When it comes to action between the sheets, you may be feeling a bit "check that off my list" right now. After all, you're having a baby! We'll help you navigate the hormonal ups and downs of your pregnancy to find out the best time to get it on.The bumpy first trimester
A little more than a mere month ago, you and your guy were happily baby-making. Now there's a good chance that having sex barely crosses your mind. What gives? For starters, you're getting blasted by first-trimester exhaustion and possibly enough morning sickness to make you question why you thought you wanted to get pregnant in the first place. A lack of libido during this time is also part of nature's grand design. "We're hardwired to seek sex to perpetuate our genes," says Elizabeth Chabner Thompson, M.D., of Scarsdale, New York, who focuses on women's health. When you're pregnant, your body stops sending the must-get-some signal. Compounding this biological reality is the fear that anything you do, from eating deli turkey to coloring your hair, will prevent your baby from thriving. So even though it's safe to have sex (unless your doctor says otherwise), when you find out you're expecting, your feelings about the horizontal cha-cha may change more than you thought, adds Dr. Thompson.
Ditch the all-or-nothing mind-set. Sex certainly doesn't have to mean having an orgasm or even intercourse, says Eric Marlowe Garrison, author of Mastering Multiple Position Sex. Talk frankly to your partner about any ambivalence you feel. Explain that while, yes, a shoulder massage would be super nice, it may not lead to anything else during these early "no one knows we're expecting yet" weeks.
Keep an open mind. Remember that sex during pregnancy has its perks, says Dr. Thompson. You'll tend to sleep better afterward -- a benefit you will come to appreciate as your belly expands, making rest harder to come by. And, as always, a roll in the hay can relax you. So let's say that the aforementioned shoulder massage does feel pretty good, and you can tell your guy wants to pursue the moment. Maybe just go with it. Occasionally. When you think of sex in the first trimester, remember that quote about exercise you sometimes see posted by your Facebook friends: "I really regret that run. Said no one. Ever." You'll be glad you had sex, even if it took you a while to get into the mood.
Take a rain check. If you're still not feeling the love, you may just have to sit out these weeks on the bench. Most women will become aroused again when their hormones start to kick into action.The sexy second trimester
Welcome to pregnancy bliss, otherwise known as weeks 14 to 28. You're sharing your news with friends and you're finally not so incredibly dozy. Even better, you can expect to be back in the mood for love with your guy, maybe even more than before you conceived. What's causes this change of heart? Says Dr. Thompson: "Your blood supply has significantly increased, so the genital engorgement you normally would experience only during arousal is your constant state now." And you thought the only pregnancy boon would be bigger boobs!
Parade that cute tummy. As first-trimester squishiness turns into a definite "baby bump," it's time to say, "to hell with flat abs" and own your body's new look. Expecting a baby can free you from any pressure (that you put on yourself or you feel from our skinny-worshipping culture) to conform to unrealistic body images, says Logan Levkoff, Ph.D., author of "How to Get Your Wife to Have Sex with You". As your favorite nightshirt gets tighter, instead of trading it in for something bigger, let your stomach pooch out. When you're comfortable in your own skin, you'll be more in the state of mind to initiate sex. (And don't leave this body confidence behind in the second trimester. Keep it forever, Mama!)
Be yourself. "The question I get most from expecting women isn't, 'Is sex safe?' but, 'Can I use my vibrator?'" says Dr. Levkoff. The answer: If your doctor hasn't instructed you specifically to avoid intercourse, go ahead with whatever you normally enjoy. Complications, such as undiagnosed bleeding, cervical incompetence, and placenta previa, do often necessitate a no-sex rule during pregnancy. To be safe, if your doctor brings up any potential complications you may have during a prenatal appointment, don't be shy. Ask her pointedly what that means for your life in the bedroom.
Do watch for UTIs. When returning from your babymoon (the second tri is the best time to enjoy one, when you're okay to fly and feeling good), don't ignore symptoms like cramping or painful urination. See your doctor. Pregnant women are more prone to urinary tract infections, which sex can trigger. Left untreated, a UTI can lead to preterm labor. A simple prescription will clear up the infection.The topsy-turvy third trimester
The curves and hormones you reveled in last trimester are now triggering anarchy, especially as you get closer to 40 weeks. Increased blood flow causes painfully swollen everything. And that big baby bump will have you tossing and turning in discomfort. Or as a mom of three in Birmingham, Alabama, describes it: "When I neared my due date, my ankles turned to cankles, my feet became swollen to twice their size, and my nose spread out across my face. I didn't exactly feel hot."
Be creative. Recall the first-trimester mantra: Sex doesn't have to mean orgasm or even intercourse. In fact, by about week 30, you can call just about anything you and your partner do together sex. Cuddling in bed before you drift off to sleep at night? That's sex. Eating ice cream on the couch under a blanket? Sex. Talking about your favorite baby names while you play footsie underneath a restaurant table? Hey, you just had sex in public!
Reassure your guy. Bill Stringer, of Washington, D.C., a dad of two, admits there was one thought he couldn't escape when his wife approached full term: "I was worried that I would bump the baby in the head with my penis," he says. Not a chance, says Dr. Levkoff. "No offense, men, but no penis is long enough to go through the cervix, amniotic sac, and placenta. It's impossible." If your partner expresses a similar fear, feel free to word Dr. Levkoff's explanation more delicately. Still, he may be relieved that playing footsies under the table counts as sex at this stage in the game.
Take the long view. Remember, this last trimester is a rather small chunk of time in the scheme of things for you and your partner. If you feel like getting steamy, go for it. But if you don't, that's okay too. Talk about it, even joke about it, so that the two of you stay connected, because that is what's critical to long-term intimacy. By opening that line of communication now, you'll be more tuned into each other after your world gets abruptly turned upside down by life with Baby. After all, sex is what transformed you from a twosome into a family.
Originally published in the August 2013 issue of American Baby magazine.
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