When Feeling Weird Is Perfectly Normal

Dear Readers: Over the past few weeks I’ve received a number of emails that hit on the same general topic, but, interestingly, from completely different perspectives. Here they are:

Q: Dear Mr. Dad: My wife is pregnant and I’m finding that I’m way more attracted to her sexually right now, and she’s not even showing yet. It’s like just knowing that she’s carrying my child is a turn-on. I’m scared she’ll think I’m weird if I say something. Is this normal?

Q: Dear Mr. Dad: My fiancée is seven months pregnant and ever since I saw my daughter-to-be on the screen at the doctor’s, I’ve had less desire for sex with my partner. I don’t love her any less and I still think she’s the most beautiful woman ever. But I just can’t do it right now. Is this normal?

Q: Dear Mr. Dad: Ever since I found out I’m pregnant the idea of having sex seems kind of gross—it’s as if we’re doing it in front of the kids. My husband is worried that we’ll never have a sexual relationship again after our twins are born. I know what I’m thinking doesn’t make a lot of sense, but is it normal?

Q: My fiancé and I recently found out we’re pregnant. Will it hurt the embryo if we make love? Is it normal to worry about this?

A: The short answer to all of these questions is, Yes, it’s all normal. In fact, when it comes to sex during pregnancy, just about everything is normal—even things that might seem completely contradictory.

Let’s start with the safety issue. Unless the pregnant woman has a history of premature labor or has been told by her doctor to avoid sex during pregnancy, it should be perfectly safe. The baby is cushioned in a fluid-filled sac and barring cramps or bleeding during sex, making love while pregnant is no more dangerous than at any other time.

Okay, that takes care of the actual sex part. But when it comes to sexual desire, the range of “normal” is pretty big. Many men find the pregnant female body (with its fuller curves and larger breasts) erotic. That, combined with a natural feeling of power and masculinity that often accompanies getting a woman pregnant, can increase men’s arousal. At the same time, many women find getting pregnant to be a confirmation of their femininity and attractiveness. That, along with the increased blood flow to the pelvic region, which may make orgasms more powerful, could boost their desire to have sex. There can also be a mutual feeling of closeness that sometimes plays out sexually.

On the other hand, if the pregnant woman doesn’t find herself particularly attractive—or worries that her partner doesn’t—she may not be terribly interested in sex. Ditto if she’s in the first trimester and feeling nauseous or in the last trimester and feeling awkward or uncomfortable. It works the other way ‘round too: if the guy doesn’t find his pregnant partner terribly attractive, or if he thinks she doesn’t find herself attractive, he won’t express any interest. Another possible libido killer is the realization—sheared by men and women—that they’re about to become parents. And everyone knows that parents aren’t supposed to be sexual. Hey, no one said this stuff was rational.

Talking about these issues is absolutely essential. Expectant fathers routinely underestimate how attractive their partners feel, and expectant mothers routinely underestimate how attractive their partners find them. In future columns we’ll talk about how to handle situations where the expectant parents-to-be aren’t in sync.