One minute, the sight of your partner makes you want to put him out with the weekly garbage; the next, you might want to play a couple of rounds of naked Twister. Par for the course when it comes to wanting to have sex during pregnancy.
See, as your estrogen and progesterone levels rise, they cause changes in your body that boost libido. Estrogen in particular, which serves such pregnancy-related functions as boosting blood flow to your uterus (and to your entire pelvis), also increases vaginal lubrication and heightens sensitivity in your breasts and nipples.
It's a righteous recipe for romance. But the same hormones can also conspire against you, especially in the beginning when nausea and fatigue can send you to bed for an entirely different reason. And toward the end, you may just feel too huge, unwieldy and, again, tired. (That's why months four to six or so are often called the "honeymoon" trimester.)
So where does that leave you? The X factor in the sex equation is the relationship between your changing moods and your changing body: Just as every woman's pregnancy is unique, so is every pregnant woman's sex drive. If your spirit is willing but fears or misinformation are holding you back, this advice can help you relax.
If you do want to have sex, embrace the ubiquitous three-word Nike slogan. As long as your pregnancy is progressing normally, you can have sex as often as you like (some exceptions may include a history of miscarriage or preterm labor).
Be aware that it's pretty common for some women to experience bleeding during intercourse, especially in the first trimester. This is caused by the normal swelling of capillaries in the cervix, which can burst when irritated during sex. While such spotting or bleeding is generally nothing to worry about, you should still mention it to your doctor or midwife.
What's more, there's typically no chance of hurting the baby during sex because the amniotic fluid and your cervix protect him. But one caution: If you have oral sex, your partner should not blow air into your vagina, as during pregnancy this can cause an air bubble to block a blood vessel.
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Because your body doesn't change that much in the first trimester, sex can pretty much continue as it has in the past. Later, as the uterus grows, some positions may become more difficult to perform. Sex expert Pepper Schwartz, PhD, offers these suggestions on the best sexual positions during pregnancy:
Spooning: The spoon position can be very cozy and intimate. In this case you should lie on your side curled in a C, with your partner facing your back and curled around you. He then enters your vagina from behind while both of you are lying on your sides.
You on top: This can be a satisfying position during late pregnancy, allowing you to control pacing and be more comfortable. Make sure, however, that he doesn't enter you too deeply.
Edge of the bed: Try lying down face-up on the edge of the bed, with your legs spread and the soles of your feet on the floor. Your partner can stand or bend over you. This position, however, does allow him to thrust more deeply, so you'll have to tell him how gentle and slow you want him to be.
Living room love: Kneel on a couch with your belly facing the back of it; use your arms for support. He penetrates from behind.
Side by side: Another good choice for late pregnancy, this position will control thrust and keep weight off your belly. You and your husband lie side by side, facing each other. He slips his leg over yours (your leg can be either straight and to the side or bent at the knee) and enters you from an angle. In a variation of this, you lie on your back and he on his side. Put your leg that's closest to him over his legs. He can enter you from the back and side, and still have his face next to yours.
Go solo: If you find that intercourse is too uncomfortable as your belly grows, explore other types of sexual gratification, such as oral sex (don't blow air into the vagina) or mutual masturbation.
Just be aware that with the sudden drop of estrogen after delivery, your libido can plummet and the lining of your vagina thins out, making intercourse feel like you're losing your virginity all over again. This can be particularly true if you're breastfeeding.
Most docs recommend that you wait six weeks until after giving birth (even for oral sex). The goals are to allow your body to heal, avoid infection and deal with any psychological or emotional issues you and your partner may be feeling.
When you do venture back, it's important to make your partner aware that you may need plenty of foreplay and possibly lubrication. Taking care of the baby for you whenever possible so that you can nap couldn't hurt, either!