massage Book, or Bernard Gunther's Sense Relaxation and What to do Until the Messiah Comes will give you a good start.

There is not a single area of skin that may not be gently and lovingly touched in a way to give pleasure. The only limitations are those you choose. An overall massage may be repulsive or annoying if either partner is uncomfortable or resistant -- tenderness and thoughtfulness are the keys. Discuss what will make each of you the most comfortable, assemble all materials, and then begin to give each other pleasure. Set the right mood and remember that on this tactile road there are only the limits the two of you decide to set. You may need conversation at first, but. then your bodies can tell each other what is appreciated. You may sit facing each other, massaging each other's face, head, neck, arms and hands. Lie next to each other and let your hands say how much you love and care.

To cut down friction, many emollients may be used: oil, glycerine, lotion, or talcum powder. The emollient may ever) be scented or flavored. Often in labor, however, the more highly scented things are better avoided. Just plain corn starch might be used on a tightly stretched abdomen and feel very good.

Enjoying sex
Many people can -- and do -- talk about sex more easily now than ever before. Nevertheless, the subject of sex during pregnancy is still colored by a lot of old wives' tales and prudery. As a result, women may be reluctant to ask the questions really bothering them when visiting their health care provider. Worse yet, couples keep their innermost fears and feelings to themselves. This might be something you want to reconsider: this is a most important time to communicate openly.

Ambivalent feelings about everything from wanting this baby to sex are common, and often increase during pregnancy. The man may feel proud of his role in helping to create a child, yet anxious about his unborn child, and at the same time, jealous of its constant presence. The woman may feel ungainly and frequently tired. She, too, may be anxious about her impending responsibilities. All these moods and conflicting feelings alter attitudes between couples and affect their desire for lovemaking. It is important that feelings, no matter how insignificant they may seem, are voiced and shared. The feelings you may have are not always negative. Being pregnant is the only absolutely effective method of birth control other than abstinence and sterility. Thus, for many women it is the first time they could truly relax and enjoy sex with their partners without fear of another


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