How do I become more comfortable having sex while pregnant? Is the baby aware of what we’re doing?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Although sex is an essential component of conception (at least most of the time — love you, IVF!), I initially found postconception sex awkward, as I got all up in my head about baby being right there. I prayed he wouldn’t start kicking during sex and tried to avoid wild rocking motions. I wasn’t a lot of fun between the sheets that first trimester. Eric was even more unsettled, worrying about his penis poking the baby. We were missing the ingredients for a juicy sex life, until we learned something super helpful . . .

Babies have no idea what their parents are doing! They’re floating in their warm fluid, pretty oblivious to what’s happening around them. And sure, at around eighteen weeks’ gestation, baby begins to hear sounds outside the womb, but they have no frame of reference for moaning or dirty talk. To them, it’s all jumbled sounds. Regarding the penis-poke phobia, male partners need not worry, as the mucous plug securely lodged in the cervix prevents anything from getting into the uterus. And then there’s those back and forth motions: baby might actually love this, as it creates a gentle sway in the womb that could help them get some sleep. And then, if you’re the lucky duck who reaches orgasm, the flood of endorphins and rhythmic pulsations in the uterus soothes baby even more.

Yet, despite all the goodness prenatal sex can bring for all involved, it can still be strange to feel the little one move, or to suddenly start thinking of baby names when you’re getting frisky. And the physical logistics of sex once your belly has bloomed can make it tricky to get baby thoughts out and bow-chicka-bow-wow vibes in. But because sex is such a wonderful way to maintain intimacy with your partner and enhance your mental and emotional health, we need to get you past these blocks.

What to do

Before you engage in sex, remind yourself and your partner of everything mentioned above. The baby doesn’t know what’s happening, couldn’t care less about the sounds and motions, and has no idea that there’s a penis afoot.

Something else that helps is making the sex so good — so in-the- present-moment-mind-blowingly-wow — that there’s little room left for self-conscious baby brooding. Sprinkle some sexy fairy-dust on your libido by getting creative. Seek fresh inspiration in reading erotic stories together, investing in some new toys, taking your time with foreplay, or brainstorming other ways to get the juices flowing. For example, I never thought dirty talk was my thing until a need to spice things up exposed me to its naughty wonders in my second trimester. Suddenly I was so consumed by lust I had no awareness for anything but pleasure. “Baby who?”

Tip: If you’re experiencing fatigue, get some nooky in the morning when your energy is likely at its peak.

If the logistics of sex are tripping you up (for example, maybe penetration is uncomfortable, or you can’t find a user-friendly position), try out mutual masturbation or a pose that’s suited for pregnancy, like doggy style, spooning, standing, seated, or cowgirl. Yee haw, y’all!

With that said, if all you want to do is hold a trash bin in front of your face and nibble saltines, don’t feel pressured to have sex. Your number one priority is taking care of your needs, so if sex isn’t currently in your cards, don’t beat yourself up. If your partner is yearning for hanky-panky, remind them that you love them and are turned on by them, and that your lack of desire for sex isn’t personal — it’s just not a good time. Then, when you’re feeling better, you can check in with yourself to see if you’re ready to engage in a pants-off horizontal (or vertical) dance-off.

Tip: If you’ve passed your due date and are trying to get things going, have a roll in that hay, as the hormone prostaglandin that’s present in semen can stimulate the cervix and cause contractions. And the rest of you can rest at ease, knowing that sex shouldn’t send a woman having a healthy pregnancy into preterm labor.

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