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Pregnancy and Sexual Intimacy

Most couples find pregnancy to be a time of stress as well as joy.

Adapting to Blessing

Many couples wonder if it’s safe to continue sexual intercourse during pregnancy. Of course, the first place to discuss physical concerns is with your obstetrician or midwife.1 But I frequently find, as a professional counselor, that many couples also need to discuss their feelings about their sexuality during pregnancy, and how their sexual relationship may be changing.

Most couples find pregnancy to be a time of stress as well as joy – especially if they are in their first pregnancy. I always invite both parties to talk through their concerns with me, as there are particular challenges that differ between husbands and wives.

What do I hear most often from women?

Some are concerned that their husbands won’t find them attractive anymore. The changes in their appearance trouble them if they’ve been overly conscious of body image in the past. Others are concerned that if intercourse becomes limited in frequency, position, or satisfaction, their husbands will be tempted to become unfaithful. Sadly, some wives speak of how their husbands “check out” emotionally when they are intimate during pregnancy.

In my practice, I’ve found the vast majority of men are not challenged by their wives’ weight gain or appearance. Most often, I hear them speak of fear over accidentally harming the baby or their spouses during intercourse. Obviously, most men have little experience with pregnancy, and if they’re conscientious, their ignorance may surface as compulsive concern. Those husbands who do express dismay or disgust over their wives’ appearance most often demonstrate other significant signs of immaturity as well.

Of course, pregnancy can bring other challenges if there are special health concerns, older children to care for, or limited support from family and friends. Stress over these issues, combined with the natural hormonal flux, can impact the couple’s sexuality and increase the usual need for good communication and teamwork.

The husband and wife, who became one flesh, partnered with the Creator and are cooperating with Him on a miracle. Their love has produced a soul that is tucked safely away, his or her tiny form being intricately knitted together.

Although lacking citable statistical evidence, I can share anecdotally from my practice and others’ that if a man is a sex addict, pregnancy can escalate his acting-out. I suspect one reason for this phenomenon is that his intimacy disorder causes him to view issues from a narcissistic (self-centered) perspective. It is painful for him to share his wife’s body with anyone – even his own child. Another obvious factor is that sexual compulsion is already the way the addicted are conditioned to cope with any stress, including that of becoming a father. Third, any man who over-objectifies his wife’s body, as pornography addicts do, is also going to be affected by his wife’s physical changes more than others.

After listening to a couple’s concerns, I try to direct their attention to the sacredness of the pregnancy experience. The husband and wife, who became one flesh, partnered with the Creator and are cooperating with Him on a miracle. Their love has produced a soul that is tucked safely away, his or her tiny form being intricately knitted together. Between paying the bills, painting the nursery, and going to checkups, there are intimate moments to reflect and celebrate together that can bring their relationship to a new level.

Marriage is all about living intimately with each other. The couples who seem to enjoy marriage the most – before, during and after pregnancy – are those who drop all pretenses and focus on serving each other and the children who are loaned to them from God.

Because every couple and situation is unique, I’m unable to provide a pat answer for everyone. There is no “Universal Solution to Psychosexual Challenges during Human Gestation.” I strongly encourage you, however, to explore your marital relationship. If pregnancy seems to be causing obsessive concerns or injuring intimacy, see a professional counselor before the problems escalate.

Copyright © 2004 Rob Jackson. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Endnotes

1 Most sources indicate that intercourse and orgasm during pregnancy is safe as long as the woman is in good health. There are times, however, when it is wise to consult with a midwife or obstetrician. Some of these times include bleeding or pain with intercourse, history of miscarriage or premature birth, leakage of fluid from the vagina, multiple fetuses, or the presence of infection in either partner. Source: Intercourse During Pregnancy. McKinley Health Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.