However, psychologist Stephanie Buehler, PsyD, CST, a certified sex therapist in Orange County, Calif., says that sex during pregnancy and after delivery is a subject that inspires a wide range of reactions and behaviors, depending on the woman.
Q: What happens to sexual desire during pregnancy?
Dr. Buehler: Women really vary, with some feeling very sexually awakened, some feeling too tired and some feeling very little change at all. Generally, women find they don't feel especially sexy in the first trimester, when they are trying to cope with morning sickness. In the second trimester, they may feel better and have more energy for sex. Some women want to have sex all the way through the third trimester, but a lot of women start to feel fatigued. Finding a comfortable position for sex can also be a problem. You might try other positions, such as "spooning" or rear-entry, to make sex easier.
Q: I'm pregnant and my husband won't have sex with me. What's wrong?
Dr. Buehler: Honestly, some men don't find a pregnant woman very sexy. They may see their wife's body as more of a baby-making machine than one for sexual pleasure. He may, though, have irrational fears about hurting the baby. I've even heard of men being afraid that the fetus will somehow "know" they are having sex. If your husband seems very withdrawn in other ways, he might be afraid of the new responsibility of fatherhood. It's best to have a frank talk with him to understand his feelings or fears and figure out how you can both be happier.
Q: Can having sex while pregnant hurt my growing baby?
Dr. Buehler: If you are in good health and don't have any known risks (such as prior miscarriages or age), then sex won't bother the pregnancy. There are some concerns that orgasm, particularly later in the pregnancy, can cause contractions and advance labor. You should consult with your obstetrician if you have any concerns.
Q: What happens to the baby when I have an orgasm?
Dr. Buehler: As I understand it, whatever rush of endorphins or other "happy chemicals" the mother experiences, the baby does, too. Otherwise, there is no harm to the baby. You may feel some contractions, but unless they are prolonged, this is normal. Enjoy!
Q: I've heard that the general rule is to wait six weeks after having a baby before having sex. Is this true for everyone?
Dr. Buehler: No! The "six-week rule" generally refers to the time it takes for the uterus to return to its pre-baby size and for tissues to heal. Every woman heals differently, though. Plus, you may be too tired from caring for the infant to have much interest in sex. If you need another week or two, then so be it. Make sure, though, that you and your husband make time to stay physically connected by hugging, holding hands, massage or taking a bath or shower together.
Q: I feel a tug of war with my breasts: baby vs. partner. How come?
Dr. Buehler: Although they don't like to admit it, men do occasionally become jealous of the mother's attention for the new baby. Breasts that he thought of as "his" are now functioning to provide nourishment for an infant. Include your husband in caring for the baby, letting him know that he is an important part of the process of raising your child together.
Q: I'm confused by the sudden sadness my husband felt after the arrival of the baby. What could be the explanation for his mood shift?
Dr. Buehler: As it turns out, men may also experience post-partum depression. A recent study suggested that as many as 10 percent of American men become depressed after the baby's arrival. This may be due to fatigue, difficulty coping with more responsibility or conflicted feelings about becoming a father. Be aware of this possibility, and don't hesitate to get help if you notice your husband becoming depressed. Signs of depression in men include withdrawal, but also irritability, increased eating or alcohol consumption or other changes in habits.