Sex + libido throughout the pregnancy journey

Pregnancy is a time of great change, transforming your body, emotions and your desires. This includes your sex drive, which can fluctuate as you go through the process of growing a new life inside of you. Studies show that 66.5% of women experience fluctuations in libido during their pregnancy journey1.

These changes don't always follow a straight line up or down. Research published in the Journal of Obstetrics, Gynaecology, and Neonatal Nursing suggests that up to 20% of women actually experience an increased libido during the first trimester2, while other studies point out a more common decrease in libido as pregnancy progresses, particularly in the third trimester3.

You might be wondering what ‘normal’ is – and the truth is, it varies widely from one woman to another! There is no universal standard for sexual desire during pregnancy. Read on as we unpack how your libido may change trimester by trimester.

First Trimester (weeks 0-13) 

The first trimester is often a complex swirl of emotions and physical changes. Morning sickness, fatigue and just getting used to the idea of a tiny human growing inside you can definitely put a damper on your mood (and your libido). Studies show that some women experience an increased libido during this time1. This can be thanks to hormonal changes like increased oestrogen levels, which can heighten sexual arousal and sex drive. 

On the other hand, it's not uncommon for sexual desire to wane. Factors such as fatigue, morning sickness or nausea, and concerns about the baby's safety can contribute to lower levels of libido. Research highlights that these concerns can lead to reduced sexual frequency and libido scores4. Another study revealed that the physical and emotional changes accompanying pregnancy could significantly impact sexual activity and desire5.

Second Trimester (weeks 14-27) 

The second trimester – often referred to as the "honeymoon phase" of pregnancy, can be the time when many women find their energy levels returning, along with a renewed sense of wellbeing (and a major boost in that libido!). 

This again can be attributed to hormonal shifts, with progesterone playing a key role in creating a more relaxed and receptive environment. Additionally, the increase in levels of oestrogen contribute to an increase in both vaginal lubrication and blood flow to the vulva1. These changes can lead to heightened arousal, sensitivity and pleasure…a recipe for a truly fulfilling sexual experience!

Third Trimester (weeks 28-40)

As you get closer to your little one’s due date, your body starts to prepare for the big event. This can mean an increase in fatigue, a growing baby putting pressure on your bladder and occasionally even some anxiety about childbirth. Discomfort or pain during sexual activity may be a cause for concern, but it is common as your uterus stretches and accommodates the growing foetus, putting pressure on surrounding ligaments and nerves1,4. All of these factors can contribute to a decrease in libido during the third trimester.

The good news is – just because your desire might be lower, doesn't mean intimacy has to disappear completely! Open communication with your partner is key, and exploring other forms of physical affection can be a great way to stay connected during this special time.

When to avoid sex or masturbation during pregnancy 

For most couples, sex during pregnancy is safe, but it's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider, especially if there are complications like placenta previa or risk factors for preterm labour. 

Adapting sexual positions for comfort and safety can also enhance the experience. If you're concerned about any changes in your libido or experiencing any discomfort during sex, always discuss these concerns with your healthcare provider. 

In terms of the safety of vaginal sex and the wellbeing of the foetus during pregnancy, several natural structures are in place to protect the baby. The foetus is cushioned within the amniotic sac which is surrounded by amniotic fluid, serving as a protective barrier against any shocks or impacts. Additionally, the strong muscles of the uterus provide another layer of protection, while the mucus plug seals the cervix, guarding against infections6. Despite these protections, it's important to exercise caution and avoid activities that could introduce infection or cause discomfort.

Understanding and communication between you and your partner is crucial during this transformative time. It is important to have open discussions about each other's needs, concerns and comfort levels. Listen to your body with compassion and patience, prioritise open communication with your partner and don't be afraid to experiment to find what feels good for you both.

Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to sex during pregnancy. Every pregnancy is unique, and so is every woman’s experience with sex and libido during this time.



  1. Mazúchová, L., Kelčíková, S., Ďuríčeková, B. and Malinovská, N. (2018). Perceived changes and concerns of women related to sexuality in pregnancy in the context of the importance of being informed. Kontakt, 20(3), pp.e244–e249. doi:
  2. Robson, K.M., Brant, H.A. and Kumar, R. (1981). MATERNAL SEXUALITY DURING FIRST PREGNANCY AND AFTER CHILDBIRTH. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, [online] 88(9), pp.882–889. doi:
  3. Shojaa, M., Jouybari, L. and Sanagoo, A. (2008). The sexual activity during pregnancy among a group of Iranian women. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 279(3), pp.353–356. doi:
  4. Jones, C., Chan, C. and Farine, D. (2011). Sex in pregnancy. Canadian Medical Association Journal, [online] 183(7), pp.815–818. doi:
  5. Hasan Efe, Bozkurt, M., Sahin, L., Mehmet Fırat Mutlu, Murat Api and Ahmet Çetin (2014). The effects of pregnancy on the sexual life of Turkish women. Proceedings in obstetrics and gynecology, 4(1), pp.1–11. doi:
  6. Hussain, T., Murtaza, G., Kalhoro, D.H., Kalhoro, M.S., Yin, Y., Chughtai, M.I., Tan, B., Yaseen, A. and Rehman, Z.U. (2022). Understanding the Immune System in Fetal Protection and Maternal Infections during Pregnancy. Journal of Immunology Research, 2022, pp.1–12. doi: