Feeling exhausted, queasy, and uncomfortable in your ever-changing body isn't exactly a recipe for romance. ("Not tonight, honey, I've got to throw up!") But the physical changes of pregnancy can also set the stage for amazing sex. Increased blood flow can give you a spectacular sensitivity in all your erogenous zones. "Just about everything is more sensitive – lips, vagina, clitoris, and breasts," says sex educator Lou Paget, author of Hot Mamas: The Ultimate Guide To Staying Sexy Throughout Your Pregnancy And The Months Beyond.
Plus, staying connected with your partner is more important than ever, since your baby will depend on your united front for love and stability. "Pregnant women with strong healthy relationships lead to healthier behaviors during pregnancy and better birth outcomes," explains Brett Worly, MD, an Ob-Gyn and female sexual dysfunction expert at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. New York City-based sex therapist Madeleine Castellanos, MD, adds that intimacy helps provide feelings of happiness, pleasure, closeness, and vitality.
Here's how to take advantage of everything pregnancy has to offer in the bedroom.
If you're feeling anxious about pregnancy sex, don't sweat it. "Pregnancy is not a time to pressure a woman into sex, make her feel bad about her body, or make her feel guilty if her libido is not as strong as it once was," Worly says. "Increasing desire and emotional connection can be really helpful in any person and at any time, and pregnancy is no exception." He recommends studying up with books such as Rekindling Desire or Passionate Marriage. Then, try focusing on what gives pleasure, be it a foot massage (which increases oxytocin and arousal), or self-pleasuring.
During pregnancy, sex may come to a grinding halt, especially at first. "Usually women are much less amorous during their first trimester simply because they just don't feel well," says Castellanos. The good news? Many women feel better during the second trimester, so it's worth getting in as much as you can those three months, since the third trimester brings further obstacles (hello, huge bump!).
Impediments to intercourse are often more than just physical. "Body parts that were usually used mostly for sexual intimacy now have implications beyond that role, as motherhood approaches," Worly explains. You may also worry (unnecessarily) that intercourse will harm the baby. "The design of a woman's body is such that a baby is well protected in the uterus during pregnancy. Because of the cervix, the penis cannot touch the baby and so cannot hurt the baby at all! Sexual activity is no more dangerous or disturbing for a fetus than the woman riding in a car over potholes or a speed bump," Castellanos reassures. "I recommend that partners focus on what is most erotic for them in order to fill their mind with sexy thoughts rather than anxious thoughts that will keep them disconnected from their own arousal."
Ditching distracting technology from the bedroom can help boost your one-to-one time. After all, physical intimacy grows out of an emotional connection, Worly says: "Optimally couples would have 30-60 minutes daily to connect in an uninterrupted, screen-free zone."
Thinking about sex – even when you're not in the middle of it – will keep you in the right frame of mind when you are. "It's vital that couples create space for the erotic in their lives – both with time set aside for sex and closeness, as well as with mental attention devoted to positive thoughts about sex," Castellanos says.
Be sure to find a comfortable position for sex – and getting creative with pillows helps! "Usually laying on her left side will be the most comfortable without decreasing circulation to the baby," Castellanos advises.