Sexuality During Pregnancy

Studies of sexuality during pregnancy generally report a decrease in sexual desire and frequency of intercourse from the first to the third tri­mester (Alder, 1989; White & Reamy, 1982). In contrast, Masters and Johnson (1966), who studied 101 pregnant women, reported “a marked increase in eroticism and sexual performance” (p. 158) in the second tri mester, but this finding has not been replicated.1 Other studies report either no change in sexual activity from the first to the second trimester, or a slight decline. Most investigators, including Masters and Johnson, report a marked decline in frequency of coitus from the second to the third tri mesters. A recent study of frequency of marital intercourse, using well sampled data from the National Survey of Families and Households, re ported that pregnancy is associated with a significant decrease in monthly frequency of intercourse (Call, Sprecher, & Schwartz, 1995).

A variety of reasons have been suggested for this decline in sexual desire and frequency of intercourse during pregnancy (Bogren, 1991). Re ports of decreased desire early in pregnancy are related to the woman’s fears about the pregnancy and possible miscarriage. Such reports during the third trimester are related to the woman’s fears about the health of the child at birth, and to both mothers’ and fathers’ fears that the fetus may be harmed [11] by intercourse or orgasm. However, according to the authoritative medical textbook, Williams Obstetrics, “it has been generally accepted that in healthy pregnant women, sexual intercourse usually does no harm before the last four weeks or so of pregnancy” (Cunningham, MacDonald, Leveno, Gant, & Gilstrap, 1993, p. 263).

Other reasons that have been associated with the decline in frequency of intercourse include physical discomfort associated with intercourse, par ticularly in the man-on-top position, and loss of interest in sex. Also, some women report feeling less physically attractive and sexually desirable as pregnancy progresses.