How does sex drive change during pregnancy?

How does sex drive change during pregnancy?

By Jamie Eske   

Reviewed by Valinda Riggins Nwadike

Pregnancy and sex drive | First
trimester | Second trimester | Third trimester | Safety When to avoid | Summary

Pregnancy can have a
significant effect on a woman’s sex drive. Increases and decreases in libido
are both normal, and arousal levels can change at different stages of
Some women have higher levels
of arousal and more intense orgasms during pregnancy, while other women notice
the opposite.
Although every woman’s
experience is unique, there are a few common trends that describe libido
changes during pregnancy. In general, a woman’s sex drive will ebb and flow
throughout her pregnancy.
In this article, we look at
how pregnancy tends to affect sex drive during each trimester.
How can pregnancy affect sex

Pregnancy triggers many
changes that can affect a woman’s sex drive. Higher levels of estrogen and
progesterone, as well as an increase in blood flow to the genitals, can lead to
heightened sexual desire.
On the other hand, nausea,
fatigue, stress, and the many physical changes that occur as a result of
pregnancy can reduce a woman’s desire to have sex.
Women will not all react in
the same way to hormonal changes. However, it is common for a woman’s sex drive
to decrease during the first trimester, peak in the second, and go down again
in the third.
First trimester (weeks 0–13)

During the first trimester,
some women notice decreases in both sexual desire and sexual satisfaction.
Surging hormone levels, uncomfortable physical symptoms, and stress can all
lower a woman’s libido.
After an embryo implants in
the wall of the uterus, cells in the placenta start producing a hormone called
human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This hormone stimulates the production of
other hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone.
Surges in hormone levels
during the first trimester can cause mood swings and nausea. Other symptoms can
also affect libido at this time, including:
  • fatigue
  • stress
  • digestive issues
  • tender breasts

However, some women may find
that changing levels of estrogen and progesterone can increase their libido
during the first trimester.
Second trimester (weeks 14–27)

In general, most women’s
libidos spike during the second trimester. The levels of hCG peak around the
6th week of pregnancy. After week 6, levels of hCG start decreasing, which
typically means less nausea and higher levels of energy.
Additionally, estrogen and
progesterone levels continue rising to support the growing fetus during the
second trimester.
Estrogen increases both
vaginal lubrication and blood flow to the vulva. These changes can lead to
heightened arousal, sensitivity, and pleasure.
Third trimester (weeks 28–40)

Women often face some of their
biggest challenges during the third trimester. Swelling, rapid weight gain,
exhaustion, and body aches can make sexual activity more difficult.
Discomfort or pain during
sexual activity may cause some concern, but it is common. Trying different
positions might resolve this issue.
Women who want to have sex but
find certain types of sexual activity uncomfortable may wish to consider other
forms of intimacy at this time.
Is it safe to have sex or
masturbate during pregnancy?

Sex can include any act that
involves orgasm or arousal, or it could refer to vaginal penetration
specifically. Women can ask a healthcare professional if they have any concerns
about any particular sexual activity.
Unless a healthcare
professional recommends otherwise, most forms of sex, including vaginal, anal,
and oral sex, are perfectly safe while pregnant.
Many women may find that they
can perform a wider variety of sexual positions during the first two trimesters
because the bump is still quite small.
Vaginal sex

There is no need to worry
about harming the fetus during vaginal sex. The cervix, uterus, and amniotic
fluid all protect the fetus.
However, pregnant women and
their partners should still exercise caution during sex. Some women may find
deep penetration uncomfortable or even painful as their pregnancy progresses.
Sore or tender breasts may
make partner-on-top positions uncomfortable for some women. Positions that
involve both partners lying on their sides are good alternatives in this
situation. Most sex positions are safe as long as a person feels comfortable.
Anal sex

Having anal sex while pregnant
is safe as long as the woman does not have any health conditions that affect
the lower digestive system, such as hemorrhoids, which are a common
complication of pregnancy.
Women can develop hemorrhoids
during pregnancy when the weight of the growing fetus puts a significant amount
of pressure on the intestines, causing the veins in or near the anus to swell.
Anal sex can irritate hemorrhoids and cause discomfort, pain, and even
It is essential to always
clean the penis or sex toy before switching from anal sex to vaginal sex. Doing
this will prevent harmful bacteria from entering the vagina.
Oral sex

In general, women and their
partners can safely engage in oral sex while pregnant. In some cases, people
may find oral sex to be a good alternative to vaginal or anal sex.
The woman’s partner should
avoid blowing into her vagina, as this could create a blood bubble or embolism.
Although rare, embolisms can cause life-threatening complications, such as
heart attacks or heart failure.

Unless a healthcare
professional recommends otherwise, women and their partners can safely engage
in masturbation during pregnancy. Masturbation can also help relieve tension
and stress. Make sure any sex toys are clean before use.
Women who are pregnant should
not masturbate if their obstetrician advises them to limit orgasms due to
pregnancy complications or concerns about preterm labor.
When to avoid sex or
masturbation during pregnancy

A healthcare professional
might advise a woman to abstain from sex while pregnant if:
  • there is a risk of miscarriage
  • unexpected vaginal bleeding
  • her water has broken, or
    amniotic fluid is leaking
  • the placenta is unusually low
    and covers the cervix, called placenta previa
  • she shows signs of preterm


Knowing what to expect can
help people feel more comfortable with the changes that affect the body during
It is normal for a woman’s sex
drive to ebb and flow throughout pregnancy. These changes usually coincide with
the physical and hormonal changes that occur each trimester.
Unless an obstetrician or
midwife advises otherwise, anal sex, vaginal sex, and masturbation are safe
during pregnancy.
An obstetrician might advise a
woman to abstain from sex if she has a high risk of miscarriage or a history of
preterm labor. Women can discuss any concerns that they have with their
Pregnant women and their
partners can safely participate in most forms of sex as long as it is
consensual, comfortable, and safe.
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.