Rumor has it that some women experience "the best sex ever" during pregnancy, thanks to surging hormones and increased blood flow down below. And it turns out that pregnancy sex is worth overcoming common hurdles like exhaustion, awkwardness, and anxiety. "Couples who don't make intimacy a priority now are only going to find more excuses when the baby comes home," says Yvonne K. Fulbright, Ph.D., a sex educator and coauthor of Your Orgasmic Pregnancy. "The happier you are in all aspects of your relationship, including your sex life, the better parent you'll be." Tackling the following bedroom issues will allow you and your mate to fully enjoy the pregnancy – and each other.
"I'm too tired."
Fatigue is a classic symptom of early pregnancy and one that can quickly derail your sex life. After all, who has the desire to make bedroom eyes when you can barely keep them open? "Getting your body ready for pregnancy is a huge energy draw," says Roger Harms, M.D., an obstetrician-gynecologist and author of Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. Late hours at work before maternity leave, sleepless nights, frenetic nesting, and carting around 30 or so extra pounds can also take their toll. Do your best to slow down and get the recommended eight hours of sleep. If you still don't have the energy for intercourse, use this time as an opportunity to explore other activities that give you pleasure, whether that's massaging, kissing, or oral sex, says Dr. Fulbright.
"I feel unattractive."
For some women, it's hard to channel your inner sex kitten with an alien belly that screams "incubator." Though your shifting shape can take getting used to, you're probably your own worst critic. Try to focus on your best assets. If you've got great legs, show them off with skinny jeans and hide your bigger behind with a tunic. Of course, taking care of yourself on the inside, through exercise and nutrition, also boosts self-esteem. And why not try a positive attitude? "When I was pregnant, I really started to love my body and appreciate what it was able to do," says Wendy Altschuler, a Chicago mother of two. "I was growing and supporting a life, and this made me feel confident and sexy."
"I'm afraid sex will harm the baby."
Carrying a little living being inside of you can make it tempting to slap on a "Handle With Care" label before lovemaking. But doctors agree that getting frisky is perfectly safe. "In a normal, healthy pregnancy, there's no risk to having intercourse," says Elisabeth Aron, M.D., an Ob-Gyn and author of Pregnancy Do's and Don'ts.
The most common complications that can preclude sexual activity are placenta previa (a condition in which the placenta covers the cervix), premature rupture of the membranes, and signs of preterm labor. Otherwise, couples are typically given the green light for the entire pregnancy. That includes the first trimester, when fear of losing the baby causes some couples to fret needlessly about their bedroom behavior. "Miscarriages aren't provoked by sex," says Dr. Harms. Second-timers, like Kindra Kirkeby of Richmond, Virginia, have an intuitive grasp of this, making their sex life less inhibited. "It wasn't this new thing that we needed to be careful about," she says.
Relaxing (and improvising!) are key to successful lovemaking during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester when you have an out-to-there belly. During this stage, Dr. Fulbright recommends the side-by-side position or woman on top, which places no pressure on the abdomen.
"Sex is uncomfortable."
Try new positions; just avoid lying flat on your back or having direct pressure on your belly. "The best positions, especially as the pregnancy progresses, are with the woman on top, either in bed or on a chair," says Shannon Clark, M.D., an assistant professor in the department of OB-GYN at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. "Lying on her side, 'spooning' with her partner, is also a good option."
Buy Maternity Lingerie: Flaunt your new curves with intimates that are functional and pretty. Some of your pre-pregnancy favorites may come in maternity cuts.
Book a Babymoon: Sometimes a change of scenery is all you need, so consider a last-fling babymoon vacation.
Strike a Pose: Getting your photo taken may help you see your pregnant body in a new and more flattering light. Jennifer Loomis, a family and maternity photographer whose work is showcased in Portraits of Pregnancy: Birth of a Mother, recommends scheduling the session six to ten weeks before your due date, when your belly is clearly visible but you're not too close to delivery.