“O” or Oh no! The effect of bed rest on an intimate relationship

February 4th, 2010

During pregnancy intercourse, and more particularly orgasm, can be the most intense a woman has ever experienced. Because of the increase in blood supply during pregnancy, a woman’s perineum and sexual organs are all engorged (filled to the brim) with blood and this engorgement results in heightened sensitivity. Many women report that some of the best sex they’ve ever had was while they were pregnant. And while many may worry about the effects on the growing baby, you’ll be happy to know that an orgasm does not at all harm the baby. Even though the uterus contracts, the growing baby is so well insulated in the amniotic fluid and the strong, muscular uterus they experience mama’s orgasm as a soft ripple in the waters.

Pregnancy can also have a negative effect on a woman’s sexuality. Many women lose all interest in sexual intercourse while pregnant due to hormone  fluctuations causing a significant drop in libido. Lack of desire can also be due to the usual aches and pains of pregnancy, fatigue, nausea, the additional weight and change in body configuration leaving many women less than in the mood.

No one can predict how a woman will feel sexually while she is pregnant. Some women who enjoy robust sex lives prior to pregnancy lose all interest once they become pregnant. Likewise, more reserved women may begin initiating sexual intercourse during pregnancy. Even from pregnancy to pregnancy women report variations in their sexual libidos. They may be insatiable during one pregnancy and completely uninterested during the next.

But what about bed rest? Can women on prescribed bed rest engage in sexual intercourse? Unfortunately, most women on prescribed bed rest are advised against engaging in sexual intercourse.  Since an orgasm results in rhythmic contractions of the pelvic organs, a woman at risk of preterm labor absolutely must avoid such activity. Even without the added pregnancy intensity, anything that can cause uterine contractions and lead to preterm labor must be avoided. Some indications for bed rest may allow for some sexual activity. Gestational diabetes and hypertension (but not pre-eclampsia) for example, may require modified bed rest yet may allow for (limited?) sexual activity. When a woman is prescribed bed rest, she should ask her obstetrician or midwife specifically what her  limitations are when it comes to sexual activity

As we previously established, intimacy is a very important component of an adult relationship. It may seem like a bed rest prescription means the death of intimacy-at least for the duration of the pregnancy. But nothing could be further from the truth! Intimacy is the act of sharing between a couple; spending time enjoying one another, exchanging private thoughts and emotions, engaging in activities that they find mutually enjoyable. This can still happen between a pregnant woman and her partner.  Likewise, while intercourse may be prohibited, not all physical contact is taboo. Consider these alternatives:

  • a back and shoulder massage
  • a foot massage
  • brushing each others hair
  • deep kissing

Bed rest is not all bad for a relationship. Bed rest may actually usher in a new phase of intimacy for a couple as their efforts to find alternative ways to share intimate moments work to draw them closer.

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