Sex IRL: 8 people share how pregnancy affected their sex lives
There is serious nuance to sex before, during, and after pregnancy.
Not everyone’s comfortable talking about their sex life, but knowing what goes on in other people’s bedrooms can help us all feel more inspired, curious, and validated in our own experiences. In HG’s monthly column Sex IRL, we’ll talk to real people about their sexual adventures and get as frank as possible.
If you went by popular culture, people don’t have sex when they’re pregnant. They get it on a ton in order to get knocked up, and then the sex disappears until—when? It’s time for baby number two? All of their kids are out of the house?
The fact is, we don’t really talk about sex and pregnancy unless it has to do with conception. But the Mayo Clinic confirms that, as long as you don’t have any complications, your doctor has given you the thumbs-up, and both partners are consenting, sex is completely healthy throughout your pregnancy.
Even so, the frequency of intercourse during pregnancy tends to decline for myriad reasons. According to one study, women in their third trimester reported decreased libido, a doctor’s recommendation, and fears concerning their baby’s health as the reasons why they abandoned sex. And it’s not just penetrative sex that tends to fall off. The same study said that both vaginal and oral sex decreases as pregnancy wears on.
And it makes sense. Your hormones are raging. Certain parts of your body are extra sensitive, while others feel too painful to be touched. And your body is changing rapidly. When you’re growing a human, sex might feel like the last thing on your mind, even though it’s just the thing that gets you into that situation in the first place.
But, like most things having to do with sexuality, it’s not all black and white. There is serious nuance to sex during pregnancy. So I spoke to eight people about how pregnancy affected their sex lives—before, during, and after. Scroll on for their answers.
“Whenever I’d express my doubts about how sexy I was feeling when pregnant, my husband would always tell me how incredible I looked.”
“Truthfully, our sex life changed as soon as we decided to try and get pregnant because it became more calculated and planned and transactional. Even if your husband just spent 30 minutes in the bathroom on his iPad before getting into bed, if you’re ovulating and that’s one of the nights to have sex, you have to look past the fact that he clearly was taking a shit mere moments before getting into bed so that you can get turned on.
“Sex also changed over the course of the pregnancy cycle. It was a doozy in the first trimester. I was exhausted and nauseous, but I wasn’t loving the changes in my body. By the time I started showing, my boobs—usually chocolate chip size—were now larger and much more sensitive and a turn-on when touched during sex. And then during the third trimester, everything was a little laborious. You’re carrying all of this extra weight (I gained about 30 pounds during each of my pregnancies), so moving around and trying different positions during sex is an endeavor.
“But I will say: Whenever I’d express my doubts about how sexy I was feeling when pregnant, my husband would always tell me how incredible I looked—how beautiful I was, carrying our child. And that did it for me, every time. Hearing that was just the turn-on I needed.”
—anonymous, 41, with their partner for 13 years
“Once I was given the green light to have sex again, we tried and it was absolutely not possible.”
“During pregnancy, I was very sick for the first trimester, and sex wasn’t on my mind at all—other than a bit of relief that I didn’t ‘have to’ do it anymore. I think an interest in sex started to return for me a bit during the second trimester, but before very long, it started to become difficult physically. It wasn’t really the belly getting in the way or anything. It felt more like everything in my lower abdomen and pelvis were so compressed that it was difficult to accommodate a foreign object—ha! I also started experiencing some pretty serious vaginal dryness, which made things uncomfortable.
“After the first baby was born, I very quickly experienced a resurgence in my sex drive—within the first few weeks. Unfortunately, once I was given the green light to have sex again, we tried and it was absolutely not possible. Penetration was just incredibly, terribly painful. After trying a few times, I realized it was because of extreme dryness. I tried different lubes and nothing helped at all. I finally even tried Premarin (a cream to treat symptoms of menopause), and it didn’t do any good. The absolute only thing that fixed the problem was weaning. My baby stopped breastfeeding at about 11 months old, and a month or two later, the dryness went away and we were able to have sex again. But wow—such a long, long time to have this interruption in our sex life! And now I’m breastfeeding another baby and dry as a desert.”
—Mary, 33, with their partner for 12 years
“I was always horny, but there was no release because I was scared I would drop the baby!”
“I honestly didn’t expect sex to be different after pregnancy. I didn’t talk to anyone about it because, well, I have Asian parents and my partner’s parents are very old. So I just read what I needed and winged it. We were so naive!
“Sex changed mid-pregnancy when I got bigger. I was more uncomfortable, I couldn’t come…It was incredibly frustrating. I was always horny, but there was no release because I was scared I would drop the baby! It happened with both pregnancies. I just couldn’t have an orgasm. Which is crazy, because the first time we had sex after our first pregnancy was at four weeks. We tried it immediately, even though I’d torn during delivery (my doctor said it was fine!). And I definitely tore more [during sex] but I immediately came.”
