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Sex & pregnancy - this is what a gyneacologist says

Is it safe to have sex during pregnancy? How come sex feels different now that I'm pregnant? And is it true you can't get pregnant again when you're breastfeeding? You ask, gyneacologist Meike Berghuis answers.

Is it safe to have sex during pregnancy?

“Yes, generally speaking, it is. There are exceptions of course. When there’s any form of blood loss for example, your gyneacologist or midwife can advise you that it’s better to refrain from having sex for some time. And once your waters have broken and labor is about to start, it is best not to have intercourse anymore. From that moment on, there is a connection between the outside world and the uterus, which causes an increased risk of infections.”


How does being pregnant influence your sex drive, physically speaking?

“It is best to explain this per trimester. And of course, this is all very generalized - every woman feels different and there is no right or wrong when it comes to your sex drive during pregnancy. But generally speaking: during the first trimester, the first 12 weeks, women often feel more tired, and nausea is a common discomfort in this period. Those discomforts can lead to a lowered sex drive. During the second trimester, women often feel better. A lot of physical changes are taking place. Breasts are getting bigger, and they’re usually more sensitive as well. The blood flow to the pelvis, cervix and vagina is increased, and because of that, some sensations can feel different. For example, an orgasm can last longer, or even feel more intense. In the last trimester, physically things get more heavy, and the growing bump can get in the way, which can have an impact on your sex drive.”

What is your experience with men and the subject of sex during pregnancy?

“Sex during pregnancy tends to be something that is talked about from the perspective of the woman. Men have their own ideas, feelings and insecurities about this subject. They might wonder if the baby feels something during penetration (the answer is no), or if some positions are better than others. Those thoughts impact their sex drive just as well. And since it’s obviously a matter of two people both having to feel comfortable, it is important to keep communicating on this subject, to reinvent what you both like, what feels good and what doesn’t.”


What's important to know about sex after pregnancy?

“After the baby is born, a lot of hormonal changes take place as well. The presence of prolactin - the hormone that is responsible for the production of breastmilk - suppresses the levels of some other hormones that influence your sex drive. For example, the level of the female hormone estrogen is lowered, and estrogen is much needed for intercourse to feel pleasant, since it’s the hormone that makes your vaginal tissue feel comfortable. So you can imagine: less estrogen means having sex can cause a bit of a burning sensation, which is not comfortable at all. Of course the physical situation of your vagina might also need some time to recover after giving birth. And don’t forget about the mental impact of giving birth and having a newborn. If giving birth was a somewhat traumatic experience for you, it might take some time before you start thinking about having sex again. Or maybe you’re constantly listening if you hear your baby cry, or your mind is so occupied with all things baby. That’s all totally normal, but it can make it harder to be in the moment and enjoy it. A matter of time, and getting used to the new situation.”

Is it true that you're more fertile when you've just given birth?

“No, not necessarily. If you are not breastfeeding, your cycle will usually get back to normal within the first six weeks after giving birth, which means you will be able to get pregnant again after that. So it is in fact important to think about the subject of birth control, and to talk to your doctor, gyneacologist or midwife about the form of birth control that feels good to you - whether it’s using a condom, a spiral or the pill. Be aware that not all types of the pill are suitable when you’re still breastfeeding. It’s also important to say that breastfeeding is not a reliable form of birth control - which is something that you sometimes hear people say. Yes, when you breastfeed, the amount of prolactin in your body does repress your menstrual cycle. But it’s only in the first couple of weeks - when the baby drinks very frequently - that the effect of the prolactin is enough to make sure you’re not as fertile as you would normally be. Once you start feeding less frequently, the amount of prolactin decreases, and your menstrual cycle starts to get back to normal, which means you could get pregnant again, even though you’re still breastfeeding.”

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