“Libido can change either way during pregnancy.”
Sex during pregnancy can be considered still taboo for many South Asian cultures.
There are Desi customs and traditions that are followed when it comes to the safety of the child when a woman is pregnant.
Having sex during pregnancy based on elders customs and cultural reasons can be restricted or even forbidden at certain times.
However, from a medical standpoint, couples still can enjoy a good sex life during the period of pregnancy and it is not viewed as taboo.
But questions like is it safe, when is the latest we can still have intercourse, will we be hurting the baby etc. Do still all come into play.
With so much information available, it is all too easy to get lost in the maze of advice as to what you can do and not.
Doctors like to advise on a patient by patient basis. Many factors can affect the decision to have sex or not during the different stages of pregnancy.
This first thing to know is that it is perfectly healthy to have sex whilst being pregnant as long it is not a highly complicated pregnancy but how and when can differ.
Pregnant women having different desires and attitudes towards sex is normal.
Therefore, to document the feelings of Indian women about sex during pregnancy, an Indian gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Padmini Prasad decided to interview 50 women.
The Indian women were between the age of 19 and 39 and were all at different stages of their pregnancies.
The findings were very interesting and connect with British South Asian women who have similar views and experiences.
Therefore, we take a look at the common concerns about having sex during pregnancy Desi women many have.
Sex or Not
When a newly married Desi woman gets pregnant. It becomes a family affair, especially, if she is living with the in-laws.
Protection of the baby becomes a major concern. And yes, even more so if the gender of the child to be born happens to be a boy.
There are stories of daughters-in-law being told to not engage in sexual activity very early on by mothers-in-law and Desi aunties.
Jamila Choudhry, aged 27, says:
“When my in-laws found out I was pregnant and expecting a boy. My mother-in-law transformed overnight!
“She warned me not to bring any harm to the baby and told me to rest and not be too active.”
“She told me how she stopped all physical activity after her first two weeks of pregnancy when she was having my husband.
“She expected the same from me.”
Naturally, this kind of concern albeit protective is not deemed medically correct.
Having sex during pregnancy is perfectly acceptable and healthy.
Out of the women interviewed, Dr Prasad found that 30 of them were content having sex whilst being pregnant.
Out of the 30, however, only two of them continued to have sex right up to the point they were going to have the baby.
As for the rest of the women, 18 were not up to having sex at all with their partners and the remaining two were happy to engage in hugging and kissing.
Samina Shah, aged 29, says:
“When I was having my first baby, our sex life was not affected.”
“I was happy as long as he was to enjoy sex right up to a couple of weeks before the birth.
“But second time around, I just went off it after five months. We would just hug and cuddle.”
“I know some men may find it hard to understand but he was very understanding of how I felt.”
So, deciding to have sex when you are pregnant is very much your choice and how you feel. It will depend on your hormonal status.
If you are not in the mood, maybe explore other ways to express your intimacy by kissing, hugging or alternative forms sex without intercourse.
As long as the pregnancy is not a high-risk one and there are no complications, having sex is pretty safe.
Dr Prasad says:
“Women don’t have to worry about harming their baby. The amniotic fluid and strong muscles of the uterus easily protect the baby during intercourse.”
Sexual desire can increase or decrease during pregnancy.
Due to increased blood flow to the genitals, some women may feel even more sensation and pleasure when they are pregnant.
Dr Prasad says that others may just find sex too uncomfortable with breasts being more tender and sensitive and general feeling of tiredness.
In her survey, Dr Prasad found that 18 of the women had a low sex drive, 20 of them could not reach orgasm.
Just over 20 of the women highlighted that in fact, their partners had problems during sex with them including difficulty with erections, premature ejaculation and having a lower libido.
Having an orgasm during pregnancy may feel different says, Dr Prasad.
It’s possible you will feel the uterus tighten afterwards and get hard, which may cause some discomfort.
This is related to the ‘Braxton HIcks contractions’ which are a normal part of pregnancy and not something to worry about.
Also, you might find the baby moving around or kicking after sex, which again is normal and absolutely fine.
Kiranjit Kaur, aged 26, says:
“I found my sexual desire increase during my pregnancy. Especially during the first few months.
“I felt different compared to not being pregnant. My arousal seemed a lot more receptive.”
Meena Kumar, aged 32, says:
“During my first pregnancy, I found it very difficult to ‘get into it’.
“I just felt very nauseated, tired and had no interest in sex.”
“My second pregnancy was different. I found myself enjoying sex much more. Both earlier and later in the pregnancy.”
Your sexual desire can also change during the pregnancy trimesters.
