Question: I am nearly seven months pregnant. I can't stop thinking about sex! Is this normal?
For some women, being pregnant feels about as sexy as those stretchy maternity pants: not at all. For others, raging hormones, swollen breasts, and a newfound focus on the body is enough to put them "in the mood" for nine solid months.
If you're pregnant and raring to go -- and have your obstetrician's blessing and partner's interest --- by all means, enjoy yourself. But if the thought of sex makes you queasy, remember that all pregnancies are different, even for the same woman, and sexual responses are just as varied.
Some couples worry about whether having intercourse will hurt the baby or wonder if the baby can feel it. In healthy pregnancies, the uterus is an amazingly protective environment and provides a fairly thick barrier between the baby and the world outside --- even when the "outside" involves the inside of the vagina.
But certain situations may mean sex during pregnancy isn't wise. If you are at risk for preterm labor, your doctor may ask you to cut back on sexual activity or to monitor yourself for contractions after sex. Your doctor may ask you to stop having sex if you have certain problems during pregnancy such as vaginal bleeding or problems with your cervix or placenta.
That doesn't necessarily mean you can't enjoy many sexual activities. Using your hands or mouth on your partner might offer just the right sensation when intercourse is off-limits due to a complication such as early contractions or spot bleeding. While orgasms can cause uterine contractions, research indicates that in normal pregnancies, orgasms with or without intercourse don't lead to preterm labor or birth.
Pregnant couples should adapt their sexual positions. After five months, resting on the back can decrease the blood supply to the uterus. Sex positions such as side positions that support the abdomen or with her on top --- which doesn't put pressure on the abdomen --- may be safer. Of course, pregnant women should always avoid lying directly on their abdomens.
No matter what sexual challenges you may face during pregnancy, these obstacles won't last forever. And sex may be different in many ways after your bundle of joy arrives. For one, giving birth changes a woman's body, for better and worse. The plus side? The blood supply to the pelvis increases-that's generally good news for achieving orgasm. The downside is that the vaginal opening may be stretched and looser after giving birth vaginally, possibly decreasing sexual sensations for both partners. Regular Kegel exercises --- repeatedly flexing and releasing the vaginal opening --- can help restore tone.
What's important is that you and your partner keep communicating your desires (or lack thereof) during and after a pregnancy. Like your new baby, a relationship must grow and change to maintain its good health --- sexually and emotionally.