Details most pregnancy guidebooks steer clear of.

By Madeleine Burry
July 03, 2018

Movies, celebrity stories, and the experiences of our friends and family tell us a lot about pregnancy. We know that it's is often accompanied by (sometimes dreadful) morning sickness, that insane food cravings can kick in, and that you may forget what your feet look like as your belly expands.

But what about your sex drive? Frank talk about post-conception intimacy isn’t always shared, and that can leave you (and your partner) wondering what to expect when it comes to getting it on when you're expecting. Health spoke with Adeeti Gupta, MD, FACOG, a board-certified ob-gyn and founder of Walk In GYN Care in New York City, who explains how your libido, and your sex life, can change when you're pregnant.

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Your sex drive might skyrocket in the first and third trimesters

“Libido can change either way during pregnancy,” says Dr. Gupta. A woman’s sex drive is likely to ebb and flow throughout the course of those nine months, with moments when you feel more sexual—and ones where you’re decidedly not in the mood. What’s typical, says Dr. Gupta, is a spike in desire during the first and third trimester.

Even if your sex drive is through the roof, physical symptoms (think: nausea, back aches, general exhaustion, Braxton Hicks contractions) can get in the way of getting some action. “Morning sickness in the first trimester can dampen an otherwise perfect hormonal and physical environment for an increased libido,” says Dr. Gupta.

She describes the second trimester as “a calm period” libido-wise, since hormones tend to level out during these three months. “Usually libido increases in the last trimester of pregnancy, especially the very last month due to a sharp rise of sex hormones right before they drop before childbirth,” she adds.

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Higher hormone levels can mean easier orgasms

About those hormones: During pregnancy, there’s a surge in estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, and testosterone, says Dr. Gupta. “All help increase lubrication, increase sensitivity, and heighten sexual response,” she says. 

Some physical changes also lead to a sex drive spike. The amount of blood flowing in your body increases by nearly 50% when a baby is on board. All that blood is going to your erogenous zones—including your vagina and clitoris, says Dr. Gupta. “Hence [an] increased sexual drive and achievement of orgasms,” she says.

That’s right: Pregnancy may make you want more sex and orgasm more readily. More good news: Unless your ob-gyn says otherwise, sex during pregnancy—in any position that's comfortable for you—is perfectly safe. 

Just keep a few common sense precautions in mind. During your first trimester, if you have any pain or spotting, avoid aggressive, very physical sex, says Dr. Gupta; the pelvic force can lead to pain or discomfort. (And of course, if you notice these symptoms, let your ob-gyn know.)

Finally, as your due date approaches, know that you should not have sex if you suspect your water has broken, since there is an infection risk, says Dr. Gupta. 

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Other factors affect pregnancy sex too

The spikes and dips you experience in your sex drive during pregnancy are fundamentally unique to you and your partner. There's really no "normal," so don’t expect to have the same experiences as your friends or your sister. You may even notice a difference in your desire for sex from one pregnancy to another.

And don't forget that sexual desire isn't just a physical thing; it's hugely influenced by emotional factors, such as how good you feel about your pregnant body. Your changing shape may be something you glory in—or cringe at. If you're feeling powerful and beautiful, your sex drive might go up in response. If you're not, it could wane. Both a supercharged libido or a forgotten one are reasonable responses depending on how pregnancy influences your self-image.

And don’t forget about the other person in bed with you and how your partner's desires may shift in response to your pregnancy. Dr. Gupta says her pregnant patients are often happy to have sex, but their male partner may be freaked out, thanks to the misguided idea that intercourse can somehow hurt a fetus. “They are more bothered about ‘harming the baby,’ which has no basis,” says Dr. Gupta.