By Amy Engeler
At 3 a.m., with all the houses dark up and down her winding suburban street in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Jo-Ann Frey, 37, lights a candle so she can see well enough to dust her furniture. Careful not to turn on any lights or make noise that might wake up her family, she drifts from room to room with her candle and cleaning supplies, waiting until she feels sleepy enough to climb back into bed. That feeling doesn't come -- and when she hears the alarm in the bedroom go off...
Welcome to pregnancy -- a time when many couples find their sex life has become a roller coaster ride, with neither partner knowing what to expect from themselves or each other.
Intimate Life Interrupted
"From raging hormones and mood swings, to incredible fatigue, a change in body image, fears, anxieties, and sometimes, important medical reasons not to make love, there is no question that pregnancy can cut deep into a couple's intimate life," says Shari Lusskin, MD, director of reproductive psychiatry at NYU Medical Center in New York.
At a time when partners should be pulling closer together, Lusskin tells WebMD it's not unusual to find many coming apart at the emotional seams.
Sometimes, all sense of intimacy seems to come to a dead halt -- and neither partner understands why," says Lusskin.
If this sounds familiar, fear not. Although having sex -- specifically having intercourse -- may be out of reach for part or even all of your pregnancy, intimacy doesn't have to take a back seat. The key, say experts, often involves nothing more than a slight shift in thinking, and a redefining of what it really means to be close to your partner.
"Too often couples end up thinking that if they can't have intercourse -- regardless of the reason -- they should just stay away from each other altogether and kind of blank out the whole concept of intimacy from their minds," says Dennis Sugrue, PhD, past president of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists, and co-author of Sex Matters For Women.
Instead, Sugrue tells WebMD couples need to recognize that intercourse and orgasm are only one way to experience intimacy -- and if it's not possible, there are other ways to stay close.
"Stroking and caressing, and sometimes just getting naked together and sharing the way that vulnerability feels, can help keep bonds of intimacy strong between partners -- even if intercourse isn't occurring," says Sugrue.