Sex and pregnancy

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It is my good fortune to call Lugenia Grider a colleague and a friend. We have taught several classes together, and I value her expertise as a doula, lamaze instructor, lactation peer counselor and women's health educator. She has a heart for helping women navigate a beautiful, but scary, season of life: pregnancy and new motherhood. More than anyone I know, Lugenia answers the questions and concerns of anxious parents-to-be, which is why I asked to her help me answer my own Q&A.

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  • Tatiana Vdb (flickr Creative Commons)

Is it safe to have sex during pregnancy?
Becky Knight: Vaginal intercourse is usually fine during pregnancy unless your doctor has warned you against it due to concerns of a preterm labor. In fact, some women say they have an increase in their sex drive during pregnancy. Of course, some women have the opposite experience and want nothing to do with sex during pregnancy.
Lugenia Grider: Women's libidos vary during pregnancy because of hormone fluctuations and physical discomforts. Also, during and after pregnancy, body image plays a big role in women's desire. It is a good time for a partner to be attentive, to court and woo her all over again. If a male partner is anxious, a visual understanding of anatomy and physiology can ease his worry.

Can sex cause me to go into labor or cause a miscarriage?
Lugenia: In a healthy pregnancy, sex is extremely safe. However, if there are concerns of preterm labor, a woman may be advised to avoid intercourse and orgasms before 39 weeks gestation. And remember, there are other ways to orgasm. If the uterus (the muscle the baby lives in) is already irritable it is easily stimulated to contract. Always consult your Ob with any pregnancy related health concerns.

How can I possible feel sexy when I look like a beached whale?
Becky: Pregnant or not, sexy is a state of mind. You can focus on the negative, or you can celebrate the positive. Your body is doing the miraculous work of bringing a new human into this world. You are strong and amazing and sexy, dammit. Own your power as a creative force in the universe!

Sex when pregnant isn't the same. How can I enjoy it more?
Lugenia: Have fun with positions. Most positions that allows her to control the depth of penetration and doesn't squish her belly would probably be most comfortable.

After giving birth, do I really need to wait six weeks to have sex?
Lugenia: Most doctors suggest women wait six weeks after birth to resume sexual intercourse. This allows women to properly heal episiotomies or natural tears and to decrease risk of infection after birth. But keep in mind that this also gives a woman time to adapt and transition into her new role as a mother. When reuniting for the first time after baby, couples should go into it with a sense of humor.
Becky: Remember that vaginal intercourse is not the only way to enjoy sexual intimacy. Again, this is all about attitude. Instead of seeing this six-weeks as a ban on sex, see it as an opportunity to find new ways to please each other. Instead of focusing on what you are missing, get excited about rediscovering your partner and about re-imagining your sex life.

I'm breastfeeding. What if my milk sprays during sex?
Lugenia: If you are concerned about leaking or spraying during sex, you may want to empty your breasts before or you can wear a bra and bra pads.
Becky: It happens. Try to find the humor in it.

I had a pretty bad birth experience. How can I get past it?
Lugenia: A traumatic birth or complications afterward can weigh heavy on a woman and put sex on the back-burner. If problems persist, couples should seek the assistance of a counselor. I also recommend Ian Kerner's books Sex Detox, Sex Recharge and Love in the Time of Colic.


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