Ironic isn’t it that the very act which makes babies can become such a thorny subject before, during and after pregnancy? Sex should be simple: you do it, get pregnant, have a baby and carry on doing it. Of course, the reality is much more complicated. The physical changes you go through during pregnancy are bewildering, exciting, confusing but, above all else, entirely alien to us blokes. And emotionally it’s an overwhelming time for both partners. So how do men’s attitudes to sex change during this time, and what do we really think about pregnancy bodies, bumps and newborn babies being in the same room?
“I know let’s have a baby!”
While to some people finding themselves pregnant comes as a pleasant bolt out of the blue, to others the whole process of conception is one of cold, military style planning and this can prove a trifle irksome to some men.
Matt, 31, recalls the planning that went into his first child with wry bewilderment. “My wife and I decided to have a baby, and she took the creation part very seriously indeed. Optimum times of the months were marked clearly in red on a wall calendar at home, and she even programmed ‘hot’ days into my Blackberry.
“One time, an alarm went off when I was with a client – I’m a personal fitness trainer – and I realised I was supposed to drop everything and rush home to have sex! The fact that I was exhausted and in no way turned on didn’t seem to matter.”
Added to which, the sex was, as Matt recalls, perfunctory. “I was told to keep off the booze, she had me eating a high protein and zinc diet with lots of fish and after we’d had sex, our thoughts turned immediately to whether or not she would conceive.”
When you’re trying for a baby, sex can start to feel a bit like a (rather fun) school test. Suddenly you’re not just doing it for fun – you either pass or fail and this can put added pressure on men to perform.
Tom, 27, agrees. “All the frivolity and playfulness went out of our sex lives for a few months. Also, I had to ‘save my sperm’ as my girlfriend thought they’d be more powerful and healthier if they were ‘dying to get out’. I used to joke that I was purely being used as a stud.”
Now the proud father of Jonah, 11 months, Tom says sex has returned to what it was before the family planning began. “Thankfully we now have sex when the will takes us, and not just when my wife is ovulating.”
“Oh my God, we’re having a baby!”
When some men find out their partner is pregnant, and idiot-switch flicks on in their minds. Iain, 29, was one of these men. “Virginia told me she was pregnant and my sex drive literally evaporated overnight,” he says. “Until then everything had been very good, and we’d been planning a baby, so the actual pregnancy was a shock. But as soon as I knew she was pregnant, I simply couldn’t have sex. The actual thought of penetration made me physically shudder.
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“I realise now that I was being daft, but I used to have grotesque thoughts about the baby, which at that point must have been the size of a pinhead, being somehow squashed. I though it’s head would get banged around. It’s the ultimate passion killer.”
This mental image of your baby being fully formed, even in the early weeks of pregnancy, isn’t uncommon. Joe, 33, also felt protective of his son-to-be. “I thought it would be perverse to have sex when my son was floating around inside there. So we didn’t have sex for a lot of the pregnancy. The child became central to my mind, and intercourse seemed somehow irrelevant. Thankfully, towards the end of the pregnancy I turned a corner and found I couldn’t take my hands off her. Any mental blocks evaporated.”
“Look at the size of you!”
The early weeks of pregnancy can, for some couples, be a time of high sexual excitement. “After we found out Martha was pregnant,” says Greg, 32, “we had a fantastic sex life and were simply overwhelmed with happiness. But when Martha started to show – and I hate to say it – I lost sexual interest for a while.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t love or even fancy her. During the day I was oozing with pride about the size of her bump and how cute she looked waddling around. It made me want to cuddle her all the time. But sexually? I couldn’t go there. I made the mistake of likening it to me developing a huge beer gut, and asked her if she’d still want to shag me then. Not surprisingly, this went down like a lead balloon.”
We know that we’re not meant to admit it –and it’s probably best we don’t – but looked at dispassionately, the increase in the size of our partners is pretty shocking.
“When Fiona really started to show I was stunned by the size of her stomach,” agrees Dan, 35. “Seeing her naked did nothing for me sexually. I found odd little things a turn-off, such as the size of her knickers and the huge elasticated waistband on her jeans! She’d joke she felt like a darts player.”
Both men say this caused problems, as their respective partners craved physical affection just as they were drawing back. “I like to think that next time I’ll be more grown-up about it,” Greg confesses, “but at least we both look back and have a good laugh.”
After the birth of their first child, a huge number of couples find sex better than ever, and many men say their partners physically flourish. “As soon as we could, we were at it like rabbits. It was much more intense than before, and still is,” Alan, 31, says. “My girlfriend, Ella, looked amazing, full of vitality. It was odd initiating sex after six weeks were up. We were a bit like a new couple, feeling our way through. This made the first time very sexy, where I’d been a bit nervous about causing her pain.”
For others, the break was harder to overcome. “I couldn’t get back into sex for a long time: the baby took the place of my partner in my affections – all our hugs and loving seemed to go to the baby, not to each other, and I just didn’t feel sexual,” Paul, 30, admits. “We’d been off sex for so long, it was like learning all over again. I wanted it all the time, but had to squeeze it in between feeds and nappies and her being knackered. It’s hard to get aroused with a howler monkey in the next room. And
I had thoughts about the baby coming out where I was going in, but these were, mercifully, fleeting.”
This period, though, seems to be about re-establishing close bonds with their partners for many men. “My wife looked amazing,” David, 28, says. “I still look at photos of her in the first few weeks after Daniel was born and think she was the sexiest woman on earth. Still is, of course, but those first weeks she was, as they say, glowing.”