Oh, Those Hormones
What's with the sudden loss of sex drive with pregnancy? It seems logical that this happy time would bring you closer together, but your hormones may actually work against this. "Women go through a wide range of hormonal changes during pregnancy and for some lucky couples this can actually cause their sex lives to become even hotter," says Patty Brisben, intimacy expert and author of Pure Romance Between the Sheets. "However, this isn't always the case with everyone—many find that the fluctuation in hormones actually creates a negative effect on their intimate life."
Since hormone levels vary with each trimester, your desire for sex may be nonexistent sometimes, while other times you're more in the mood. "For my first pregnancy, the 'sex slump' happened during the first and third trimesters," says Sue* of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "The morning sickness and probably all of the changing hormones were throwing my body and brain for a loop. I was just really nauseous and definitely not in the mood."
Sun Kim of Shasta, California, had a similar experience. "These phases went on and off throughout a lot of the pregnancy," she says. "In the first trimester [it is] with the bodily adjustments, morning sickness, and fatigue. When the energy picks up in the second trimester, a lot of attention has to go toward all of those things that were neglected during the lethargy of the first (work, home, other kids)." Then comes the third trimester, when your size may make sex uncomfortable or impossible.
And while a sex slow-down might not seem like a big deal—pregnancy is temporary, after all—many couples find it hard to get things started again if they take too long a break. "It's so important to stay connected during pregnancy, because the more connected you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be to deal with the significant changes that take place after having a baby—you'll be a team!" says Sara Holliday, a licensed marriage and family therapist and president of Fit by Sara. "On the other hand, the less connected a couple is during pregnancy, the harder it will be to come back together, especially intimately, after having a baby."
The Male Side
It's not just women who can experience libido loss during pregnancy. Men, too, may have concerns or fears that make intimacy difficult. "It's been my experience that men sit in two camps when their partner becomes pregnant," says Dr. Trina Read (aka Dr. Trina), a sexologist and author of Till Sex Do Us Part. They are either really turned on by the pregnancy or really turned off by the pregnancy, she says.
The latter seemed to be the case with Alisa Bowman's husband. "For the first time ever, my husband was disinterested," says the Emmaus, Pennsylvania, resident. "I would suggest sex, and he'd say, 'Oh I'm tired (sick/have a lot of reading to do/was looking forward to watching Grey's Anatomy...). Can I have a raincheck?' He basically wanted a raincheck that came due after the baby was born. He says he was worried about hurting the baby, but I honestly feel as if he just wasn't as attracted to me."
Worrying about hurting the baby is a common concern for men, and not one that you can always change his mind about. "At this point in time he intellectually understands but emotionally might not feel comfortable having intercourse," Dr. Trina says. "It's important to respect his apprehensions even though logically you know they are unfounded."
Whether or not hurting the baby is really what your husband is worrying about, talking things out is the most important thing. Thankfully, Bowman and her husband eventually worked things out, but she admits it didn't happen until long after the delivery. "I wish we would have communicated more during the actual pregnancy," Bowman says. "But at least we did it eventually."