How does pregnancy affect libido, and what can be done about it? This guide will walk you through what to expect throughout pregnancy.
By OBGYN Dr. Kenosha Gleaton
Ever wonder why sex drive is so variable during pregnancy? Doesn't every expecting mom have the same things going on internally while growing a human? So, what explains libido variance—and more importantly, what can be done about it? Let’s dive directly into this most intriguing topic.
What does libido mean?
Libido is commonly used to describe sexual drive or desire for sexual activity. Libido naturally fluctuates throughout our reproductive life cycle, thus highs and lows are common. And since libido is mainly hormone-driven, the various factors that alter hormones will naturally affect sexual desire, including pregnancy, stress, medications, menopause, and exercise.
Libido naturally fluctuates throughout our reproductive life cycle, thus highs and lows are common.
How does pregnancy affect your libido?
Pregnancy leads to a host of rapid physical and emotional changes; thus, it's no surprise that libido is affected. Hormones including estrogen, progesterone, and beta HCG levels all increase and can alter your desire for sexual activity.
And while some women experience increased libido due to increased blood flow and sensitivity, often women experience the exact opposite. There are several reasons to explain this.
Increased libido is often experienced due to increased blood flow to the genitals, which leads to increased sensitivity and often more satisfying sexual encounters.
On the other hand, decreased low libido can be explained by weight gain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and breast tenderness, all of which can alter self perception and confidence. In addition, many women, especially those who suffer from recurrent pregnancy loss, have a subconscious or conscious fear of harming their baby.
Does sex drive change by trimester?
It absolutely may! Most women feel their worst in the first and third trimester due to both early and late pregnancy symptoms including, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, back pain, and an ever- expanding uterus making sex more difficult. Libido is most decreased during these times.
The second trimester usually brings more energy, less nausea, and increased desire to do most activities, and sex is no exception!
What are “normal” expectations anyways?
Unfortunately, there aren't many normal expectations. The only normal expectation is that your libido will fluctuate with pregnancy, and this could be good or bad. Since every pregnancy is different, it's important to be honest about your feelings and understand that no matter which direction your libido swings, it's all temporary, and will likely return to baseline. However, for rapid or persistent libido changes that cause disruption to your relationship, it's best to discuss with your provider and consider counseling with a therapist who has experience with sexual dysfunction.
The only normal expectation is that your libido will fluctuate with pregnancy, and this could be good or bad.
Using lubricant (aka lube) during pregnancy
Lube is safe and recommended during pregnancy and postpartum to counteract hormonal changes that often affect sexual intimacy. Some women complain of vaginal dryness and tenderness due to increased sensitivity during pregnancy. Using a lube that is water-based, pH balanced, and paraben free is helpful in relieving these common complaints.
Is it safe to have sex throughout my pregnancy?
Sex is safe during pregnancy unless directed otherwise by your OBGYN. Many conditions may affect recommendations for sex during prenancy including placental abnormalities including previas, recurrent pregnancy loss, bleeding, or threatened preterm labor.
Sex and intimacy during pregnancy
For women in general, libido is a complex entity involving physical, social, and emotional elements. And while pregnancy can add another layer of complexity, it's important to focus on your pregnancy’s purpose and free yourself from associated judgement and self critique!
Pregnancy is a super special time with no pressure to diet, or fret about birth control, or healthy weight gain. Yes, there is such a thing!
So relax and embrace the beautiful changes that await, including growing curves, growing confidence, and perhaps, even a growing desire for sex and intimacy.