Sex During Pregnancy

Sex. During Pregnancy. Doesn’t sound super exciting, does it? That doesn’t have to be the case! If your care provider has not given you any restrictions when it comes to intimacy, sex during pregnancy can be enjoyable and fulfilling for BOTH partners, regardless of which trimester you are in.

pregnant woman in bedroom

One of the most important things that needs to happen for good sex is good communication between partners. You are going to be experiencing a lot of new physical and emotional discomforts and feelings, and it’s so important to discuss these with your partner. If your partner isn’t aware of what is going on, and sex frequency goes down, it can cause some frustration in the relationship. This is prime time for your partner to try to understand what is going on, and be sensitive and understanding.

A few things to note before we get into it:

  • We are not doctors, midwives, or nurses. Make sure your care provider has not given you any restrictions when it comes to sex. Everything we’re writing here should be considered for healthy, low-risk women during pregnancy. If you have concerns, call your care provider.
  • If you experience any bleeding during or after sex, call your provider. Some spotting can be normal, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Orgasms often bring on Braxton Hicks contractions, sometimes as early as 12 weeks. This can be scary the first time you feel it, but shouldn’t be any cause for concern. If contractions or cramps start coming and going at regular intervals, call your care provider.
  • There’s typically no chance of hurting the baby during sex, because the amniotic fluid and your cervix protect her. However, if you have oral sex, your partner should not blow air into your vagina, as this can cause an air bubble to block a blood vessel during pregnancy.

1st Trimester

In the first trimester, the biggest issues when it comes to intimacy are usually feeling utterly exhausted and possibly really nauseous, and therefore just not being in the mood! For the majority of women, nausea doesn’t last all day, thankfully. Try to pay attention to when you’re at your peak during the day. Morning? Midday? Late at night? Take advantage of that prime time by initiating sex then. If it’s been awhile since you’ve enjoyed some time together, it can sometimes feel hard to get back into it. For most women, once they get going, they start getting back into the swing of things—so even if you’re not feeling quite up to it, give it a shot and see if you don’t start enjoying it! If your nausea just doesn’t let up, or you’re throwing up most things that you’re trying to eat, please seek help from your care provider! There are both medical and non-medical things you can try, so don’t just think you have to be miserable.

Many women also notice that their breasts are much more sensitive during first trimester, and often painful. Remember that communication is key to intimacy! If you’re dreading sex with your partner because you’re afraid something will be uncomfortable, ask them to just keep their focus elsewhere. Keep in mind that you either made this baby together or chose this pregnancy together, which is about as intimate as it gets. A simple discussion about what your preferences are during intimacy doesn’t have to be intimidating or embarrassing, and is so important!

Another unfortunate (but totally normal) aspect of pregnancy, and often one of the first symptoms women notice is constipation, and along with that, excessive gas and bloating (bummer, right?!). This is totally unsexy, I know. Digestion slows down two-fold in pregnancy, which is the reason for things being a little backed up. Make sure you’re eating foods high in fiber, and even consider adding some Benefiber or the like to your water a couple of times a day to help keep things regular. If you’re struggling with slow digestion and it’s just uncomfortable to even think about intimacy, keep in mind that there are other things you can do besides intercourse! Intimacy isn’t just traditional sex, so keep communication open with your partner and try to come up with some other options for intimacy that you’re both comfortable with.

2nd Trimester

2nd trimester is often the golden time during pregnancy. Nausea and exhaustion usually start to subside, breast tenderness starts to fade away (and breasts are usually getting bigger!), and your libido is usually back. Your belly isn’t all that large yet, so there’s not a whole lot to get in the way of intimacy! One of the more common 2nd trimester “issues” when it comes to intimacy is vaginal dryness. This is totally normal as your hormones are changing, so it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Invest in an inexpensive jar of coconut oil (yes, really!) or traditional personal lubricant to help things along if necessary. Enjoy as much time with your partner as you can! If there are other issues that you’re experiencing, again, make sure to communicate with your partner to figure out what will work best for you.

Your belly IS getting a little bit bigger here, so positions where there is pressure on your belly may not be the best choice. Also keep in mind that you shouldn’t lay on your back for extended periods of time, because when you lie belly-up, the weight of your uterus can compress a major blood vessel, called the vena cava, disrupting blood flow to your baby and leaving you nauseated, dizzy, and short of breath.1 If you need some suggestions for different positions to try, do a quick google search…just remember the results are definitely NSFW!

3rd Trimester

During this last trimester of pregnancy, sex can start getting uncomfortable as your belly gets bigger. Many women don’t like feeling their baby move during sex, and positions can become more limited. Constipation is the real deal, and your breasts are beginning to make, and sometimes leak, milk. Partners are sometimes weirded out about the idea of having sex when the baby’s head is right there, and there can be a whole host of emotions that go along with the last trimester of pregnancy. It all sounds super awesome, doesn’t it? Never fear! There are still tons of ways that you can have great sex and intimacy with your partner.

