Making a baby can be an exciting time for you and your partner, but the added pressure that sometimes comes with the territory isn’t exactly an aphrodisiac. In-between tracking your ovulation, chasing your fertile window and worrying about whether this is finally “the month,” sex while trying to conceive can start to feel clinical and prescribed. Luckily, experts say that trying to conceive can present new opportunities to strengthen your sex life—and your relationship. Read ahead for their advice.
If you’re penciling in baby-making time, you might be wondering where those days of spontaneous, flirty sex have disappeared to. Yes, you’re on a mission right now—but try to achieve a balance.
“Even if the sex is scheduled and even robotic at times, remember what you’re trying to achieve in your lives. It doesn’t have to be transactional,” says Linda Charnes, LMFT, a psychotherapist and marriage counselor in New York City.
Keeley Rankin, MA, a sex and relationship coach in San Francisco, adds that it’s normal for the pressure to conceive to impact your libido. “Conceiving is such an interesting time,” she says. “There are some people who really love the idea of wanting to get pregnant—both for men and women—and then there are some people who it’s really, really not sexy for. Pressure is a huge determining factor in whether or not sex is going to be fun or not. Typically, the more pressure the less fun.”
Have a conversation with your partner and ask yourselves: What can you do to take the pressure off? As Laurie Watson, PhD, MA, LMFT, LCMHC, a marriage counselor, sex therapist and author of Wanting Sex Again, suggests, switching up the time of day you have sex can make a big difference. “For any of us, being sexually aroused is what makes sex exciting,” she says. “While there’s this business of making baby, you still need to do things that cultivate desire.”
It might feel like a mildly awkward topic to bring up over dinner for some couples, but if you can get the conversation about sex flowing, you might be in for a surprise.
“We know that couples who talk a lot about sex have a lot of it and report that they find their sexual engagement fulfilling,” says Alapaki Yee, MFT, a marriage and family therapist and co-founder of the Gay Couples Institute. “For couples who want to maintain their sex life long-term, including before and after having a baby, creating space for sexual expression is what you see commonly reinforced in cultures who have lots of couples reporting great sex lives. You need to talk about sex in order to have fun with it.”
Charnes agrees, adding that communication is important in addressing your own feelings as well as understanding your partner’s. “Stay communicative with your partner and with others in your support system, [and] be vigilantly introspective about your feelings about what you’re experiencing together and separately,” she says.
There’s more to “sex” than the acts you might typically associate with it. “Why sex is important to someone is very individualistic,” says Rankin. “I often talk with my clients: Can we make your erotic world ‘adult play,’ so it takes a little bit of the edge of the seriousness off of it, which is also an important part of it when people are talking about conceiving?"
Yee suggests couples look at intimacy from a big-picture perspective in order to keep the sex hot. “Once you start talking about sex more, it’s time to define everything as ‘sex,’” he says. “Couples who move away from traditional beliefs that sex only equates certain sex acts often find that the broader definition of sex creates a space for fun and creativity.”
Talking about ovulation, basal body temperature and cervical mucus might not exactly get you going. But, in this messy process of trying to conceive, it’s important to learn about your body and how it affects your desire—which might just help you dial it up a notch. “For some women, this might be the first time you’re really touching yourself regularly and observing your body,” says Watson. “You’ll see what ovulation does to your sex and desire. Pay attention to the peaks and rhythms you have throughout the month.”
If you’re frustrated that getting pregnant is taking longer than you thought it would, know that this is normal and you’re not alone. “If you have been trying for some time, you may begin to feel frustrated, sad, anxious or angry,” says Charnes. “Accept those feelings, but don’t get overly attached to them. If you’re doing everything you can do, accept that this is simply your reality at this time in your life. One tiny step at a time.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises reaching out to a doctor or specialist if you haven’t gotten pregnant after one year of trying (i.e. having regular sex) without using birth control. If you’re over 35, you’re encouraged to check in with your provider after six months.
Keeping the passion alive while trying to conceive can be tough, especially if you’re short on time and distracted by other pressing duties. Rankin suggests opening up about your sexual fantasies to each other, and then discussing how you can bring in specific things to spice up your sex life.
Not sure where to start? Yee suggests turning to an app for some added help. “There are apps that will get you talking about fantasy, preferences, how your bodies have changed and giving space for us to let our bodies off the hook,” he says.
Mindfulness is the ability to be present, and you can apply it to all areas of life, including sex. Charnes says that while you’re trying to conceive, you can still make an effort to enjoy the smaller moments that are pleasurable to you.
“At times during sex, you may want to focus your consciousness on your partner, their body, their sounds,” she says. “Or you may want to focus on your own body, or your breath, or your own sounds. Or you may want simply to float away into your own mind, wherever it may take you.”
Don’t skimp on the foreplay, adds Watson. “Only 20 percent of all women have orgasms through intercourse,” she points out. “Most need to be touched.”
Try to remember that the end goal is to grow the love you already share.
“Remember it is a joyful process of trying to conceive,” Charnes says. “There is obviously anticipation, but let it not become too much pressure. Keep communicating, date each other and enjoy the intimacy of this time in your life. Remember, the task is making more love in your lives. Be responsible for your own self, but share with your partner. Take care of yourselves and take care of each other.”
Linda Charnes, LMFT, is a psychotherapist and marriage counselor in New York City.
Keeley Rankin, MA, is a sex and relationship coach in San Francisco.
Laurie Watson, PhD, MA, LMFT, LCMHC, is the director of Awakenings Counseling for Couples and Sexuality in North Carolina, a marriage counselor, sex therapist and the author of Wanting Sex Again.
Alapaki Yee, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist, as well as the co-founder and clinical director of the Gay Couples Institute.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Evaluating Infertility, January 2020
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