How does sex drive change during pregnancy?
Some women have higher levels of arousal and more intense orgasms during pregnancy, while other women notice the opposite.
Although every woman's experience is unique, there are a few common trends that describe libido changes during pregnancy. In general, a woman's sex drive will ebb and flow throughout her pregnancy.
In this article, we look at how pregnancy tends to affect sex drive during each trimester.
How can pregnancy affect sex drive?
A woman's sex drive may decrease in the first and third trimesters.
Pregnancy triggers many changes that can affect a woman's sex drive. Higher levels of estrogen and progesterone, as well as an increase in blood flow to the genitals, can lead to heightened sexual desire.
Women will not all react in the same way to hormonal changes. However, it is common for a woman's sex drive to decrease during the first trimester, peak in the second, and go down again in the third.
First trimester (weeks 0–13)
During the first trimester, some women notice decreases in both sexual desire and sexual satisfaction. Surging hormone levels, uncomfortable physical symptoms, and stress can all lower a woman's libido.
After an embryo implants in the wall of the uterus, cells in the placenta start producing a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This hormone stimulates the production of other hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone.
Surges in hormone levels during the first trimester can cause mood swings and nausea. Other symptoms can also affect libido at this time, including:
- digestive issues
- tender breasts
However, some women may find that changing levels of estrogen and progesterone can increase their libido during the first trimester.
Second trimester (weeks 14–27)
In general, most women's libidos spike during the second trimester. The levels of hCG peak around the 6th week of pregnancy. After week 6, levels of hCG start decreasing, which typically means less nausea and higher levels of energy.
Additionally, estrogen and progesterone levels continue rising to support the growing fetus during the second trimester.
Estrogen increases both vaginal lubrication and blood flow to the vulva. These changes can lead to heightened arousal, sensitivity, and pleasure.
Third trimester (weeks 28–40)
Women often face some of their biggest challenges during the third trimester. Swelling, rapid weight gain, exhaustion, and body aches can make sexual activity more difficult.
Discomfort or pain during sexual activity may cause some concern, but it is common. Trying different positions might resolve this issue.
Women who want to have sex but find certain types of sexual activity uncomfortable may wish to consider other forms of intimacy at this time.
Is it safe to have sex or masturbate during pregnancy?
Most forms of sex are safe during pregnancy.
Sex can include any act that involves orgasm or arousal, or it could refer to vaginal penetration specifically. Women can ask a healthcare professional if they have any concerns about any particular sexual activity.
Unless a healthcare professional recommends otherwise, most forms of sex, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex, are perfectly safe while pregnant.
Many women may find that they can perform a wider variety of sexual positions during the first two trimesters because the bump is still quite small.
There is no need to worry about harming the fetus during vaginal sex. The cervix, uterus, and amniotic fluid all protect the fetus.
However, pregnant women and their partners should still exercise caution during sex. Some women may find deep penetration uncomfortable or even painful as their pregnancy progresses.
Sore or tender breasts may make partner-on-top positions uncomfortable for some women. Positions that involve both partners lying on their sides are good alternatives in this situation. Most sex positions are safe as long as a person feels comfortable.
Having anal sex while pregnant is safe as long as the woman does not have any health conditions that affect the lower digestive system, such as hemorrhoids, which are a common complication of pregnancy.
Women can develop hemorrhoids during pregnancy when the weight of the growing fetus puts a significant amount of pressure on the intestines, causing the veins in or near the anus to swell. Anal sex can irritate hemorrhoids and cause discomfort, pain, and even bleeding.
It is essential to always clean the penis or sex toy before switching from anal sex to vaginal sex. Doing this will prevent harmful bacteria from entering the vagina.
In general, women and their partners can safely engage in oral sex while pregnant. In some cases, people may find oral sex to be a good alternative to vaginal or anal sex.
The woman's partner should avoid blowing into her vagina, as this could create a blood bubble or embolism. Although rare, embolisms can cause life-threatening complications, such as heart attacks or heart failure.
Unless a healthcare professional recommends otherwise, women and their partners can safely engage in masturbation during pregnancy. Masturbation can also help relieve tension and stress. Make sure any sex toys are clean before use.
Women who are pregnant should not masturbate if their obstetrician advises them to limit orgasms due to pregnancy complications or concerns about preterm labor.
When to avoid sex or masturbation during pregnancy
A healthcare professional might advise a woman to abstain from sex while pregnant if:
- there is a risk of miscarriage
- unexpected vaginal bleeding occurs
- her water has broken, or amniotic fluid is leaking
- the placenta is unusually low and covers the cervix, called placenta previa
- she shows signs of preterm labor
Knowing what to expect can help people feel more comfortable with the changes that affect the body during pregnancy.
It is normal for a woman's sex drive to ebb and flow throughout pregnancy. These changes usually coincide with the physical and hormonal changes that occur each trimester.
Unless an obstetrician or midwife advises otherwise, anal sex, vaginal sex, and masturbation are safe during pregnancy.
An obstetrician might advise a woman to abstain from sex if she has a high risk of miscarriage or a history of preterm labor. Women can discuss any concerns that they have with their obstetrician.
Pregnant women and their partners can safely participate in most forms of sex as long as it is consensual, comfortable, and safe.