Q. I'm in my last trimester of pregnancy, and my husband is starting to avoid sex. He has admitted that he's afraid his penis will somehow hurt the baby, or that intercourse will cause premature labor. I don't think either of these things is true, and I want to make love now while it's still just the two of us. Who's right?
A. If yours is an uncomplicated pregnancy, with no history or risk of preterm labor, then it's almost 100 percent safe to make love in your last trimester, says Iffath Hoskins, MD, executive director of the Institute for Women's Health at Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah: "If you're comfortable in a certain position while making love, then your baby is, too."
Your unborn child is nicely protected against jolts by your fluid-filled uterus, and there's no risk of infection because the mucus plug in your cervical canal blocks out unwanted organisms. There's also no possible way that your husband's penis can touch the baby. This doesn't mean that you should be swinging from the chandeliers -- heck, by this time, you may have trouble tying your shoes -- but you can certainly enjoy yourself.
However, even if your healthcare provider reassures your husband about the baby's safety, don't be surprised if your guy still makes excuses. "It's common for men to avoid sex during late pregnancy," explains Dr. Hoskins. Your husband may view motherhood as an exalted position, so something as primitive as sex with you may take some getting used to. Finally, you not only look different right now, you feel different to him, too. Your breasts are bigger, your hips are wider, and your vaginal area is swollen. "The physical and subconscious landscapes may just feel too different for him to proceed as before," says Dr. Hoskins, "and he may avoid sex as a result."
In any case, you both owe it to your marriage to air your concerns and try to meet each other's sexual needs. You're just starting out on this amazing journey to parenthood, and making love will never be like it was before. Believe it or not, with the added intimacy of having a child together, it may be better than ever, but it will take communication and creativity on both your parts. The sooner you can start coming clean about your sexual fears and needs, the stronger your marriage will be.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, December 2004.