It’s common for women to have some sexual problems during pregnancy. Each trimester is different. At first, women are getting used to the changes in their bodies, which can leave them exhausted and nauseated. Hormonal changes during conception can also affect sexual function.
In the second trimester, women may feel more comfortable with their pregnancies and sexual activity may increase. By the third trimester, sex often becomes uncomfortable as women get closer to delivery.
Some of the physical issues that affect sexuality at this time include nausea, backaches, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, and a frequent need to urinate. It can be difficult to feel sexual with these symptoms and some women avoid sex as a result.
Psychological and social factors can interfere with sex during pregnancy as well. A woman may feel anxious about hurting the fetus during sex or fear that her partner will no longer find her attractive.
In a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in October 2013, Turkish researchers analyzed the sexual function of 306 pregnant Turkish women. They used an assessment tool called the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), a questionnaire that covers a variety of sexual health concerns. Lower scores on the FSFI indicate poorer sexual function.
The researchers found that 63% of the participants had some form of sexual dysfunction. Almost 90% of the women had problems with desire. Another 87% struggled with arousal. More than half the women experienced pain and orgasm issues.
Some of the factors influencing FSFI scores included the following:
• Low educational level. The researchers suggested that lower educational levels affect women’s self-esteem and “prevents them from knowing their body and from discovering their own health needs correctly.”
• Low economic status. The researchers suggested that pregnant women’s sexual function worsens as their economic status decreases.
• Duration of marriage. In this study, women married for ten years or more had lower FSFI scores than those married for fewer than ten years. It’s possible that older age and a greater number of children and household responsibilities could affect the sex lives of these women.
• Arranged marriage. Seventy-one percent of the women in this study had arranged marriages. These women tended to have more problems with sexual arousal and overall satisfaction, perhaps because they felt embarrassed or shy with a partner they did not know well.
The researchers acknowledged that the results of their study could not be applied beyond this group of women, as cultural backgrounds are different for many women.
However, they stressed the importance of educating pregnant women and their partners on what to expect of sexuality during pregnancy.