—anonymous, 36, with their partner for 11 years
“It felt like there was this purpose behind sex that actually made me feel even more connected to my partner.”
“I’m currently eight months pregnant with our first baby. I hadn’t really talked to anyone about the changes, but I’d heard that you usually felt one of two ways: increased sexual drive or the exact opposite. I assumed I would be in the latter camp because I’d never had a super high sex drive. When we were trying to get pregnant, sex became more regimented, and it felt like there was this purpose behind it that actually made me feel even more connected to my partner.
“I think sex really changed for me a few months into the pregnancy when I [had] a very low libido. We went on a short babymoon to Florida, and when we had sex it was painful—though we did missionary, and I’m thinking it was just too much pressure on my belly. So we’ve engaged in more oral [sex] during this pregnancy, which I think is helpful for where I’m at and where he is, too.”
—Nicole, 29, with their partner for nine years
“Everything feels fresh and new.”
“During my first pregnancy, I definitely felt like I wanted to have more sex more frequently. My husband, on the other hand, was super nervous about having sex. The idea of ‘hurting’ me or the baby somehow was something he couldn’t shake, so when we did have sex, he was noticeably nervous or distracted. During my second pregnancy, I felt like absolute shit. We hardly had any sex during this time—a combination of me feeling gross, being exhausted from having a toddler, and my husband working like a maniac.
“The largest change was definitely one with my body. I had two C-sections, so having major surgery and having to recover was a factor. My breastfeeding boobs were so sore and leaky, and my nipples were destroyed, so I couldn’t even dream of having them touched. But the positive is that everything kind of feels fresh and new. You probably won’t be able to have the sex you had before the baby since you’re re-learning your body, and your partner is too, so you kind of get to learn together. It can be an opportunity to really learn how to communicate through sex.”
—Taylor, 29, with their partner for five years
“The biggest misconception is that women won’t have any sex once they become pregnant.”
“I honestly don’t know if I thought about what my sex life would be like during pregnancy. I’d thought about what it may be like after a baby arrived since you see those kinds of scenarios play out in pop culture. But I was surprised that, once I was pregnant, I had a lot more of a sexual appetite than I once had. Even when I felt my worst during my first trimester, I was still interested.
“The biggest misconception is that women won’t have any interest in sex once they become pregnant. For about a month during my second trimester, we were told to abstain [from sex] by my doctor because my placenta was low. The doctor said in the exam room to me, ‘Not that you will care, but he might.’ That stuck with me and made me angry. It plays into what society thinks in general about men, women, and sex. That the male is always the aggressor and the woman just concedes to please her man. I definitely had more of a sexual appetite than my husband did during these past nine months.”
—Meghan, 33, with their partner for 10 years
“I don’t love the lactation that happens when I’m turned on, but my boyfriend loves it.”
“My boyfriend and I were long-distance when I got pregnant. We weren’t trying to conceive. I got pregnant on my fourth trip to visit him in Spain, so it was pretty sudden. I told him I was pregnant over WhatsApp. I did end up getting hornier while I was pregnant and he was still living in Spain, so we had a lot of FaceTime sex. He was very happy to have sex in person when he moved in with me.
“Now, as parents of a 3-month-old, there were many changes at first. I was still horny even before I got the sign-off from my doctor, so I started giving him blow jobs about two weeks after my son’s birth. Now we have sex and it feels great in some positions, but others are still sore. But I am much more confident in my body than before. I don’t love the lactation that happens when I’m turned on, but my boyfriend loves it.”
—Antonia, 29, with their partner for one and a half years
“It was spontaneous, and I was super horny all the time.”
“We were trying to conceive for five years and that is what really took a toll on our sex life. At first, it was fun trying to have sex to get pregnant, but then it was like this scheduled thing. We tried to keep it spicy, but it’s definitely not as fun when it isn’t spontaneous and when it fails to make a baby—especially for that long of a time.
“As soon as I got pregnant, and the sex wasn’t for baby-making anymore, it completely changed. It was spontaneous, and I was super horny all the time. Sex just felt extra good, I think because everything felt extra sensitive. And I was extra wet. Now I’m in the third trimester, and the bigger I get, the less sexy I feel. So we still have sex, just not as often, and there are limited positions. It doesn’t feel as sensitive as it did in the beginning, except my nipples feel more tender—and not in a good way.
“My partner definitely noticed a change, just because sex was more spontaneous and maybe more frequent, too. He was stoked about that. My boobs got bigger and fuller, so he liked that too. There were some points later in the pregnancy when I was feeling super fat and unattractive. He told me that there is something super sexy, maybe primal, about a woman carrying your child.”
—anonymous, 34, with their partner for 12 years