The period in which a woman experiences reduced sex drive during pregnancy may vary from one person to the other. One may experience it during the first trimester (weeks one to 12) with a change in the second trimester (weeks 13 to 28) with others experiencing it throughout the nine months of pregnancy.

A majority of men have little understanding of their partner’s anatomy during pregnancy. This may lead to quarrels as they may feel that they have been deprived of sex by their pregnant wives. We thus tackle the causes of low sex drive during pregnancy for a better understanding

Hormonal changes

During pregnancy, women experience an increase in the production of oestrogen (which aids in growth of the uterus and blood flow) and progesterone (critical for the proper functioning of the placenta and keeping the uterine wall healthy and thick) than the entirety of her lifetime. The increase in oestrogen enables improvement in formation of blood vessels by the uterus and placenta and provision of nutrients to the developing baby. These changes also affect other hormones such as testosterone linked to sexual activities and change of mood, which makes a woman find sex irritating.

The progesterone increase may cause loosening of joints and ligaments throughout the body making the woman feel tired most of the time due to strains and sprains on the knees and ankles. This may lead to intolerance to sex as it makes them even more tired.

An enlargement in breasts attributed to increase in oestrogen as they prepare to supply milk to the newborn may lead to sensitivity and tenderness with the nipples protruding more. These changes are associated with “leaks” of the thick, yellowish substance – colostrum – that the child will suckle.

In addition, small lumps may arise from breast tissues due to blockage in milk ducts. These lumps should be massaged with warm water and if they persist, there is need to see a doctor. Such changes on the breast structure serves to explain why women are sometimes not interested in sex because of the pain that is associated with handling them during intercourse.

Change in back structure

With the transformation of the abdomen from flat to concave or convex, comes changes to the curvature of her back. This is down to the pelvis meeting the spine. During pregnancy, the centre of gravity shifts leading to adjustment of posture without one even realising it. The thought of having to go through the pain associated with intercourse while trying to adjust your posture for a sexual experience plays a role in reducing the urge to have sex.

Weight gain

Pregnant women tend to gain weight to a tune of 25 kilograms for a healthy pregnancy. This is due to decreased exercise, increase in food consumption and the extra fluids in the body, which aid in baby’s circulation, amniotic fluid and ensuring the placenta is well hydrated. The increase in weight to some extent lowers the pregnant woman’s self-esteem and the thought of removing clothes to have sex turns them off completely.

Cervical changes

Thickness, firmness and change in position are some of the characteristics associated with the cervix during pregnancy. Softening of the cervix due to pressure from the growing baby may also be experienced. A mucous like fluid is also produced by the cervix with spotting also reported.
This, according to women, may be a turn off for men because at times there is a heavy discharge which is thicker and stickier. The thought of intercourse may seem an embarrassment for women due to this.

Sensitive skin

Pregnant women also experience skin changes with itchy stretch marks being a common appearance in pregnant women. With it, darkening of certain areas in the body including the genitals, scars and a thick line down the abdomen are also experienced. Melasma – darkening of skin on the face also referred to as “face mask” – may be another pregnancy effect. These skin changes may make the skin sensitive to touch and since sex involves a lot of touching, one may not be so enthusiastic about it.

Unexpected hair growth/loss

While some women experience hair growth and thickening, others get a dose of hair loss and shedding. Hair loss may be attributed to a history of female alopecia – loss of hair/female baldness attributed to family genes and age like men.

Hair growth may be experienced on the face, arms, legs or back with a return to normalcy once the baby is born. The hair growth and loss brings a downside with it such as low self-esteem, with the mentality of “how will my husband view this?” This may play a role in how women view sex during pregnancy.

Painful sores

Pregnancy rashes and boils ail a few women during the nine-month period. Red lumps around the back, abdomen, legs and arms may appear mostly during the second trimester of pregnancy. It may not be cause for panic as the boils eventually subside for some but it may be associated with premature delivery for others and at times issues with the baby’s well-being.

Therefore, a pregnant woman experiencing this is advised to visit the doctor for a check-up to ascertain that the baby is in good health. Such a scenario can bring sensitivity and a lot of pain during intercourse for a woman resulting in a reduced sex drive.

Dizziness and fainting

At approximately 24 weeks, some women experience dizziness and fainting. Lying flat on one’s back during sex or at any given time can lead to compression of blood vessels leading to the heart. This can in turn lead to reduction in blood flow to and from the heart causing dizziness and loss of consciousness.

Due to such occurrences, it is advisable to lie on your side when doing exercises and situations involving lying on your back are highly discouraged.

Difficulty in breathing

Shortness of breath is another effect of pregnancy. The amount of air moving in and out of the lungs increases by 40 percent due to an increase in the size of the uterus limiting the space that the diaphragm occupies. This is supported by studies which claim that pregnant women have more oxygen in the blood drawn from taking deep breaths during rest. Sex may trigger shortness of breath and the thought of it may be frightening.

High metabolism rate

Weaknesses associated with the amount of energy utilised by the body is a common occurrence during pregnancy. Two individuals sharing the same body can really take a toll on the host. Expectant women are thus advised to increase intake of calories to prevent low blood sugars due to high metabolic rates.

Changes in body temperatures with a need for large amounts of water to quench their thirst is another underlying factor drawn from high metabolism rate. Such a situation can be dangerous to the foetus as it may reduce the amount of blood going to the uterus. The increase in body temperatures can even lead to a preference by women to sleep alone and this reduces the chances of intercourse taking place significantly.

Fear of intercourse harming the baby

There is that extra care that comes with having a baby inside you. This is common in women who term intercourse during pregnancy as ‘very dangerous’.
However, there are very few instances where sex is dangerous during pregnancy such as when the woman suffers from placenta previa – a condition in which the placenta covers the cervix. Most of the time doctors usually give a green light on sex during pregnancies.

What to do…

These are just but a few of the difficulties that women go through that most a time lead to low sex drive. Controlling these changes is an impossibility to most couples till the baby is born. However, some of the changes may require medical attention especially if the symptoms become severe.

Couples’ understanding in such situations is highly recommended. There is a need to be open and discuss issues such as insecurities and fear of resentment. Sharing is caring and through openness your partner will understand what changes a woman experiences during pregnancy and how best you can tackle those challenges together to strengthen your relationship and enrich your sex life.