My first pregnancy, I didn't feel very sexy. I was queasy from day one until delivery — it wasn't fun, and I pretty much eschewed sex for sleep. Pregnancy number two? Way different. Intimacy is an important part of my marriage, and my husband and I quickly found out how strong couples keep their sex life alive during pregnancy. In fact, keeping it alive is often a testament to a couple's willingness to compromise and proof of the fortitude of their relationship. But what do you do when you feel less than ready to have sex? It's not like pregnancy is magical for everyone, all the time.
I spoke to licensed sex therapist Mark Hunter about the connection, and he tells Romper that it's important to note that a sex life doesn't have to be sex. "The act of penetration is such a small part of sexual intimacy, and not as important as the emotions behind it. A great sex life is about the couple coming together in an intimate way that satisfies them both. It might be touching or kissing, or even mutual masturbation. Sometimes, even if one partner can't participate much, they can experience great satisfaction through watching or watching and helping their partner stimulate themselves."
Sex is a spectrum, he adds, one that uses all senses available. (I say available because not all couples have all five. I am deaf, so moaning doesn't do it for me. I could watch porn on mute and be just as stimulated. Also, does anyone with kids not watch their porn on mute? Serious question. I should ask my husband.)
Hunter went on to say that sex and intimacy is a priority for strong couples. When it comes to how strong couples keep their sex life alive during pregnancy, they're working with a strong foundation of intimacy. "They're just maintaining the intimacy as a priority. They know how to be together in easier times, so if there's a blip, they're already equipped to move through it. They also tend to be more creative in the bedroom. Now, that doesn't mean they're reenacting Rhianna's "S & M," but they likely communicate their needs better, and they're more willing to try new things."
I'm really fortunate to have many friends who are in amazing marriages and partnerships, so I asked them how they managed to keep it going during their pregnancies.
One of my dear friends, Rebekah Borucki, is a doula and meditation specialist whose marriage to rock and roll photographer, Justin Borucki, is the stuff you write sonnets about. When I asked Bex about this, she was completely candid and amazing, telling Romper, "For me, sex during pregnancy took a lot of 'inside' work. Reminding myself that I'm a sexual being deserving of pleasure even while carrying a baby was work. I masturbated more, practiced root and sacral chakra meditations, and made it a point to be more physically affectionate with my partner throughout the day. I also communicated to him how important it was to me to be reminded that I'm sexy, and beautiful, and desirable. (This is work all moms need to do, in general.)"
Thien-Kim Lam, a writer and sex toy expert at Bawdy Bookworms, tells Romper, "Pregnant sex sounds fun and exciting in theory, except I had to overcome two major challenges: my lack of energy during the first and third trimesters added to my husband's fear of hurting our baby. We took advantage of my burst of second trimester energy and attempted any position we could manage with my growing body. Your body changes every day during pregnancy — experiment with different positions such as spooning, doggy style (with lots of pillows), or cowgirl where you rock your hips as opposed to bouncing up and down on his pole. Consider investing in a long-handled vibrating wand so you won't need yoga moves just to reach your clit." She's been with her husband for over 15 years and they have two kids. (Basically, I trust her advice.)
Colleen Vanderlinden is an awesome romance/fantasy novelist who has been married to her husband for 22 years, and they have four kids. (Yes, four.) She says that her sex drive, which was already pretty strong, went into overdrive during her pregnancies. She tells Romper that the biggest obstacle was her changing body, but that led to more creativity in the bedroom and experiments with positioning to maintain a comfortable sex life. (I can only imagine what creative means to a romance novelist. I'm intrigued AF.)
Along the lines of creative sexual encounters during pregnancy, another romance/fantasy novelist and friend told me anonymously that "Being too pregnant to see my toes was the inspiration for something that remains a favorite private summertime activity for my husband and me. Bikini line grooming was impossible with no view, so he suggested that he do the shaving. We took to a lounge chair in the sun (in our very private back yard), with a razor, his shaving cream, and warm water, and he proceeded to groom me to our (mutual) satisfaction." (Did it just get warm in here? Fans self.) She has been married for 17 years and has two kids.
I noticed a trend that in most of my friends with the strongest partnerships — mine included — even though sex changed during pregnancy, we were willing to allow that change. The evolution isn't as scary when you know your partner is with you no matter what. I know that if I were to get pregnant tomorrow, my husband would work with me to not only make me know he still desired me, but also to make me feel desirable. There is a satisfaction and confidence that comes with a strong partnership that intimacy perpetuates, and we're willing to sacrifice other things — like marathon television watching — in order to keep it a priority. Pregnancy offers a way to express your love physically in new ways, and strong couples find areas to capitalize on it.