Research Spotlight: Sexual Functioning during Pregnancy

* Our research spotlight series highlights recent and interesting peer-reviewed articles

Written by: Sarah Vannier

Pregnancy can be an exciting time when expectant parents are looking forward to meeting their new child. However, pregnancy can bring about a lot of changes to women’s sex lives. For example, many pregnant women experience a decrease in sexual desire, find it harder to feel aroused or get lubricated, have more difficulty having an orgasm, feeling unattractive, or experience pain during intercourse.

How common are these changes?

A recent study followed 168 pregnant women from their first to third trimester and looked at changes in sexual functioning. As you can see below, sexual problems were fairly common throughout pregnancy, but increased dramatically during the third trimester. In addition, women over the age of 31 were slightly more likely to report sexual problems. There were very few differences between first time mothers and women who had already given birth.

Percent of pregnant women meeting cut-off scores for six domains of sexual dysfunction

Percent of pregnant women meeting cut-off scores for six domains of sexual dysfunction (adapted from Table 4 of Galazka et al., 2014)
(adapted from Table 4 of Galazka et al., 2014)

The Good News

Not all pregnant women experience sexual problems during pregnancy. In this same study the researchers found that many women reported either no change or an increase in sexual desire: this was the case for 44% of women in the first trimester, 42% in the second trimester, and 23% in the third trimester.

For women who do experience sexual changes during pregnancy, sexual functioning often returns to pre-pregnancy levels by 6 to 12 months after having the baby.

Finally, most expectant couples find that their relationship satisfaction remains stable or even increases a little. And of course, hugging, kissing, and cuddling a partner is a great way to stay close and connected while waiting for the baby to arrive. 


Gałązka, I., Drosdzol‐Cop, A., Naworska, B., Czajkowska, M., & Skrzypulec‐Plinta, V. (2015). Changes in the sexual function during pregnancy. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 12(2), 445-454. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12747

Image credit: Kit4na

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