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Some women find their changing bodies erotic, but assume their men don't, says author Armin A. Brott. And some men are extremely turned on by their pregnant mates but feel she's too self-conscious to want to be intimate.
By msnbc.com contributor
updated 7/20/2008 12:55:56 PM ET 2008-07-20T16:55:56

Just a month before her twins were born, Angelina Jolie boasted to Us Magazine that pregnancy is “great for the sex life. It just makes you a lot more creative. So you have fun, and as a woman you’re just so round and full.” Her statement prompted one pregnant friend of this column to grumble about how life is wickedly unfair if Angelina Jolie gets to be Angelina Jolie and also gets to enjoy great sex during pregnancy while many other women are having trouble keeping down lunch.

Well, some people really do have great sex during pregnancy. Some people also have lousy sex, or no sex, and are miserable about it. But many of those miserable people don’t have to be miserable, say experts, and sex, or at least intimacy, can be helpful to parents and baby alike.

As one Polish study put it, “research makes it evident that experiencing sexual satisfaction by pregnant women improves their self-esteem, facilitates [the] mutual relationship between partners and tightens the marital bond.”

But sometimes, says Armin A. Brott, author of “The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-to-Be,” men and women aren’t sure what to expect when she becomes pregnant, nor how their mate might be feeling about everything from body image to desire.

“There is lot of second guessing that goes on about sex during pregnancy,” says Brott, who has talked to “thousands” of men on the topic of pregnancy. “As soon as a woman begins to notice her body change, lots of guys say ‘She is self-conscious about her body. She is not feeling good. I will leave her alone.’ But at the same time many women find their growing bodies to be somewhat erotic and may be more into having sex than before. But she says to herself ‘He does not find my changing body much of turn on any more.’ So they both back off a little bit even though they both may be turned-on by her body.”

Ups and downs in the bedroom
Study after study shows that most women go through a somewhat predictable trajectory of desire during pregnancy. Libido drops during the first trimester, often rises during the second, and then falls off precipitously in the third. The reasons are pretty obvious.

“You can imagine making love and suddenly having to get up to vomit,” Brott says, not uncommon during the first trimester. But things usually settle down during the middle three months before some significant discomfort can take over — often requiring new and sometimes challenging positions — during the last three.

UCLA reproduction researcher Dr. Kari Sproul surveyed 30 women (divided into two groups of infertility patients and non-infertility patients) for a 2004 study and found that the non-infertility patients had intercourse 6.6 times per month before the pregnancy, 3.8 times per month in the first trimester, 4.3 in the second, and 3.1 in the third. The infertility patients, perhaps reflecting heightened concern after their struggle to become pregnant, had intercourse less than once per month during the first trimester, 1.3 in the second and .07 in the third.

Subsequently she surveyed the women in both groups using a measurement called the Female Sexual Function Index and found that while desire remained virtually unchanged from the first trimester compared to the third, some physical indicators, especially lubrication, dropped significantly. On a scale ranging from 2 to 36, overall sexual satisfaction by the third trimester was 18.92, which isn’t too bad, Sproul says, all things considered.

“We inferred that even though during pregnancy there is a decline in the frequency, the actual function or quality of intercourse does not change,” Sproul explains.

Hitting the baby on the head
Though women are often depicted as the crazy ones during pregnancy (think Lucille Ball ordering Ricky out to get sardines and ice cream) men are sometimes the irrational ones. Men can feel as if they are being watched by their future offspring, or that they will hurt the baby usually by hitting it with their penis.

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Such worries are unfounded. It would be virtually impossible for any man to bonk Junior on the head or poke his eye out with that thing, for example, because the penis would have to be very, very long and even then it’s unlikely to bother the baby. (Sorry, men.)

But, says Sproul, research has proven that “the chances of doing something to the baby is small,” and that unless the pregnancy is fraught with complications like bleeding or contractions, there is no reason not to have sex and enjoy orgasms throughout the pregnancy if both partners feel like it.

Almost as important as what’s going on in her body is what is going on inside his brain.

As Brott says, some men find their pregnant lovers very desirable, and some do not. Some do at first and then don’t later. And for some, a pregnant woman is practically a fetish. But often his desire, or lack thereof, have little to do with her body. As one journal article bluntly states it: “Pregnancy represents a life crisis …”

Putting on the moves or building an extra bedroom?
Brott says many men are terrified of being able to financially handle the new responsibility. They worry about their mate’s health. They start thinking about home additions. None of which is conducive to hot libido. Surprisingly, men can also be surprised at the fact sex led to a pregnancy in the first place. (Apparently, it is one thing to take a sex ed class and know how it all works, and quite another to actually be half the equation.)

“They sometimes think ‘I could not be the father,’” Brott says. “They think it is impossible that they have done something so powerful.”

But a rich sexual life during pregnancy is possible by doing what Sexploration always begs readers to do: Talk. First, make your health care provider address sex during pregnancy. Ask questions. Then talk to your lover. “People who have the habit of communicating about sex will be much more communicative during pregnancy, too,” Brott believes. “They need to have those conversations, like ‘I am finding you turn me on now. What do you think?’ as opposed to second guessing and imagining you know what somebody else is thinking.”

This will help after the baby arrives, too. When attention is divided, downtime nonexistent and both parents are exhausted, sometimes all anybody needs to hear is “I love you and you are amazingly hot, but I have spit-up running down my spine. Maybe tomorrow, after ‘Teletubbies’?”

Brian Alexander is the author of the book “America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction."

© 2013 msnbc.com

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