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Level of sexual activity during pregnancy is something many couples don’t talk about. Many wonder if it normal to have an increased or decreased desire? Will it hurt the baby?

In the February issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, doctors analyzed 188 women between the ages of 17 and 40, and found that sexual satisfaction doesn’t diminish during pregnancy. However, sexual activity tends to decrease as women enter their third trimester. The study showed that overall sexual activity decreased as the pregnancy progressed, with 44.7 percent of woman reporting their most frequent sexual intercourse in the first trimester, while another 35.6 percent made that claim for the second trimester.

The third trimester showed the least sexual activity, with only 10.1 percent reporting their most frequent sexual intercourse and 55 percent claiming sexual activity decreased. This may be due to changes in the body over the course of pregnancy, as hormonal changes cause nausea and breast tenderness that, combined with fatigue, exhaustion, and anxiety, may contribute to general feebleness and difficulty to become aroused.

In addition, 41.5 percent of women surveyed claimed to have felt less attractive during pregnancy.

Interestingly, 23.4 percent of the women studied reported fear of sexual intercourse during pregnancy because they thought they might harm the fetus by causing a miscarriage, premature birth or various other uncertainties. Some women reported their partners expressing fear of hurting the fetus while pregnant, which may be considered another factor in decreased sexual activity.

“Having vaginal sex will not negatively impact a pregnancy,” said Alvarado Hospital’s Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of sexual medicine and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine. “However, many pregnant couples are reluctant to participate in sexual activity as they enter the third trimester for fear of hurting the child. It’s a common misconception that needs to be addressed more often and openly.”

The study concludes that women’s sexual satisfaction does not decrease, but the amount of sexual activity does during pregnancy. Consequently physicians should reassure expectant couples as to the safety of vaginal sex during pregnancy as part of routine visits to eliminate misconceptions of hurting the unborn child.

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