When I was pregnant with my second child, I got a phone call from an editor. "Do you want to be on national TV?" she asked. Anyone who knows me will recognize that she asked the question rhetorically. I love attention, and frankly, even national television doesn't quite offer the level of fame I hope to achieve. So, I agreed, and several hours later I learned what I would actually be doing while America discovered me: discussing my sex life.
Abbi Perets

No, it wasn't Jerry Springer, it was actually Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, back when Cybill Shepherd was still hosting it.

At some point, I remembered to tell my husband that he would need a day off from work to complain about me to millions of viewers. He was surprisingly easy to convince.

And so it was, on a Friday in my sixth month or so, we went off to Los Angeles to sit on plush sofas, ignore the cameras around us and share with America how we hadn't had sex since conceiving the aforementioned second child. But as it turns out, despite what my husband would have the country believe, I'm not the only woman who finds the thought of sex, well, unappealing while pregnant.

Not tonight, dear
"I just wasn't that interested in sex during pregnancy," says 32-year-old mom of two Christina. The Bellevue, Illinois mom points out that she is "very interested" when she's not gestating; pregnancy just saps her desire.

She's not alone with her low libido. "Actually, my problem before was that I had no sexual feelings whatsoever," says Massachusetts mom Kathy, expecting her second. "Now I have the sexual feelings, but I just can't bear the thought of having sex. I just don't feel like I look sexy, so therefore I don't feel sexy, so therefore? 'G'night, honey.'"

In fact, a quick look at our message boards reveals dozens, if not hundreds, of women kvetching good-naturedly about their "demanding" and "unrealistic" husbands who seem to "expect sex as their reward for breathing."

Christina says the key to maintaining marital bliss during pregnancy, however, is to talk with -- not at -- your partner. Remember to use a gentle tone of voice, and don't jump in with accusations right off the bat. "You both need to be open to new things," she says. "It's wrong for a man to pressure his significant other for sex, but it's also wrong for a woman to expect her partner to just forget about sex until six weeks postpartum." Marriage partners, she says, must practice mutual respect. She stresses a basic element of a healthy marriage: "Make time for intimacy. It won't kill you to 'give in' every once in awhile."

Tammy in Georgia has a few suggestions, too. "Try taking a shower or bath together. We even wash each other's hair and body sometimes. Afterwards, make him give you a lotion rubdown with some good smelly stuff that he likes and turns him on."

But all the sensuality in the world won't help every mom. As mom Julia notes, "We've tried showers to rubdowns to books and movies. Doesn't matter: it does nothing for me. I just feel more maternal than I do wifely."

Just can't get enough
On the other hand, some of our sisters don't think that an in-womb soccer match and a run at the world peeing record constitute enough "action."

"Once morning sickness is out of the way, many pregnant women find that pregnancy increases sex drive," says Valerie Davis Raskin, MD, author of Great Sex for Moms. "Hormones and/or increased pelvic blood flow may cause this, but the 'I'm-a-fertility-goddess' rush can be a powerful aphrodisiac, too."

"I went from not even wanting to look at my husband to locking the bedroom door and not letting him leave until I get what I want," says Danielle from Sun Valley, Idaho, of the second-trimester hormonal rush. "I didn't think I would ever want 'it' again, but I'm glad the sex drive is back."

"In my first pregnancy, my sex drive was definitely increased," says Carrie, who notes that her husband was happy to accommodate her. "And both times I was pregnant, my husband couldn't keep his hands off me. He loved the feel of my pregnant belly."

Although Carrie was at first hesitant to keep up her active sex life during pregnancy, her husband's patience and love went a long way toward helping her feel comfortable in her changing body. "I felt huge, like a beached whale," she says. "But I've learned quite well that my husband loves me for who and what I am, not for how I look. I am now more comfortable than ever with myself."

In fact, this new mom recently looked at some pregnancy pictures her husband took. "I looked radiant. I was happy, my hair looked great and I was womanly," she says. What's sexier than that?

When Dad's holding back
Remember, too, that your partner may have some reservations about having sex with Junior in the room, er, womb.

"Some partners greet increased sexual appetite with willing cooperation, if not joyful enthusiasm, but some men are seriously turned off by pregnancy," Raskin says. "They may fear harming the baby, or have a taboo about pregnancy that may relate to unconsciously equating their wives with their mothers during this transition." So is there anything you can do? "Some are helped by reassurance from your caregiver that sex won't hurt the baby."

"When I told my husband I was pregnant, he discontinued all amorous advances because he didn't feel comfortable," says Taryn, a Richmond, Virginia, mother of one. "No amount of research or doctor's urgings could make him believe that he was not hurting the baby or me."

Some husbands just need a little bit of, um, prodding to see that their babies are going to be just fine and that marital relations can indeed resume. "My husband had a problem when I was pregnant with our first," says Wendy, a Detroit mom of three. "But after the doctor told him that he wouldn't harm the baby or anything, he got over his problem real fast!"

Safe sex -- Yes, even now
If you're concerned about potential health problems, see your caregiver, suggests Dr John Bower, an obstetrician in Ocean Pines, Maryland. "If there are preexisting risk factors for premature labor, then women should consult with their caregivers and avoid deep penetration and anything that causes pain."

He also points out that all sex during pregnancy should be monogamous and with a partner you know is free of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). "You don't want to get any STDs during pregnancy," he cautions. "There are two people who can be infected, and the baby doesn't stand a chance against many of these diseases."

If it feels good?
Tarzana, California Ob/Gyn and mom of three Dr Taaly Silberstein says couples need to find their own comfort levels -- together. "Lots of things can happen to your libido during pregnancy," says Silberstein. "Some women want more sex, and some women don't want any. Remember that your mood is situational. If it's been a long day and you're tired, try to create intimacy. Make a romantic dinner, or take a weekend to get away from everything."

What works for someone else may not work for you. Dr Silberstein recommends that couples experiment together to find their own happy medium. "As long as there are no problems or complications, you can keep up what you were doing before," she says. Her advice works well for both sexual positions and relationships: "Do whatever makes you comfortable." And while a longstanding mismatch in sex drive can be a serious problem needing professional intervention, masturbation is a perfectly good short-term solution for the partner who can't get enough.

"It is true that libido mismatches often accompany childbearing, and they can fluctuate at different stages," says Raskin. "Rest assured that childbirth is a cure for pregnancy-induced sex-starvation. Know, too, that childbirth is a cure for husbands who are phobic about sex with their pregnant wives." She laughs, "If only we could all coordinate our libidos!"PregnancyAndBaby.com

Tags: libido


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