Editor, momstown Belleville
It just may seem for many expectant moms and dads that when you add pregnancy to what once was a highly sexually-active marriage, it may put a damper on the 'intimate ambience in the beaudoir.'
"From raging hormones and mood swings, to incredible fatigue, a change in body image, fears, anxieties, and sometimes, important medical reasons not to make love, there is no question that pregnancy can cut deep into a couple's intimate life," says Shari Lusskin, MD, director of reproductive psychiatry at NYU Medical Center in New York.
As you know, pregnancy can take a toll on a married couple's emotional state. The expectant dad may look at his wife as glowing and sexier than ever. The expectant mom, on the other hand, may find herself looking in a mirror and thinking 'Wow! I look like a blowfish!', only to push her husband's hands away from her, crazily screaming: "Get your hands off of me! Look what you've done to my hourglass figure! You've really done it this time, mister!"
Welcome to the new life of pregnancy. It is a time that could be defined as a 'roller-coaster ride'. The closer you get to the top of the track, the more and more crazier your emotions become, until you find yourselves shrieking all the way down to the final moments of labour and delivery.
Yet, what should be one of the most magical experiences in any couple’s life together (the anticipation of a new addition to your family) is often filled with conflicting emotions and questions from both sides.
Experts agree that during a pregnancy it is so important to remain proactive about keeping intimacy alive. Your intimate relationship, especially at this time, when you should be growing closer together, should not take a backslide. If you feel that the closeness between you is slipping away, act quickly to restore it. A healthy marriage is of such great value, that you will want to take good care of it, and that means nurturing it with TLC.
There are times, however, when sexual relations in pregnancy can be limited. For example, your obstetrician tells you that you have a high-risk pregnancy, which may include placenta previa, or a history of miscarriages. Just because you cannot have intercourse in pregnancy due to the risks involved, doesn't mean that you can't be intimate with your spouse. Intimacy, after all, can be simpler acts of sharing your love together, rather than love-making. If you don't feel like having intercourse, or are unable to, due to restrictions, why not try holding hands, kissing, massage, cuddling under a blanket by the fire, or going out for a romantic dinner? These are all acts of intimacy which may or may not lead to intercourse.
Another reason expectant parents may avoid sexual relations is that some pregnant women may
be concerned that their husbands won’t find them attractive anymore. The changes in their bodies trouble them if they’ve been overly conscious of body image in the past. Marriage counsellors, however, say that the vast majority of men are not challenged by their wive's weight gain or appearance. In fact, many men find their pregnant wives to be really attractive at this time of hormonal changes. It would seem to me, that those husbands who do express dismay or disgust over their wives’ appearance most often demonstrate other significant signs of immaturity as well.
Pregnant women may also be concerned that if intercourse becomes limited in frequency, position, or satisfaction, their husbands will be tempted to not be faithful in their marriage, and, sadly, some husbands may even be 'tuned out' to their spouse's emotional needs during intimate times. This may be for reasons, which are, in fact, pregnancy myths.
For instance, many expectant parents believe this myth to be true: Intercourse will harm the baby. Dismiss your fears, as baby is not to be harmed, unless, of course, your pregnancy is high risk. In fact, medical experts would agree that the baby is safely habitating in a sac within the uterus that is filled with amniotic fluid. This sac is very strong and does a great job of protecting the baby.
And, to go one step further on this argument against this 'myth, is the medical fact that most often "couples who remain sexually active during pregnancy have a significantly lower rate of premature births and low birth weight." So, as long as your doctor has cleared you for sexual activity during your pregnancy, go for it!
Another way to stay intimate, especially in the first emotionally insecure trimester, is to bring back the 'art of flirting' with your mate. Remember when you were just dating or courting one another? It is so important, now more than ever, to not take your relationship for granted. It is love, not lust, that keeps your marriage strong, so this time is so important to keeping your love for one another strong and exciting! Surprise one another with little romantic acts of respect, kindness, and courtship. Write your spouse a love letter, or share a candlelight dinner, or go on a late night walk together. Talk to one another, and fall in love all over again, with intimate-type conversation, actions, and events. Husbands should show their wives how much they love them and how beautiful they think they look during this special time in their lives.
After the first trimester, the second trimester becomes a little more challenging. Sex during pregnancy can be challenging as her body changes and you begin to make room for the baby. Okay, husbands, here’s where life can get very interesting! As her nausea subsides, you might begin to notice a few changes in your expectant wife. Her hormones have taken control now, and watch out husbands, as her libido is working overtime! This could be a time to experiment in your sexual relationship!
As your mommy-to-be gets larger into the final trimester, you will notice that certain positions can become uncomfortable. Just stay committed to maintaining your senses of adventure and humor and you will be fine! Make sure that there is still plenty of kissing and caressing, as both partners need to feel reassured during this stressful (and awkward bodied mom-to-be) time in pregnancy. You will become excited as you prepare for this new addition to your family!
So, the moral here is: Stay connected by staying sexual. Your marriage will be stronger, your love will be deeper and you will be anxious to return to your sexual relationship after the new mommy has healed from labor. Just remember to keep your creativity, sense of adventure and your sense of humor high and enjoy this journey. Whether it’s your first pregnancy or your fourth, never forget that every pregnancy is different and with it is a new opportunity to relish in the love you have for each other that has miraculously and lovingly created a new life.
Lana Kelly( B.A, SSW, ECE, Montessori). For 20 years, Lana has been dedicated to helping children and families. In 2010, she published a book (The Sheepish Lamb) , aimed at building resilience to childhood anxiety. She is a mom to four daughters, and values her faith and family solidarity.
Eisenberg, Arlene; Murkoff, Heidi E.; Hathaway, Sandee. What to Expect When You're Expecting. Workman Publishing, New York, 1996