Again, I reiterate—TALK! Communicate with your partner before, during, and after sex. What do you want, what’s not working, what should be avoided next time.

Generally speaking, for male-female sex, positions like side-lying (spooning), hands and knees (or even laying over a yoga ball), female on top, or even sitting in a chair can work well. If you want to lay on your back, put a pillow under your right hip to try and tilt you slightly to the left so that all of the weight of your uterus isn’t right on that blood vessel we talked about earlier.

Keep that fiber intake up to help with constipation, and try to initiate intimacy after you’re able to relieve yourself to make you as comfortable as possible.

Sometimes with stimulation, breasts can leak milk/colostrum in the 3rd trimester. Many women will notice it immediately after orgasm. There is nothing wrong with this, and many partners won’t even notice. If it bothers you, you can always keep a sexy bra on during intimate times, or just keep a towel or tissue handy to quickly wipe it away.

That baby in there isn’t something we can do much about. If the idea of a baby moving during sex bothers you, or your partner is bothered by the idea of the baby’s head being really low, my biggest suggestion is to try and either keep your thoughts on something else, or simply forego traditional sex and enjoy some other forms of intimacy every now and then.

Pregnancy is almost over at this point, after which you should be taking about 6 weeks before having sex again, so try to enjoy it as much as you can now! Set the mood with candles, music, lighting, a super soft blanket, some great massage oil…whatever floats your boat.

Try to remember that everything you’re experiencing is normal, not weird, so there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of. If you are having trouble with intimacy, don’t be afraid to ask your care provider for help, or even take a few visits to a therapist or counselor who may be able to help you work through things. In the end, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all way for couples to enjoy sex and intimacy. Talk through it and figure out what works best for both of you during these 9 months. Things are constantly changing in your body and mind, and your intimate times will change too.

1-http://www.parents.com/advice/pregnancy-birth/my-pregnant-body/can-i-still-sleep-on-my-back-while-im-pregnant/

 

the love hormone: oxytocin

There are two main hormones released during breastfeeding, and both have distinct benefits for mother and baby. Oxytocin and prolactin, both released by your pituitary gland, play equally important roles in establishing and maintaining an adequate milk supply for baby. They both also have a strong emotional effect on mother and baby. The release of prolactin is also well known to produce a sense of calmness. This is something new mothers navigating the wild and crazy ride that accompanies the biggest role changes in their lives can truly appreciate. I’ll talk more about prolactin in an upcoming post about managing low milk supply. But today, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to chat about oxytocin, the “love hormone”.

Physically, the release of oxytocin from your posterior pituitary gland causes uterine contractions and the all-important milk injection reflex (MER). This makes oxytocin release especially important after birth, when you want your uterus to contract to avoid postpartum bleeding and return your uterus to its pre-pregnancy size. The MER also your baby’s reward for suckling at the breast, as it results in gushes of breast milk for your little one to quench his hunger and thirst.

When baby suckles at breast, levels of this powerful hormone are elevated to eight times normal, with a cascade of physiological and emotional effects. The process of a baby suckling at the breast actually forges new neurochemical pathways in the mother’s brain that create and reinforce feelings of maternal love. This process is aided by chemical imprinting and huge increases in oxytocin. These changes result in a motivated, highly attentive, and aggressively protective brain that results in the breastfeeding mother altering her responses and priorities in life.

Oxytocin released in the brain under stress-free conditions also naturally promotes sleep. This link makes sense because the release of oxytocin into your bloodstream is known to inhibit the effects of cortisol, known as the stress hormone. Oxytocin release has a calming effect, leaving you feeling tranquil and loving. Mothers with new babies appreciate the removal of any barriers to sleep. Oxytocin receptors in your breast tissue actually increase with frequent nursing, which results in repeated surges of prolactin and oxytocin being released. When a mother nurses, not only do her blood oxytocin levels increase, but her body makes more receptors, permanently increasing her feelings of love – and her ability to feel loved. Mom’s sensitivity to oxytocin’s power has been called one of the most fundamental ways she changes as a new mother.

When moms experience breastfeeding challenges, my role as a health care provider and lactation consultant is to counter as much as possible your release of cortisol, while promoting frequent releases of oxytocin. This starts with excellent support during and after labor and delivery (Kudos to the awesome support Jill, Rachael and Shannon provide!). Having provided comprehensive breastfeeding support to moms and babies for the last 23 years, I’ve learned how important it is to explore what breastfeeding means to each mom I work with, and to tailor my recommendations to her needs in order to reduce her stress regarding breastfeeding and strengthen her relationship with her baby. Let the oxytocin and prolactin surge!

 

Theresa Hardy, MSN,CPNP,IBCLC

 

 

The New Parents Guide to Valentine’s Day

Love is in the air! It is that time of year again when you get dressed up and go out for dinner, drinks and dancing with your special someone. But what if you are newly postpartum and the idea of finding a sitter, pumping and leaving your new baby sound daunting? Staying at home for Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite things to do. You can get dressed up if you want to… or wear your jammies. The best part… you get to be at home and ditch the crowds of love birds for some one on one quiet time at home.

