Sex in pregnancy – your honest experiences

Our MFM survey reveals that you and your partner's sex drives are very mismatched during pregnancy – and that the third trimester sees the biggest difference

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Did you know that your sex drive is likely to dramatically change during pregnancy? But that your partner’s libido is more likely to stay the same? 

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In our MFM sex survey, more than 2,100 mums-to-be and mums revealed details of their sex lives during pregnancy and beyond. 

You told us that 60% of you found your sex drive changed while you were pregnant, with the figure rising to 77% during the third trimester. Yet, when it came to partners, only 31% of your partner’s sex drive changed.

In total, more than half (54%) of pregnant women have a different sex drive to their partners. 

And if you’re thinking that your sex drive is likely to fall during pregnancy, it’s not always the case. While 47% of our mums said they were less turned on, 20% said their sex drive increased. 

The big mismatch – why is it happening?

Our survey reveals that women and men feel very differently about having sex during pregnancy – particularly when it comes to worrying about it. 

While women tend to go off sex because of tiredness or feeling sick, men worry more about hurting the baby. 

Top 3 reasons for having less sex during pregnancy (more than one answer was permitted):

Women                                    

Men                                  

Tiredness – 48%
Worried about hurting the baby – 47%

Not feeling sexy – 44%     
Understanding partner’s sex drive had decreased – 30%

Feeling sick – 37%
Worried about miscarriage – 20%   

“For many women pregnancy doesn’t make you feel at your best,” points out psychosexual therapist Jo Coker, the professional services manager for the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists.

As one mum put it: “The tiredness and sickness in the first trimester put the brakes on totally, but did increase as the pregnancy increased, until I felt too cumbersome.”

Health issues such as thrush and cystitis also put the brakes on bedtime activity for some women, while the liver disorder obstetric cholestatis and catching whooping cough were flagged up.

So can sex hurt my baby?

No, this is an unfounded fear, reassures the NHS, as your partner’s penis can’t penetrate beyond your vagina, and the baby cannot tell what’s going on.

However, later in pregnancy, an orgasm or even sex itself can set off Braxton Hicks contractions, where the uterus muscles go hard, but this is perfectly normal.

Heavy bleeding could be a reason to avoid sex in pregnancy, as it could increase the risk of further bleeding if the placenta is low, and mums-to-be are advised to avoid sex if your waters have broken.

How much sex are pregnant women having?

OK, no surprises but there’s a lot less sex goes on once you’re pregnant.

Pre-pregnancy, 80% of you were having sex at least once a week.

During pregnancy, this falls to 47% of you have sex at least once a week. 

Relate counsellor and sex therapist Denise Knowles says, “Pregnancy can cause a real shift in a couple’s sex life, and it’s totally normal for both men and women to experience changes in their sex drives during this time. Hormones, concerns about the baby and changes in your body can all make a difference to your sex drive.”

Want the good news? Quality is trumping quantity – almost one in five mums-to-be said that orgasms were more intense in their second and third trimesters.   

Is the sex different?

A big fat yes. 76% of couples change the way they have sex during pregnancy. Most change their positions, finding doggy style, side-by-side and woman on top helped to make sex more comfortable.

What if your sex drive increases?

The good news is that getting pregnant doesn’t always mean a dip in sex drive – with 21% of women reporting higher sexual desire.

Dr Roz D’Ombraine Hewitt, sex counsellor from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, explains: “Hormone levels vary with each trimester and a woman’s desire often dwindles during the first and third trimester, but may go into overdrive during the second. 

“While women’s sex drives typically fluctuate, men’s remain more stable. This can bother both partners – the reason it’s important to share your concerns.”

For one mum, her sex drive “only decreased slightly when I got to my due date, and that was because I was scared that my waters would break during sex”.

And those who did see their sex drive increase put it down to feeling “happier and more loved up” or closer to their partner (36%), feeling sexier than usual (13%) and having better orgasms (7%). 

“I just felt hornier”, revealed one mum, while another said she had “lots of naughty dreams”.

So what about that age old stereotype of the dad-to-be pestering his reluctant partner for sex? Well, our results show that in some cases it was the man who was less up for a night of passion.

From the many mums who told us their husbands felt “uncomfortable” with it, or were “not interested”, to the woman who said her partner “didn’t find her body attractive”, it seems the changes are not always one-sided.

What’s the solution to a mismatched sex drive during pregnancy?

With women telling us they often felt “sad”, “frustrated”, “guilty” and even “powerless” over the sex issue, is there any solution?

“There’s really good, constructive help out there,” says Jo. “But my advice is not to let it become a battleground and don’t shy away from intimacy just because you may not be up for penetrative sex.”

As one mum-to-be put it: “I’m okay with it. I’m pregnant with a 2 and a 3 year old. Not much energy left for sex. Having a cuddle is closeness without having to go to the effort of having sex.”

Relate’s Denise gives us these tips:

– Talk about it outside the bedroom so it doesn’t feel like the pressure is on to have sex right now
– Try different times of the day – get frisky in the afternoons or early mornings
– Pamper yourself. Pregnancy can make you feel tired and not at your best. Arrange a couple of hours when you can spoil yourself – have a long hot bath, or just put your feet up. You’re likely to feel more in the mood when you’re relaxed

And take heart from the hilarious tales that mums shared with us (and yes, we’ve been there too!).

“When I fell pregnant with my first, I used to feel frisky after eating spicy meat and we got caught by security in Nando’s loos getting it on. It was really embarrassing,” reveals one mum.

“I once accidentally had a wee when having sex while pregnant!” shared another, while breaking wind was a common theme, with this mum refusing to let it dampen the mood: “I had excessive wind during my first pregnancy which was not great when you’re getting down to it…we managed to laugh it off though and it never put us off.”

And this mum told us: “When I was pregnant with my first child my remote control vibrator disappeared inside me and I couldn’t turn it off…I was terrified it was buzzing against my baby’s head. It eventually shot out after a lot of pushing.”

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