The cocktail of hormones coursing around your body means it might be time to tighten your seatbelt when it comes to your pregnancy sex drive...
One of the many surprises of pregnancy – especially if you’re a first-time mum-to-be – is the effect it can have on your sex drive.
More than a quarter of pregnant women experience a marked increase in desire. It can be a real shock, especially if getting pregnant in the first place took a bit of trying. But now your body is awash with hormones, and you just want to keep doing what got you pregnant in the first place.
‘A pregnancy is sustained by high levels of oestrogen and progesterone,’ explains Dr Annie Evans, a women’s health expert and specialist in female hormones (drannieevans.com).
These hormones are there to create a nurturing environment for your unborn baby in your womb, but they can make your libido rocket.
‘If sex drive is compared with a traffic light, most men have a hugely high and stable testosterone level and tend to stay on green. Women, with less stable hormonal levels, are more often on amber and can just as quickly flick to green or red.’
However, without the usual peaks of the monthly menstrual cycle, hormone levels are at their most stable during pregnancy, and your libido is likely to settle at this new level until you near the end of your pregnancy, when they will alter again.
What causes your pregnancy sex drive to rocket?
It’s not just down to hormones, though. ‘There’s an incredibly complex interplay of factors at work and it’s not really known yet how much of our sexual desire is physical or in our psyche,’ says Annie. ‘Being pregnant for the first time is a completely new hormonal state for a woman. Developing a curvier figure and having the new role of carrying a baby can make some feel fabulous and feminine.’
You might also find that the physical changes you go through, which are all down to your hormones, make sex more enjoyable. As your breasts become fuller and more sensitive, and blood flow to your pelvic area increases sensitivity, you could find you are having the best sex of your life!
‘If you’re enjoying sex during your pregnancy, that’s good news for both you and your partner,’ says Annie.
What happens when your pregnancy sex drive drops?
‘But if you’re not, don’t worry. Openness is vital. You must involve your partner if you experience an altered sexual appetite.’ Because while some women experience a marked increase in desire, almost a third (32%) don’t feel any urge for intimacy. ‘This massive hormonal change can alter how you feel, particularly in the first three months. Sex can soon drop to the bottom of your to-do list if you’re nauseous or unwell. Some women are overwhelmed by maternal feelings, or just so tired and wrung out that sex is less appealing.’
Your partner might be puzzled by your feelings, so ask him to remember how he was once at the mercy of over-active hormones as an adolescent, and share your feelings. ‘Pregnancy completely changes the dynamics within a couples’ relationship,’ adds Annie.
Just remember it’s perfectly normal for you to have these feelings, and just another of the surprises pregnancy has in store.
Four top tips for your pregnancy sex drive
- Share the moment. Explore alternative ways to foster intimacy with your partner if you don’t feel like sex. Kissing, touching and massage will all help release the feel-good hormone oxytocin and deepen your relationship in the run-up to birth. If you opt for massage, try Weleda’s Stretch Mark Massage Oil, a blend of natural ingredients including sweet almond oil and extract of organic arnica to help maintain skin tone and resilience during and after pregnancy. £15.95 for 100ml, weleda.co.uk
- Be creative. A naturally high oestrogen level will produce plenty of vaginal lubrication, but physical issues such as sore pelvic ligaments or the sheer size of your baby bump might call for some creative positioning. Experiment as your bump grows to discover what is most comfortable for you.
- Be kind to yourself. Prenatal hormones can affect emotions, so you may find yourself feeling unusually tearful after lovemaking. Accept these ups and downs as a natural part of pregnancy. Explain to your partner that you need extra cuddles and reassurance.
- Seek professional help if you need it. If a significant change in your pregnancy sex drive plays constantly on your mind, or you’re starting to push yourself into something you don’t feel like, it may be time to talk to someone outside of your relationship. Your midwife or GP will listen without judgement. Another option is to visit the Relate website for practical tips, guides and videos. Relate can also offer phone, email and live chat counselling, or face-to-face sessions at a network of local centres if you feel that some extra support would help your personal situation. Find out more at relate.org.uk