Sex drive during pregnancy: How libido changes when you’re expecting

A woman with low sex drive during pregnancy

Pregnancy can bring a whirlwind of changes to your body. From your taste buds to your size, mood swings to hair and skin health – almost every aspect of your life undergoes some transformation. Your libido too! Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy

Morning sickness and fatigue are very common during pregnancy. It also affects your libido, so your sexual desire can be too high or too low. There may be times when you are unable keep your hands off your partner. But during other stages of your pregnancy, sex may be the last thing on your mind. Whether it is high or low, libido changes during pregnancy will be hard to ignore. Read on to know all about sex drive during pregnancy, and if it is normal to have low or high libido, as you gear up for motherhood.

How does pregnancy affect sex drive?

Libido or sex drive refers to a person’s desire to engage in a sex-related activity. Pregnancy can affect a woman’s sex drive throughout the different trimesters due to hormonal changes, physical discomforts, and emotional factors, says obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Madhu Juneja.

Women may experience high or low sex drive during pregnancy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

1. First trimester (weeks 1 to 12)

In the first trimester, women have lower levels of sexual desire, as per an analysis published in the Public Health Reviews journal in January 2024. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone, gets produced by cells in the placenta after an embryo gets implanted in the uterus’ wall. This hormone stimulates the production of estrogen and progesterone, which are also hormones. Due to a surge in hormone levels, women can experience nausea and mood swings. Fatigue and morning sickness (nausea and vomiting) can lead to a decrease in energy and interest in sexual activity. Emotional fluctuations, such as mood swings and anxiety about pregnancy, can also impact sex drive. Some women may feel less interested in sex due to these emotional changes, says the expert.

2. Second trimester (weeks 13 to 26)

Hormone levels are stabilised in the second trimester for many women, leading to a potential increase in libido. Increased blood flow to the pelvic region can also enhance sensitivity and arousal. Many of the discomforts associated with early pregnancy, such as nausea and fatigue, tend to subside during the second trimester. This can contribute to improved sexual desire and comfort. Some women also feel more confident about their changing bodies during this trimester, which can positively influence their libido.

3. Third trimester (weeks 27 to chold’s birth)

As the baby grows larger, physical discomfort such as back pain, pelvic pressure, and difficulty finding comfortable positions may arise. This may lead to a decrease in sexual desire and enjoyment, says Dr Juneja. The extra weight and strain on the body in late pregnancy can contribute to increased fatigue and reduced interest in sex. Anxiety about labour and delivery, as well as concerns about the upcoming changes and responsibilities of parenthood, can affect libido.

How to deal with low libido during pregnancy?

Here are some ways to help manage and address low libido during pregnancy:

  • Talk to your partner about how you are feeling and any concerns you have about your changing libido during pregnancy. Open communication can strengthen your relationship and reduce feelings of guilt or pressure.
  • Explore ways to enhance physical comfort during intimacy. Experiment with different positions that minimise discomfort and avoid putting pressure on the abdomen.
  • Use pillows for support and consider trying activities that focus on relaxation, such as massages or gentle touch.
  • Focus on emotional intimacy and connection with your partner. Engage in activities that focus on closeness and trust, such as cuddling, talking, and spending quality time with your partner.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious foods, staying hydrated, and getting regular exercise (as recommended by your doctor). Physical well-being can positively impact libido.

Is it safe to have sex during pregnancy?

In most cases, it is safe to have sex during pregnancy, especially if the pregnancy is progressing without complications, says the expert. However, there are certain considerations and potential factors that may affect the safety and comfort of sex during pregnancy.

A woman with low sex drive during pregnancy
Women with low-risk pregnancies may have sex during pregnancy. Image courtesy: Freepik
  • For women with low-risk pregnancies (no history of miscarriage, preterm labour, or other complications), sexual activity is generally considered safe throughout pregnancy.
  • If a woman has certain medical conditions or complications during pregnancy (placenta previa, cervical insufficiency, preterm labour risk), her doctor may advise against or limit sexual activity to reduce the risk of complications.
  • It is important for both partners to communicate openly about comfort levels, concerns, and any physical or emotional changes experienced during pregnancy.

Changes in libido during pregnancy are normal and can vary widely among women. Understanding the potential effects and maintaining open communication with partner can help navigate changes in libido and intimacy during pregnancy. If concerns about libido continue or cause distress, discussing them with a doctor can be helpful.

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