Here are a few of my favorite at home celebration ideas:

  1. Rent a movie & order take out

Have your partner run out and get your favorite take out and swing by redbox before coming home. Or find a new or old favorite on Netflix… there, dinner and a movie from the comfort of your home!il_570xN.899527542_hpq2

2. Give a funny & thoughtful gift.

I am not someone who likes to spend big bucks on greeting cards… but I will totally change my mind if the card is unique and funny! These cards on etsy are my favorite! And of course some chocolate and a massage wouldn’t hurt either!

il_570xN.704803835_dv80

3. Find a recipe you have wanted to try out and cook it together.

Browse our Pinterest page to find yummy and romantic dinner and dessert ideas and go grocery shopping together… come home and open a bottle of wine (or sparkling water… my favorite while nursing) and cook! Eat by candle light after the littles go to bed (or in between nursing & putting back to bed).

4. Family Game Night.

If you are like us and have more than 1 child at home, we like to include the kids in the Valentine’s Day Fun (until bed time of course). We pick a game to play as a family each year. Usually it ends up being monopoly! But the kids have fun and ask every year if we get to have game night for Valentine’s Day!

5. Keep it simple: Dessert & an early bed time.

Do all of these ideas seem like too much right now? That is totally ok! Don’t feel pressure to come up with a big elaborate plan… all of that stuff will come back as you start to regain a sense of normal life. Life with a newborn is hard, no sense in making it harder. My advice: Order a cake or cupcakes from RegCakes. Don’t worry, you don’t even have to leave your house… she delivers! My favorite is the chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. Yum! Eat it and go to bed! Best Valentine’s Day Ever… no joke.12669603_10105901648071770_1824377886048455946_n

 

Or if you are ready for that night out, Chambana Moms has a great list of Grown Up Valentine Day Ideas!

Meet Jessica Bensky

Jessica Bensky is one of our community partners from Bensky Family Acupuncture and specializes in acupuncture. Get to know her and the amazing work she does for the health of families in our community.

photo 1

What types of patients do you tend to see in your practice?

In general, I tend to treat women’s conditions from menarche through menopause, as well as pediatrics. The majority of my patients are women of childbearing age who come to me for preconception support, infertility struggles, pregnancy related symptoms, assistance with fetal positioning, labour support, insufficient lactation, inhibited letdown, and postpartum depression. I also see a number of newborns with irregular bowel movements, gas and trouble nursing.

How many weeks gestation should a woman begin acupuncture?

If a woman is suffering from pregnancy related symptoms she should schedule an appointment as soon as the symptoms begin. Such symptoms include: morning sickness, nausea, heart burn, insomnia, migraines, body pain, sciatica, edema, etc. Acupuncture offers drug and side-effect free treatment for many common pregnancy discomforts. Women can benefit from acupuncture at any point in their pregnancy and I have successfully helped flip breech babies as late as 38, 39 and 40wks gestation. That being said, for optimal fetal positioning, it is ideal to being around 32wks. Labor induction can begin at 37wks and typically continues through the end of the pregnancy.

What should I expect at my first visit?

If you have never had acupuncture before or have never had acupuncture from someone trained in Chinese medicine you may be surprised by the comprehensiveness of our new patient paperwork. After completing your intake forms I’ll begin with a thorough physical assessment that will likely include osteopathic palpitation techniques, thermal assessment, pulse and tongue diagnosis, as well as abdominal and channel palpitation. Then we will review your paperwork and discuss our concerns. This will be followed by your treatment. Treatments include some combination of the following: acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Tunia massage, heat therapy, acupressure, cupping and moxibustion.

How should I prepare for my first visit?

  • Try to wear loose, comfortable clothing.
  • Avoid wearing heavy perfumes or cologne, as well as cosmetics.
  • Make sure you have eaten, at least a small snack, prior to your appointment.
  • Avoid strenuous activities both before and after your appointment.

picture 1

Tell us about yourself and family.

My husband, Miles and I met our sophomore year of high school and we have been together ever since. Originally from Seattle, WA we lived in Austin, TX for two years before moving to Champaign-Urbana in the summer of 2013. Shortly after our arrival in Illinois we welcomed our sweet little girl, Leona.

Miles is a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois where he researches animal learning and cognitive ecology in fish. Although he is currently on hiatus, he enjoys running and has completed two ultra-marathons. Jessica is actively involved in our local baby wearing community and enjoys farmer’s markets and needle felting. Leona loves kicking leaves, playing with friends, singing, and helping with household work. As a family we love cooking, going on food adventures, playing board games, spending time together, and watching the Seahawks with the other Seattle transplants. Go Hawks! We planted our first garden last year and recently began making kombucha.