By: Marcelina Grynechko, LMFTA
If you catch yourself feeling puzzled and thinking: ‘why does my partner seem to be reluctant to engage in sex with me when I am pregnant, you are not alone!
There are multiple reasons to why couples find their sex life unsatisfactory: stress, busy lifestyle, hurtful past experiences around intimacy and sex, low libido, painful sex, illness, and more.
Pregnancy can be a beautiful time for couples, however, it comes with its own challenges for intimacy and sex. If you experienced satisfaction in your sex life with your partner before pregnancy or were hoping that pregnancy will bring you closer to your partner, it is understandable and common that you feel confused or rejected when you notice your partner’s avoidance of sex when you are pregnant.
When your feelings are hurt, it is easy to jump straight to a conclusion: ‘my man does not find me attractive/does not love me anymore. From my experience as a soon-to-be mother and a couples therapist, it is more effective in the long run to approach this dilemma with curiosity and to give your partner the benefit of a doubt. Also, keeping your feelings to yourself, as well as blaming yourself or criticizing your partner will not bring about long-lasting changes to your intimate life. Trust me, I tried these tactics. They produced short-lived and inauthentic changes.
Here are some reasons why your partner avoids sex with you while you are growing a baby in your belly:
- He experiences conflicting feelings about being a father and your lover. He may sense that the baby is present or moving/kicking while you are engaging in foreplay or intercourse. For some men, the thought of that is enough to avoid making a move and approaching you in an intimate way.
- Lack of education around sex in pregnancy. There are still a lot of misconceptions and myths about sex in pregnancy e.g. ‘a penis can touch a fetus during intercourse, penetration harms the fetus, a fetus is aware that you are having sex, sex always induces contractions and labor, contractions from orgasm cause miscarriage’ and many more
- He is worried about your and the baby’s safety during sex. Your partner may be concerned that some sex positions or the impact from thrusting will cause you pain or harm the growing baby. Also, pregnancy comes with hormonal changes that may result in vaginal dryness and decreased libido. A remedy to this can be using a lubricant, lengthening foreplay, or incorporating other than penetration activities that turn you on.
- He is preoccupied with fears or thoughts about his new role as a father. Your man may be worried about his abilities and skills to provide for you and the baby or raise his child to become a well-adjusted individual. Placing high expectations on himself may result in a stress response that negatively impacts mood and sexual desire.
- There is an underlying and unresolved conflict, attachment injury, or trauma that developed before pregnancy that has been contaminating your relationship. Sometimes seemingly unrelated stressful events like pregnancy, can bring up or exacerbate the wounds from the past.
The above-mentioned list of reasons is not exhaustive and it is beneficial to have an honest and compassionate conversation (including curious questions) with your partner that addresses your feelings and the reasons for his reluctance to engage in sexual activity with you while you are pregnant.
Here are some things to consider when you and your partner are struggling with the issue of decreased sexual desire on his end during pregnancy.
- Engage in an honest and non-judgemental conversation about the issue. Try to approach this situation as an opportunity to strengthen and grow the relationship. Tackle this issue as a team and unite to understand his side and your own side. Approaching your partner with curiosity and compassion may not only help you both understand each other but also improve the emotional connection between you two.
- Educate yourselves about safe sex and the risks of pregnancy. When you are in doubt about what sexual practices are safe or hazardous in pregnancy, you may find WebMD and Mayo Clinic articles helpful to read, to familiarize yourself with the topic. Please remember, that these resources should not be your only source of knowledge and it is always best to talk to your doctor about what practices are safe and what practices are risky during pregnancy
- Learn about common myths and benefits of practicing safe sex during pregnancy. There is plenty of misconceptions about sex and sexual desire in pregnancy portrayed by media or passed by word of mouth. Some myths include: ‘a penis can touch a fetus during intercourse, penetration harms the fetus, a fetus is aware that you are having sex, sex always induces contractions and labor, contractions from orgasm cause miscarriage. Learn to differentiate between scientific information and fiction. The book called ‘Myths about Sex and Pregnancy’ by Aaron E. Carroll, Rachel C. Vreeman can be a good start.
- Increase the frequency of intimate gestures outside of the bedroom. Usually, the process of change takes some time. Building a secure connection outside of the bedroom, by increasing the frequency of affectionate gestures, can actually become a catalyst for change in the bedroom. Offering a spontaneous kiss or a hug, surprising your partner with a movie night, running some errands or doing chores, etc. may be effective ways to facilitate positive interactions in a relationship and make both partners more emotionally available. Try to figure out what affectionate gestures are the turn-ons and what the turn offs for you and your partner. Have an honest, curious, and non-judgmental conversation about them.
- Show your partner other ways than penetration that increase your sexual arousal. Research shows that penetration during pregnancy is generally safe. There are certain sex positions that are usually not advised in pregnancy (lying on your back when pregnant for prolonged periods of time or engaging in sex positions that increase the risk of fall or injury). Also, the change in the pregnant female hormones can make sex less pleasurable due to decreased natural lubrication or a compressed vaginal canal due to a growing uterus. Engaging in sex through other ways than penetration may be a better option and less anxiety-provoking for the male partner during pregnancy. Discuss with your partner what kinds of sex would work best for both of you e.g. oral sex, mutual masturbation, parallel play, using sex toys, etc. If vaginal dryness becomes an issue, you may consider incorporating a lubricant that is customized to your and your partner’s needs
Please remember that there will be instances where no matter how hard your partner tries to please you or make things work during sex, one or both of you will not ‘feel it’. That is expected and common. Humans are not robots. Having a secure connection with your partner is paramount and will always outweigh the importance of sexual performance.
Lastly, If you both feel that the problem has its roots deeper and you may need more guidance, reaching out to a couples/sex therapist may help you resolve relationship distress and bring about a long-lasting change.