Analysis of Sexual Frequency Per Week of Pregnancy
- Sexual Health Topics: Women’s Sexual Health
Pregnancy is a time of great physical and hormonal change for women. These physiological changes naturally impact a woman’s sexuality as well, which may result in changes in sexual frequency and other sexual behaviors.
Many women highly value their sexual connection with their partner and may wish to continue to have sex throughout their pregnancy. However, it is normal for women to experience declines in sexual desire, arousal, and/or satisfaction at certain points during their pregnancy. For example, symptoms such as nausea and fatigue that often occur during the first trimester of pregnancy may make sex less appealing for a period of time. Additionally, sex may become difficult and uncomfortable during the third trimester, when the fetus is larger in size.
Until now, most studies have assessed the frequency of sex during pregnancy across trimesters. As each trimester lasts three months, this is quite a long period of time for making generalizations about sexual frequency. The authors of a recent study were the first to document sexual frequency during all weeks of pregnancy.
Data was collected via the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life (RDSL) study. The RDSL was a random, population-based study of 992 U.S. women between the ages of 18 and 19 years (at the start of the study) who completed weekly surveys for 2.5 years. During this period, 239 women reported a pregnancy, and 237 of these women provided information on sexual frequency throughout their pregnancies. Therefore, 237 women was the resulting sample size of this study.
The study was designed to accommodate missing surveys, since the researchers assumed that the women would occasionally not fill out a weekly survey. In the end, the 237 participants submitted a total of 2,897 surveys over the course of their pregnancies.
The women reported their sexual frequency each week throughout their pregnancies. Overall, the participants had sex (defined in this study as penile-vaginal intercourse) at least once during 63% of the weeks of their pregnancies. Split by trimester, the women had sex 67% of the weeks of the first trimester, 65% of the weeks of the second, and 57% of the weeks of the third.
In the end, the researchers identified a model that they felt best demonstrated the course of sexual frequency over a pregnancy: an initial decrease in sexual frequency of about 18% per week between conception and 11 weeks, followed by a slight (∼3% per week) increase in frequency between weeks 11 and 21, followed by a steady decline (∼6% per week) in frequency between week 21 and the birth of the baby.
Discussion & Conclusion
By using this approach, the authors were able to provide a more nuanced view of sexual frequency during pregnancy. They explained: “We found more complex patterns than those reported in previous studies, particularly steep declines and subsequent increases early in pregnancy, suggesting first-trimester fluctuations in sexual frequency may be more extreme than previously documented. Changes in weekly intercourse frequency generally followed patterns of common pregnancy symptomology such as nausea and fatigue, suggesting pregnancy symptoms may be most favorable to intercourse towards the end of the first and beginning of the second trimesters, and least favorable near the end of the pregnancy.”
These findings may be valuable for pregnant women and their partners who wish to maintain their sexual connection during pregnancy. Awareness of potential temporary declines in sexual frequency during pregnancy may help couples to mentally prepare for the situation and come up with alternative options for fostering intimacy during this period.
- Blumenstock, S.M., & Barber, J.S. (2022). Sexual Intercourse Frequency During Pregnancy: Weekly Surveys Among 237 Young Women From A Random Population-Based Sample. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Advance online publication. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2022.07.006