Pregnant? have regular sex

The desire of every pregnant woman is to have a safe and trouble-free delivery. To make this a reality, they are often advised to watch their feeding, ensure they have adequate rest, minimise their exposure to certain substances, reduce their stress levels and be optimistic, amongst other helpful tips.

But beyond these, one sure way to have a stress-free and peaceful
delivery, according to experts, might be to have regular sex during the pregnancy period, especially close to the delivery date. Understandably, due to the burden of carrying a (growing) foetus in the womb for nine months, the accompanying stress and some hormonal changes that cause some discomfort to the woman at such times, it is often regarded by many as a moment when such women need not be disturbed by their husbands for sex.

But, according to some scientists, beyond being a form of exercise, which is also highly recommended for women in such state, sex has been found to prepare the pelvic floor for childbirth, which makes delivery easier.

According to a consultant endocrinologist, Dr. Michael Olamoyegun, provided there are no medical conditions for which a woman has been advised to stay away from sexual activity, sex is good during pregnancy, especially towards delivery. He said sex during pregnancy may help to ripen the cervix and make delivery easier.

He explained, "Most pregnancy takes about 38 completed weeks, but some people are delivered of their babies between that 38 and 41 weeks after the last menstrual period. When it's about 34 weeks, the cervix, which is the lower part of the vagina, is preparing itself for delivery. So around that time it begins to ripen gradually until when the delivery would occur. It is usually a very thick and closed part but it needs to open up and that is part of what sex does at such period.

"From around that 34th week, sex may also help to ripen the cervix, which is what we call effacement (which means open up) and when it does that, definitely, it may aid the delivery. So, if there are no contraindications about sex, it may be encouraged. That is the connection."

According to him, there are some medical conditions that a pregnant woman would have and she would be advised to stay away from sex. These include recurrent miscarriage, which usually occurs in the first trimester, that is first 13 weeks, and placenta previa, which is the situation whereby the placenta comes before the baby instead of after, or a condition in which the placenta partially or wholly blocks the neck of the uterus, thus interfering with normal delivery of a baby.

"Outside these and other medical conditions for which pregnant women are advised to stay away from sex, sex is good during pregnancy," he added.

Also, according to a medical practitioner in the United States, Jeanne Faulkner, if a pregnant woman engages in sexual activity, the semen released by the man contains prostaglandins that can also help ripen the cervix. She added that having an orgasm during pregnancy increases the contractions in the woman's pelvic floor, which helps to strengthen the muscles she needs for labour and after delivery.

Beyond speeding up the ripening of the cervix for an easier delivery, sex during pregnancy has been found to speed up recovery after childbirth, boost immunity, improve women's bladder control, lower blood pressure, enable sound sleep, reduce pain, due to the oxytocin hormone, boost the woman's self esteem in the presence of her husband and increase intimacy and happiness.

A paediatrician, Dr. Ari Brown, wrote on saying orgasms deliver an adrenaline rush that brings a nice stress release, lower blood pressure, make the woman feel calmer and lower the risk of heart attack.

He added, "From a marital standpoint, it's always good to connect with your mate in the most intimate of ways. Not only does it restore a sense of normalcy to an otherwise tumultuous stage of your lives, but it literally, chemically, brings you closer, thanks to the release of oxytocin, the so-called bonding hormone that boosts emotional attachment and makes us more sympathetic, supportive and trusting all building blocks of a solid relationship."

Bearing in mind the health benefits of sex during pregnancy, some people have argued that this sweet and exciting act could be the last thing on the mind of most pregnant women because of the stress, nausea, occasional pain and a feeling of being unattractive that come with pregnancy.

But, interestingly, experts have said pregnant women have higher sex drive due to the release of some hormones into their system. And coupled with their physiological change, evidenced by bigger breasts and more sensitive (pointed) nipples, some men said they found their wives more attractive during pregnancy. A study conducted in 2010 and published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine revealed that 40 per cent of women said they wanted more sex during pregnancy than before.

According to Olamoyegun, during pregnancy, there are some hormones that are produced in higher quantities, like prolactin, oestrogen and progesterone, which increase blood flow to the pelvic area, including the vagina, increasing lubrication, sensitivity and desire for sex.

He added, "It also increases breast sensitivity and causes the breasts to expand, hence, increasing the woman's attractiveness. The increased blood flow to the vaginal areas may also help to reduce painful intercourse, known as dyspareunia.

"Another reason why some women tend to enjoy sex during pregnancy than outside pregnancy is that there is no longer any fear of pregnancy, which some people have, more so that the sperm has no effect on the woman at that point. They tend to feel more receptive, relaxed and more interested in it since there is no negative effect and as long as there is no medical contraindication."

Another medical expert, Dr. Tammy Nelson, who is the author of Getting the Sex You Want' in a post on Foxnews said during pregnancy, the body's nerve endings are more sensitive, the nipples and clitoris are enlarged and that there is more oestrogen drawing blood flow to the pelvis. "Thus, it's usually easier to achieve orgasm and they are also longer and stronger, such that women who had trouble having an orgasm prior to pregnancy may now find they no longer do," she added.

Given these benefits of sex during pregnancy, one major challenge people have often identified as constituting a major hindrance to an active sex life is the protruding stomach. Thus, the missionary style, which is also known as man-on-top, may not work to avoid too much weight on the stomach or the baby.

However, in tackling this, there are some sex positions that may help. These include spooning, during which the couple lie side by side with the man behind, and another one being woman on top, whereby the man lies on the bed facing up while the woman sits on top of the man, which enables her to thrust at a pace convenient for her. Other sex positions include standing, ballet dancer, cock-screw, cowgirl and leap frog.

Olamoyegun said there are no specific rules on when a woman could start having sex after delivery, noting that it depends on how soon the person overcomes the pain. He, however, advised that women ought to go for family planning after delivery to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

He said, "Lactation, which is the secretion of milk by the mammary glands, is a form of contraceptive (pregnancy prevention) but it is not 100 per cent certain. Thus, the moment a woman delivers, shortly after, she should go for family planning because if she ovulates at the same time she has sex, that could result in pregnancy."

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