This is my third pregnancy, a joyous, exciting time—except when it comes to my sex drive. My libido has tanked, and it’s beyond frustrating.
Why can’t I get lost in kissing my husband anymore? Why am I not turned on by the same things that always worked before? We’ve tried every trick we could think of, from mood lighting and relaxing baths to date nights and new lingerie. And my husband already does his fair share, if not more, of work around the house and with the kids, so my lack of desire has nothing to do with resentment or feeling under-appreciated.
If anything, I feel more loved than ever when I’m pregnant.
It’s just that tiny spark in my gut, the tingling in my lady bits, the longing for sex—it’s nowhere to be found.
I’m now 36 weeks pregnant, and except for a few random bursts of sexual desire (mostly in the second trimester), my husband and I have spent the majority of this pregnancy abstinent.
Low libido is normal throughout pregnancy
Pregnancy sex, or lack thereof, is not something often discussed by my friends. So, I was surprised to learn that not wanting to get it on is actually very normal.
A 2020 study in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that pregnancy influences the sexual desire of both partners.
Men have higher levels of sexual desire than their pregnant partners throughout pregnancy, and pregnant women have the least amount of sexual desire in their first trimester.
This makes sense, as the first trimester is a wild ride of increasing hormones, morning sickness, extreme fatigue and other symptoms that don’t exactly coincide with feeling romantic or sexy for me.
Low libido may continue into the third trimester
“Women in the third trimester of their pregnancy put aside their sexual appetite and that of their partners, and concentrate on the wellbeing of their newborn baby,” states a 2019 study in Aten Primaria.
In my third trimester, I’ve experienced a return of heartburn, fatigue and dizziness, as well as aches and pains in my back, head and pelvic area. I can’t even roll over in bed without groaning in pain, so you can imagine how far sex is from my mind. I want to want sex… I just don’t.
The simplest explanation for this lack of desire? Pregnancy is weird! In my first trimester, I had a huge aversion to coffee, to the point where I couldn’t even be in the house if my husband was brewing a cup in the kitchen. The smell was enough to have me gagging—even though I normally drink it multiple times a day.
Sexual desire is kind of the same thing. Although I typically love some adults-only time after our 4- and 3-year-olds have gone to bed, now I can’t stomach the thought of it. It has nothing to do with my husband—it’s just one of those things I’ve learned to deal with.
Luckily, after I was cleared by my OB-GYN to have sex after my first two kids were born, my sex drive came back naturally. I’m hoping the same will happen after this baby is born. It’s amazing what a glass of wine and feeling like yourself again can do.
How to keep intimacy alive during pregnancy
In the meantime, my husband and I have learned to get creative in the romance department to break up the long dry spell.
Intimacy is important, even if sex is currently off the table.
Try massage. I wore my new lingerie and relaxed in a comfortable position next to him, and he rubbed my shoulders and feet while we watched a rom-com. It was a way for me to enjoy physical touch in a way that made me feel closer to my husband—instead of anxious and frustrated like sex had been making me feel.
Shower together. This started as a way for my husband to help me relax by washing my hair, and we quickly realized how intimate it was to soap each other up. Although my body felt strange, heavy and painful most of the time, the heat of the shower relieves some of the pressure I feel, making it an enjoyable experience.
Focus on date nights. We’ve jumped into trying new restaurants and shopping centers, gone to musicals and surprised each other with flowers and chocolate. When we can’t go out, we’ll wait until the kids go to bed, light some candles, and slow dance in the living room to soft music. It’s so much easier to forget about the mundanity of daily living or the stresses of the kids when we’re simply swaying in each other’s arms.
At the end of the day, our relationship is about support, trust and intimacy—sex is an added bonus.
Fernández-Carrasco FJ, Rodríguez-Díaz L, González-Mey U, Vázquez-Lara JM, Gómez-Salgado J, Parrón-Carreño T. Changes in Sexual Desire in Women and Their Partners during Pregnancy. J Clin Med. 2020;9(2):526. Published 2020 Feb 14. doi:10.3390/jcm9020526
Panea Pizarro I, Domínguez Martin AT, Barragán Prieto V, Martos Sánchez A, López Espuela F. Comportamiento y actitud frente a la sexualidad de la mujer embarazada durante el último trimestre. Estudio fenomenológico [Behaviour and attitudes towards the sexuality of the pregnant woman during the last trimester. Phenomenological study]. Aten Primaria. 2019;51(3):127-134. doi:10.1016/j.aprim.2018.02.003