You’ve been told you have a high risk pregnancy but what you’re wondering about is what does that mean for your sex life during pregnancy?
First of all, you’re not alone in this. About 20 to 25% of pregnant women will have what’s called a high-risk pregnancy, wherein either your health or your baby’s health may be at risk. Typical problems associated with high-risk pregnancy include gestational diabetes, premature labor and bleeding due to placenta previa, to name a few.
On one end of the spectrum, you can typically continue to go about your daily life, going to work and taking care of your family. But concerns about your pregnancy may leave you feeling less like having sex during this time.
On the other end of the spectrum, maybe your life has been turned upside down by a high-risk pregnancy and you’ve been told to stay home on partial or full bed rest, or even hospitalized. If so, it’s likely your healthcare provider told you ‘no sex’ during this period. And this may mean several things, depending on your individual risk factors.
You may be able to continue sexual activity except for intercourse. Or you may be told ‘no stimulation whatsoever,’ meaning, no stimulation of the breasts and genital area and no orgasm. This is especially true if you’re experiencing premature labor, bleeding or ruptured membranes. It’s very difficult, however, to even think of being sexual under these circumstances.
Your partner may even become so affected by concerns regarding your high-risk pregnancy that he may temporarily experience sexual problems, such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation. Men typically don’t open up about these problems nor do they seek help with them. Indeed, it’s even the rare healthcare provider who even asks about your man’s emotional and sexual well-being during pregnancy, whether its normal or high-risk.
So, what can you do to continue to meet your needs during this time? Much depends on your relationship with your partner and the role sex has played in that relationship.
You may choose to focus on your health and your baby’s health first and foremost, understanding that this is a temporary situation. Forgoing intercourse, you continue to share the experience, mutually supporting each other, continuing to express and to feel love for each other and become closer as a couple.
If intercourse is a big part of your sexual life, you may have increased frustrations or difficulties dealing with this change in your health. Take note and increase, not decrease, your communication with your partner during this time. Don’t allow an emotional distance to creep in that could set into motion the beginning of an emotional divorce.
Focus and emphasize what you and your partner can do to be sexual during this time. Maintaining physical touch is very important, including kissing, hugging, cuddling and snuggling. Giving each other massages may be a welcomed alternative. Communication is very vital—continue to share your thoughts and feelings to gain greater understanding of each other’s needs.
Even if you’re home on bed rest or in the hospital, you can still have a “date,” a special meal with candles, playing games or watching a romantic film together. Do what works for you and your partner to keep your emotional connection strong during this time.
Get support from family and friends to have time together, especially if you have other young children at home. Get help with the housework and other activities so that your stress as a couple is reduced. The most important thing is to keep connected in order to keep the flame of your love ignited.
Viola Polomeno, RN, PhD, “The Love Nurse,” is an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa School of Nursing and an expert advisor to Health4Mom.org and Healthy Mom & Baby magazine. Find her online at www.violapolomeno.com.
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