I’m 3 months pregnant, and I am starting to feel weird about having sex. What can I do?

Answer by Melinda Gallagher, MA, LMHC

First off, you are not alone. It's totally normal – and common – to feel differently about your body and sex when you're pregnant. Some women feel conflicted about staying in touch with sexual feelings while moving into the role of a mother. For others, pregnancy brings up past issues related to body image that make it difficult to feel confident and open to intimacy. Some women have a self-protective impulse during pregnancy that makes them feel inhibited. For others, pregnancy is an opportunity to feel proud and resilient. Most of us fall somewhere in between. 

The basic components and dynamics of female sexual desire, arousal, and orgasm do not change with pregnancy, but the way you see yourself may be in flux. You may wonder, "Can I be pregnant and sexy? Do I want to be?" It may not seem obvious, but motherhood is a clear manifestation of being sexual – from conceiving and having swollen breasts and hormones in overdrive to giving birth and breastfeeding. 

Though it can be hard to reconcile your sexuality with being a mom, learning to let these two aspects of yourself exist in harmony is a great skill to practice now so you can maintain an active sex life after you become a mother. One good exercise is to define the elements of pregnancy that you associate with being sexy, whether it's your reproductive prowess, your growing breasts, or even just feeling better after morning sickness passes. Finding ways to feel sexy helps you and your partner learn what gets you interested.

The way you feel about your body can be another stumbling block. If you feel inadequate or shameful about your changing body, how can you be comfortable expressing your sexual needs and desires? No one says it's easy, but working to embrace those changes in a way that is gentle and compassionate to yourself allows you to be comfortable in your new skin and open to being with your partner.

Give yourself the space to internalize the changes by thinking of them as an opportunity for new experiences. You can literally get in touch with your body's physical changes by feeling your belly, your hips, and your breasts while visualizing the transformation happening within. Notice what images come to mind and perhaps even write them down on a regular basis to have a record of this momentous transformation.   

Be open with your partner about how you are feeling. It's possible that during pregnancy sex becomes more of a chance to make a connection and to demonstrate that you are a strong unit as you enter into this new phase of your life together. Talking about how you feel most comfortable connecting will help you stay close, even if there are times when sex is not a part of that.

Figuring out a pregnancy-friendly position for intercourse is another way to start the conversation. Many women find the side-by-side spooning position enjoyable. But if intercourse just doesn't feel comfortable for whatever reason, mutual masturbation can be a satisfying substitute. 

There are no absolutes, but as a general guideline, your sex drive will follow how you feel during each trimester. During the first 12 weeks, you may be tired, nauseous, and still adjusting to the idea of being pregnant. You might feel more introverted and self-protective, which can diminish your desire to reach out through sex or otherwise.

In the second trimester, you might be energized and comfortable enough with your pregnancy so that sex feels like a good way to share yourself with your partner. 

And as you head into the home stretch of the third trimester, you may feel more than ready to give birth and crave the kind of intimacy that soothes and comforts. Or you may just want to have an orgasm to release all that tension.

In any case, pregnancy is a time to give yourself the room to discover what feels right to you. 

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