With so many things to worry about as a mom-to-be — baby registries, nursery planning, prenatal doctor’s visits, to name a few — getting it on with your SO might not rank high on your list of concerns. And not because you don’t feel sexy, because, let’s face, you are! Somewhere between first-trimester morning sickness and third-trimester exhaustion, many pregnant women realize they have absolutely zero desire to get it on — at all, leading them to wonder, “is it normal to have low sex drive during pregnancy?”
After all, that’s not the picture Hollywood, pregnancy message boards, and even your local pregnancy groups might have you believe. Whether it’s because of increased blood flow, or second-trimester hormones, or even the confidence boost from new giant boobs, you’re often told pregnancy can be the lustiest time of a woman’s life. And, as per usual, the horniest amongst us are often the loudest. You might not hear about the countless women who feel uncomfortable or downright asexual as their bodies morph and grow, and you might not hear about the men who suddenly feel squeamish taking their body-housing partner from behind.
But take it from the experts — low sex drive during pregnancy isn’t just normal, it’s a biological reality for a good chunk of the population. In fact, I spoke with Rebecca Wong, relationship therapist and connectfulness coach, who says a low libido often affects our unpregnant partners, too.
“It’s really common for both of your sex drives to ebb and flow during pregnancy,” Wong says, explaining that there’s physical, hormonal, and psychological changes happening as a couple gears up for parenthood (or parenthood again — eek!). “Physical touch can feel very different — sometimes more pleasurable, sometimes less, and sometimes the amount of pleasure might feel unsettling.” Nipple play, for example, could suddenly feel really good when it never did anything for you before; or it might make you jump out of your skin. And sometimes the biggest change is how you feel in your growing body, and what positions suddenly feel uncomfortable.
“What’s key is that you are tuning in and acknowledging the changes you both feel,” Wong says. That’s right — both of you. Again, low sex drive during pregnancy isn’t just a female issue, and it goes far beyond the standard, “I don’t want to hurt the baby!” fears. (Psst, fellas: No matter how much you’re packing in your pants, you won’t penetrate the womb.)
And, as Healthline notes, men actually go through hormonal changes during pregnancy too. In response to their partner’s unique pregnancy pheromones, their bodies might produce less testosterone. Men also experience a change in prolactin and vasopressin hormones as they biologically prep for parenthood.
I can’t tell you the number of friends who’ve confessed their nine-month dry spells — both men and women. One friend, a 30-year-old mom of two, said she couldn’t stomach the thought of getting physical in any capacity. “We resorted to a lot of foot rubs and massages, so we could physically touch and be close without me having to take off my underwear.” Another friend, a 27-year-old mom of three, experienced highs and lows throughout her pregnancies, with no rhyme or reason as to why she’d suddenly hit a sex slump.
If you, too, are in a pregnancy-induced sex slump, don’t stress it. Being intimate and fostering a deep connection can be much smaller and simpler than rubbing your genitals together; and often your life-growing body needs to sleep between the sheets, not romp around. Accept how you’re feeling, talk about it openly with your partner, and focus on the smaller moments of connection.
“Intimacy is about much more than simply having S.E.X.,” Wong says. “And that’s great news because there are times when getting physical is just not in the cards. Often the things that matter most are the the littlest moments of the day that you forget to focus on.” Things like how you say “good morning” and “goodnight,” or how you greet one another. How you touch and show affection or attention — eye contact across a room, rubbing up against one another in passing. “In my work with couples, I am always redirecting their attention to body language. Ask yourself, ‘How does my body language invite my partner in, and how does it reject them?’”
According to Wong, tuning into these small moments acts as an ongoing ritual of foreplay, sustaining intimacy and connection when getting busy is absolutely, positively not going to happen tonight — and possibly not for many more nights to come.