Good communication is the key to positive sex experiences in pregnancy & postpartum, but talking about the changes and challenges that might come up in your sex life was likely the last thing on your mind when you found out that you would be soon be expecting a baby.
In some ways, this is not surprising. Only a minority of women (29%) who participated in a research study about the connection between a positive sexual self and a more positive experience of pregnancy reported that their prenatal care providers discussed sexuality with them. As important as open communication is with your care provider, being comfortable communicating about your sexual pleasure during pregnancy and postpartum with your partner is also a key ingredient in having a positive sexual connection.
Research finds that comfort with sexual communication is directly linked to satisfaction in the bedroom. Self-disclosure and being open when communicating with one’s partner, is also associated with relationship satisfaction. But even though communicating openly about sexual issues is important, it can also be very hard. It’s not uncommon to feel embarrassed, “dirty” or awkward requesting what you want explicitly in your relationship. but communication is key to positive sex experiences in pregnancy & postpartum.
What to expect (in the bedroom) When Expecting
Generally, unless your doctor or midwife has specific reasons for you to not have sex, it’s absolutely safe — for you, your partner, and your developing baby.
Interestingly, women who have orgasms during pregnancy benefit from the release of calming hormones and increased cardiovascular blood flow. Those benefits get even passed down to baby.
However, during the first trimester, you may feel exhausted, nauseous and emotionally exhausted. Fifty-eight percent of women in a Canadian study reported that their desire dwindled during pregnancy. If your experience is the opposite of this, know that you are not alone; pregnancy affects people’s sex drives in different ways.
During the second trimester, you may physically begin to feel a little better. Because of increased blood flow to your vagina, your sex dive may even increase. But, as you begin to show a little more, your partner can be affected, not only because you look and feel different, but because as the pregnancy progresses, they will see and feel the baby move. This can bring on some fearful feelings for the non-pregnant partner.
If the two of you aren’t used to having vulnerable conversations about difficult topics, it may feel like you are struggling to communicate effectively about how pregnancy and postpartum affects your sex life. Working towards improving communication is key to positive sex experiences in pregnancy & postpartum.
In the last trimester, being intimate can feel more challenging, simply because the baby has gotten so big and finding positions that are comfortable for everyone can be difficult. At times like this, being able to communicate about sex during pregnancy and postpartum is so important. It can help both partners to enjoy sex throughout the pregnancy. Being able to communicate with each other about which position are more comfortable, whether intimate activities like oral sex feel pleasurable or if non-sexual touch is a more natural way to connect.
Sex after Delivery
You’ve spent hours picking out the perfect name, choosing the right crib and car seat and scouring parenting books. And then, the reality suddenly dawns on you…everything about having your first baby isn’t as magical as you hoped it would be.
Sleepless nights, leaky boobs and being touched or snuggled nearly 24/7 can take a toll on a your postpartum sex life. And, as enjoyable as you sex life had been before baby, the thought of being intimate may the furthest thing from your mind. At times like this, communication is key to positive sex experiences in pregnancy & postpartum so both partners can feel heard, understood and supported.
Dr. Natalie Rosen, who is a Halifax based psychologist and conducts research with her team at the Couples and Sexual Health Research Laboratory found 50% of pregnant North American women report being given absolutely no information about changes that may occur to their sexual relationship after childbirth. In response to this, she and her team created a video series to address the most common sexual concerns that new parents have.
Good Communication Is Key to Positive Sex Experiences in Pregnancy & Postpartum.
John and Julie Gottman, who are therapists and relationship experts, found in their research from the Bringing Baby Home program that almost 2/3 of couples report a decline in relationship satisfaction up to three years after having a baby. The 1/3 of couples that reported higher levels of satisfaction had a things in common; they were able to share in the transition together by cultivating a strong sense of friendship, practicing healthy conflict management, and tackled the varying needs of a newborn as a team.
There are seasons, like pregnancy and postpartum, when “capacity and tolerance for sex fluctuates”. In fact, building intimacy and connection during these times is critical, and this does not come just from the sex act itself. Hugging, holding hands, snuggling, kissing all foster intimacy. So does good communication and a commitment to emotional intimacy.
The Gottman’s suggest building what they call “Love Maps” which really comes down to knowing the little things about your partner to create a strong foundation for your friendship and intimacy. In their series “Gottsex” they suggest some of the following conversation starters
*Can you recall some good moments of sex between us?
*What did we do that made you feel closer to me?
*What made you feel relaxed?
*What made you feel ready for touch and sensuality?
*What makes you feel connected to me?
*What makes you more in touch with your body?
They have also created a very useful app where you can explore what they call ‘salsa cards’ to help you turn towards, talk about and explore sexually with your partner.
Open and honest communication with your partner is an essential ingredient to building greater intimacy and sexual satisfaction in pregnancy and postpartum. If are looking to build a deeper emotional connection or want help learning to talk openly about any aspect of your relationship, including your sex life, with your partner, couples counselling can help.