According to Dr Adeeti Gupta, an obstetrician and gynaecologist in New York:
“Libido can change either way during pregnancy.”
A woman’s sex drive will fluctuate during pregnancy. But during the first and third trimester, there can be typically a spike in sexual desire according to Dr Gupta.
Of course, you will get all the other physical symptoms of the pregnancy which can be possibly off-putting like backaches, nausea and fatigue. But they should not inhibit your ability to have sex. Dr Gupta says:
“Morning sickness in the first trimester can dampen an otherwise perfect hormonal and physical environment for an increased libido.”
As for the third trimester, Dr Gupta says:
“Usually libido increases in the last trimester of pregnancy, especially the very last month due to a sharp rise of sex hormones right before they drop before childbirth.”
Depending on how far your pregnancy is positions for sex may need to be adjusted.
Depending on your mood and libido during pregnancy, certain positions are deemed safe more than others.
Simply because, they will not add to the difficult conditions such as tiredness, nausea and lack of mobility of the woman.
Jessica Shepherd, MD, an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago, says it is important to have an open dialogue with your partner when it comes to sexual positions, saying:
“If something doesn’t feel good, it’s important to speak up.”
Conversely, if it feels good you must let your partner know so they can continue to do it in the specific position.
Dr Prasad found that many of the women had less sex after the eighth month of pregnancy.
Especially, because they felt tired, weaker and the size of their bellies made it awkward for them.
After 20 weeks of pregnancy, doctors do say that the missionary position, where you lie on your back should be avoided. Because this can affect the blood flow to the placenta.
Therefore, sexual positions to try during pregnancy include spooning, rear entry, reverse cowgirl, side by side, the edge of the bed, woman on top and non-penetrative sex.
Of course, these should be tried with the caution that they do not make the woman feel too uncomfortable and are enjoyable for both partners.
Lalita Devi, a 29-year-old mother of one, says:
“When I got pregnant, sex was not an issue. However, about six months in I felt uncomfortable. So, we began to slow it down.
“By the eighth month I just felt so ‘big and non-attractive’ I just did not want to have sex with him.”
Tina Khan, aged 33, says:
“Once my tummy was too big or I felt exhausted from the pregnancy, I found that sexual positions were limited for me and my husband. So, sex was an activity that gradually reduced.”
Shaheen Patel, aged 27, says:
“Being pregnant meant we were more careful and I found sex a great way of still connecting with my partner in the first six months.
“We use to switch positions until I felt most comfortable.”
“But towards the last couple of months, we just felt it was too much for me.”
There are many theories and traditions as to when a South Asian woman should engage in sexual intercourse after giving birth.
If you believe in them, then there is nothing wrong abiding by them. Mostly they are to aid the woman to regain her bodily and mental strength.
A woman’s body does need time to recover after giving birth. As both physically, mentally and emotionally there are changes to adjust to after the birth.
The newborn will be very demanding. Therefore, it is advisable to give it time.
Use the time to engage with intimacy and simply get moments to cuddle and be alone with your partner, if sex is not appealing.
If you are unsure, it is best to consult your doctor and find out if it is okay to have intercourse again.
Out of the women Dr Prasad interviewed, four of the women felt okay to have sex within a month after giving birth.
Others, however, find it uncomfortable and waited up to six months before they engaged in sexual intercourse.
Haseena Patel, aged 30, says:
“After I gave birth to my son, I needed time to heal both physically and mentally.”
“Even, my mother-in-law told me that I should abstain from any activity for at least a few months.”
“It was not until, three months later that I felt I was ready for sex again with my husband. Even then I felt a little awkward.”
Misbah Ahmed, aged 28, says:
“After my first baby, I felt fine and after two months I was happy being sexual again with my husband.
“But after my second baby, it took much longer because I did not feel I was mentally ready. My husband was very understanding.”
Preet Sagoo, aged 31, says:
“When I was pregnant we were having sex quite frequently, right up to my last month.
“After I gave birth, it took me nearly two months for us to enjoy it again but I was always open to trying.”
Hence, sex during pregnancy should not be looked at as taboo. Instead, pregnant Desi women should explore what works best for them and their partner.
Dr Prasad says the secret to sexual satisfaction during pregnancy is “communication, openness and a little experimentation.
Communication is as important when pregnant and even when not, when it comes to your sex life.
Without a doubt, the health of the mother and the baby are of utmost priority. But it should not stop you from enjoying a sex life as long as it is medically and physically safe.
If you are in doubt, always consult your doctor for confirmation if having sex while being pregnant is okay for you and how long is it safe to continue.