Q. Is sex during pregnancy okay? I don't want to hurt our baby. What's appropriate, and what do the Scriptures say?
A. As far as we know, the Scriptures don't mention sex during pregnancy. The simple answer medically is that if your pregnancy is normal, with no complications, it's okay to have intercourse until the last four to six weeks.
You'll discover, however, that making love as your womb expands requires creativity. Some couples find the husband on top position for intercourse just doesn't work. The wife above, lateral, or rear entry approaches may be more comfortable. When nothing seems to fit you can still enjoy mutual stimulation orally or manually to orgasm.
Your baby is well protected in your uterus, and it's unlikely to be affected by your husband's thrusting erection. There are other considerations, however, that can affect your mutual enjoyment of intercourse.
You might experience some physical symptoms related to your pregnancy that make intercourse unpleasant. Some common complaints are ankle swelling, breast tenderness, backache, nausea, constipation, indigestion, or hemorrhoids. If these are bothersome, talk to your physician and get appropriate safe treatment. While some are just part of the territory, others can be effectively treated. Don't allow them to unnecessarily interrupt your sexual enjoyment.
One other concern some expectant mothers express is about their sexual appeal as their tummy expands. Oddly enough that doesn't repulse most husbands. In fact we often hear them say they're really turned on during the pregnancy.
If you have any questions as your delivery date approaches ask your physician. This is a common concern, so don't be embarrassed to ask!
Q. Is there such a thing as a "sexual prime"? I've heard that for men it's in their teens, and for women it's in their thirties. But my wife is in her thirties and she's just not interested in sex.
A. Alas! The dreaded sexual "norms." There just ain't such an animal. Every statistical report on any kind of survey can give only the range, average, or median (midpoint) of a huge curve. So the only statistic that really applies to you and your wife is your reality. What others "average" doesn't mean a thing.
The important consideration for you and your wife isn't what any other 30-year-old woman feels, but how your wife feels and why. Usually (that's another dangerous word) a woman's interest in sex reflects how she sees herself as a sexual being and whether she feels cherished by you. We'd suggest that you talk together, not about whether you're "normal" as a couple, but how each of you has experienced your love affair. Discover together what your attitudes about sex have been and what might be hindering you from achieving greater intimacy.
Many factors may influence your attitude toward sex, including what you were taught as a child, the level of safety and closeness between you and your spouse, physical health, fatigue, distractions, fear of pregnancy, unresolved conflict, and differences in the way you give and receive love.
One factor that dampens a lady's libido is feeling pressure to perform better. That message is rarely heard as affirmation and encouragement. Instead it feels like criticism and an indication of inadequacy. Many people tend to avoid anything they fear they will fail at. Forget the score keeping and put some grateful acceptance in your relationship.
Focus on these issues first and allow your wife to grow into her "sexual prime." Meanwhile, be the best possible mate you can be! You may be past your "prime," but you aren't over the hill yet.
Always an Orgasm?
Q. My wife and I have been married seven months, and we still have a lot to learn about sex. We were both virgins when we married, so we really don't know what to expect. Sometimes it's really good, and sometimes it's not. Should sex always end in orgasm?
A. Congratulations. As virgins entering marriage you have the best possible opportunity to grow into wonderful marital intimacy.
What you describe as your experience is not at all unusual. We've been married 43 years. The description of your sex life sounds as though you could be talking about our first year and our second year and our 42nd year. Spending your first months becoming more familiar with your sexual arousal patterns and preferences for pleasurable touch is important. For us, being able to talk about our sexual interaction was crucial. We both had impressions and expectations about sex that just weren't true for our sexual relationship. We were able to dispel the myths by reading some books on sexuality and by talking to a physician. Though our naiveté; was embarrassing at the time, we're now happy we had the great experience of learning together. One thing we've learned is that though an intense orgasm for both partners is an event to celebrate, the host of variables that must coincide make it an unusual occurrence. Just enjoy the closeness and try not to let your sexual "play" become a performance that holds you hostage. If only one or neither of you achieves orgasm, that's okay—if you genuinely enjoy giving each other pleasure. Happy honeymoon!
Communicating the Play by Play
Q. My husband wishes I'd communicate more about sex. He asks me questions such as, "Why don't you want to do it right now?" or "Why aren't you enjoying it?" I wish I knew what to tell him. What do I do?
A. Some husbands and wives are not only more verbally expressive in general but also are turned on by "sex talk" during foreplay and intercourse. They may even be taking on a sort of spectator role, wanting to do a constant evaluation of the "performance." That can become a problem if it robs your intimate times of joyful spontaneity.
If your husband's chatter and questions can be interpreted as his desire to please you and enhance the enjoyment you both experience, perhaps you could simply go along with his program. If he feels loved when you communicate to him, this might be an opportunity for you to express love by describing the excitement you're feeling or the extreme satisfaction he gives you. Wonderful food for the male ego!
On the other hand this may be a good opportunity for you to tell him what is most erotic for you. You can ask him to go along with your program too, which is apparently less verbal and more tactile. If his talking is a turn-off to you, tell him. Most guys don't want to do things in their lovemaking that has a negative effect on their lover. According to your question he wants to know how you feel. So tell him you desire his happiness, but also make sure to clearly express your needs.
Dry during Sex
Q. Why am I so dry during sex? Even when I'm aroused, I'm not that lubricated. Is there something wrong with me? And what can I do about it?
A. Vaginal lubrication varies considerably from woman to woman. It depends on your genetic makeup, the degree of arousal that develops, and your hormonal levels. It would be advisable for you to have a gynecologist examine you to rule out any vaginal abnormalities. You may need hormonal vaginal cream.
It's important to provide lubrication if you continue to be dry. Otherwise you can develop vaginal irritation and at times experience painful intercourse. Try KY jelly or other lubricants (Maxilube or Ortho's Personal Lubricant).
The nightly use of an estrogen vaginal cream for 7-10 days will often overcome the problem. It's important that you have a balance of estrogen and progesterone in your system to maintain your body's natural lubricant. Adding a progesterone cream may also be necessary.
Melissa and Louis McBurney, M.D., are marriage therapists and co-founders of Marble Retreat in Marble, Colorado.
Copyright © by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.