Although many studies show that during pregnancy there's an increase in intimacy between partners, this doesn't happen automatically. A shared commitment to the relationship and the pregnancy is crucial for you and your partner's mutual happiness and wellbeing.
“As in any relationship, communication is vital,” says counselling psychologist Shenila Maharaj. Speak to your partner about the physical and emotional changes you’re experiencing. Talk about your concerns and anxieties. He or she may share these same concerns and you can offer each other support during this emotional time.
Be in it together
“Pregnancy tends to bring out all of the differences between you and your partner and this can lead to both of you feeling that you’re not in tune with each other,” explains counselling psychologist Claire Hart.
Concentrating on what you share or have in common is more important. Dealing with major changes and renegotiating your relationship during and after pregnancy requires awareness and participation from both of you.
The phrase ‘‘knowledge is power’’ is very useful for you to remember at this time, says Shelina. “The more you understand about the changes you’re going through, the more prepared and able you’ll be to manage them better.”
Take care of yourself
Rest, exercise and eat well. And spoil yourself occasionally – soak in a bubble bath, get a foot massage or get a manicure. If you feel good, your partner will notice.
When you're feeling overwhelmed, remember this too shall pass
“The bodily changes that you experience may be overwhelming,” says Shelina. It may feel like something invading your body and taking priority over you. You may feel ugly and upset with your body image and may therefore not be interested in your partner’s advances.
“Accept the changes you’re undergoing and know that you’ll get through it. Remind yourself of the end result – a beautiful baby.”
Intimacy in the 3 stages of pregnancy
Trimester 1 (conception to 12 weeks)
The first trimester is often physically exhausting for the woman, who may experience nausea, vomiting, fatigue and sensitive breasts – all of which may lead to decreased sexual desire. But this doesn’t have to mean the end of intimacy.
“As sex is often an important expression of your intimate relationship, this time can be difficult for you and your partner to feel connected to each other,” says counseling psychologist Claire Hart. She says that feelings can be achieved through new expressions of intimacy, such as caressing, massages and touch.
Trimester 2: 12 to 32 weeks
This is usually an exciting time in the pregnancy, with the baby making its presence felt. Although sexual intimacy is often rekindled, the feeling that you’re having sex with a third person present can lead to decreased sexual frequency.
And Claire warns: “Once the reality sets in that you and your partner are having a baby, the stresses of expecting and raising a child can become emphasised. This can be a difficult and conflicted time in your relationship as you and your partner make decisions about work, identity and responsibilities related to your child.” This can be the optimal opportunity to seek out counselling and learn new ways of interacting with each other.
Trimester 3: 32 weeks to birth
During this phase, you may experience many doubts and uncertainties about the baby and the upcoming birth. “These normal anxieties, as well as pelvic changes, may lead to fluctuations in your sexual desire. There are often periods of intense sexual activity, followed by periods of tranquility, refocusing on the baby and getting ready for the impending birth,” says Claire.
Coping with these changes is important for you and your partner’s wellbeing and continued experience of being a parenting team.