Speaking of Pregnancy

February 5th, 2010

While it’s tempting to share your pregnancy, labor and delivery experiences, make sure that an expectant mama really wants your opinion. Likewise new mamas, you are not obligated to “receive” all advice given to you and are well within your right to respectfully decline ” unsolicited advice”. Here is some etiquette regarding sharing pregnancy information.

“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.

Maintain Intimacy While On Bed Rest

February 1st, 2010

A pregnancy ushers in a new era for a couple. First pregnancies in particular while usually welcomed, completely change the dynamic between partners. For many couples, the pregnancy heightens intimacy and they are surprised to find that they enjoy some of the most sensational sex of their relationship. But when a pregnancy is high risk and complicated by bed rest, sex-and intimacy- can quickly become a distant memory.

For a woman with a high risk pregnancy and on prescribed bed rest, sexual intercourse is very likely the furthest thing from her mind or the mind of her partner. Usually both parents-to-be are consumed with the health and well being of mother and baby and refrain from sexual intercourse fearing injury to the baby. However, this is one time when intimacy, emotional intimacy and not physical intimacy, is essential. Due to the stress surrounding a high risk pregnancy and bed rest it is important that partners set aside time to be intimate, to care for one another as lovers and friends, throughout the pregnancy in spite of the bed rest. I want to be clear, I am not telling high risk pregnant couples on bed rest to engage in sexual intercourse. Whether or not they can engage in sexual activities is something that they need to discuss with their obstetrician or midwife.  I am encouraging couples to maintain intimacy-specifically, emotional closeness.

So how does this work? If a couple cannot have sex, how can they be intimate? I realize that many people reading this post will ask this very question. But let’s look at what it means to be intimate. Webster’s dictionary defines intimate as “most private or personal; closely acquainted or associated; very familiar.” In our culture intimacy or the act of being intimate has been relegated to a purely a physical act, that of sexual intercourse. However by the dictionary’s definition, intimacy or the act of being intimate means more than just physical intimacy. It also means to be close; sharing private thoughts and emotions and holding those thoughts and emotions in a special place between the two people involved.

Research shows that couples who master the art of maintaining intimacy during pregnancy and maintain intimacy after the baby arrives have a higher probability of long term success. These couples know that taking time to be alone together and to nurture their own connection is critical to their very survival as a couple. Even with a bed rest prescription, these couples still share private  thoughts, feelings, emotions and some abridged form of a physical relationship and as a result “keep the home fires burning.”

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I encourage couples coping with bed rest to nurture their intimate relationship.  You may want to have an intimate candle light dinner, listen to music together, talk, watch a favorite move or just snuggle. Whatever it is that draws you closer, do it. Remember it’s that love that you shared that created the little one that you so anxiously await. And as precious as that little one is, it should never eclipse the intimacy that the two of you share.