Home About Dr Gayle Counseling Services Speaking Services Online Seminars Articles Press Room Books Contact

Ask Dr. Gayle

Pregnancy has Ruined our Sex Life

QUESTION: My wife is pregnant and at the end of her first trimester. We used to have a wonderful sex life. Soon after she became pregnant, even before we were sure she was, she started to have mood changes and began ignoring me. We have stopped making love and she doesn't want me to touch her. She said that she would prefer me as a friend and not a spouse. Is this change caused by pregnancy hormones and will it go away?

ANSWER: Your wife's hormones have no doubt precipitated many changes, including a very real increased sensitivity to her body. These physical shifts may have caused her to react negatively to your touch. The key here is not to jump to long range conclusions based on this transition. Your wife is right to want to develop a deeper friendship, but this does not have to abolish sex!

Your wife faces the emotional work of pregnancy, which requires that she integrate the role of motherhood into her self-identity as a woman. Like a Rubic Cube, our psyches sometimes experience difficulties rearranging all of the squares into a whole. Conflicting tensions surrounding her adjustment to becoming a mother and being your wife may create temporary disharmony. Do not despair! These are growing pains in your marriage, but you can get through them together with your sexual relationship intact.

Nausea and tiredness in the first trimester commonly depress sexual desire. It is possible that the second trimester will bring more stability and even increased sexual drive. But it is also important to understand the emotional meaning of what your wife is experiencing. Open a dialogue about what it means to be a mother, a father and how you both envision the nature of a healthy relationship between partners.

Is it possible that your wife is mistaking her current lack of desire for the end of her sexual needs in your relationship? If so, why? What was the nature of the relationship between her parents? Share the examples you have inherited from childhood about the sexuality of your parents' relationship. Prior to pregnancy, you both enjoyed being sexual with one another. However, when we enter the realm of parenthood, we become vulnerable to repeating an experience of what our parents said and did with each other.

This is a time to funnel some of your sexual energy into an exploration of what it means to become parents together, but it is not a death knoll for a sexual relationship. While it is true that your sex life may slow down at various points in your marriage, it may also pick up when your adjustment to parenting has been established. Early years of parenthood does bring stress due to the intensity of physical, primary caretaking of young children. But it is important to maintain your physical connection to one another through these years, rather than allow it to atrophy.

What is critical to the overall transition to parenthood is that you carve out time to be together, as friends and as lovers! You can begin now, by creating time to be romantic, whether or not it leads to sex. Find ways to be together physically, by taking warm baths, giving massages and increasing the frequency of hugs. All of these activities keep you physically connected.

Do not be rattled by your wife's emotional changes. This is your marriage, too. Find your voice and take the lead in the challenge to integrate your upcoming roles as parents into your relationship. Let your wife know that you do not see this as an "either/or" situation. Friends can be lovers and your children will benefit from parents who are capable of being both to each other.


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

Return to Dr. Gayle Peterson's Home Page

Copyright 1996-2003.  Gayle Peterson All rights reserved.

Send Comments and Inquiries to Dr. Gayle Peterson at gp@askdrgayle.com