The Loss of Libido in Pregnancy

Sexual desire can change due to hormonal fluctuations

Kissing pregnant couple in living room

Westend61/Getty Images

It is a popular belief that a woman's libido (sex drive) will inherently increase during pregnancy, but this is not necessarily the case. While the increased blood supply to the breasts and genitals can result in greater sensitivity and the potential for arousal, other factors can seriously undermine the sex drive.

The reasons for this can be many, but the hormonal changes a woman experiences during pregnancy can affect her physical and emotional state.

Low Libido in the First Trimester

Pregnancy triggers profound hormonal changes in preparation for the birth of your baby. These same changes can elicit feelings of well-being on some day and plunge you into a vortex of anger or despair on other. While these fluctuations are perfectly normal, they can leave you drained and exhausted.

When it comes to sex drive, the sudden surge of progesterone and estrogen during the first trimester can have a contradictory effect. The sensory overstimulation may leave you feeling edgy rather than energized. Morning sickness and fatigue are also common, both of which do little to enhance desire.

To make matters worse, a seed of guilt can sometimes germinate if faced with the loss of libido. You may suddenly feel the pressure to have sex before your body changes, which can fuel self-doubt and leave you feeling as if you've let your partner down.

Changes in the Second and Third Trimester

Fortunately, by around week 10, things will start to turn around.

Your elevated hormones will begin to drop, and many of the adverse effects (nausea, queasiness, vomiting) will also subside. As energy levels quickly recover, so, too, will your sense of well-being and sexual vigor. At the same time, an increase in vaginal lubrication, accompanied by the engorgement of the clitoris and vagina, may enhance both the quality and frequency of sex.

It is not uncommon for women to report being orgasmic or even multi-orgasmic for the first time in their lives during their second trimester of pregnancy due to the physiological changes.

But then, by the third trimester, things can swing in the opposite direction as weight gain, back pain, and other symptoms can make "getting in the mood" all the more difficult. Clearly, this is not always the case. Many women, in fact, will tell you that they enjoy sex just as much during later pregnancy, even if they have it less.

There Is No Right Amount of Sex

The pattern of ups and downs a woman may experience during pregnancy is by no means set. Some women report a little loss of libido and find that the sensory overload only enhances their sex life. Others, meanwhile, feel an enormous loss if a pregnancy changes the nature of a sexual relationship in any way. It is all an individual experience with no rights or wrongs.

Dealing with the loss of libido requires honesty, self-acceptance, and communication. Most men fully understand the havoc hormones can play with the body and only need reassurance that the lack of desire is something that will pass. If you don't feel sexy, tell your partner and try not to dismiss any reassurances you may receive.

While you may bear the greater burden of carrying the baby, remember that you're in this together and that the lows you are feeling now are not permanent.

Other helpful tips include:

  • Get a full eight hours of sleep every night. The lack of sleep compounds over time and make the ability to have sex (much less want it) all the more difficult.
  • If you don't have time or energy for intercourse, explore other types of sexual activity including massage, mutual masturbation, and oral sex.
  • Exercising and good nutrition feeds a positive self-image and adds to a person's confidence.
  • Don't let the size of your belly make you feel awkward or interfere with your sex life. Instead, experiment with side-to-side positions or get on top so that there is no added pressure on the abdomen. Switch it up.
  • Never fear sex. Sexual intercourse does not lead to miscarriage or trigger premature birth. On the other hand, if there any complications with the pregnancy, speak with your doctor to ensure that sex is not going to be a problem.
Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  • Galazka, I.; Drodzdoi-Cop, N.; Naworska, B.; et al. "Changes in the sexual function during pregnancy." 2015; 12(2):445-454.
  • Jones, C.; Chan, C.; and Farine, D. "Sex in pregnancy." Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2011; 183(7): 815-818.