Sex, as the poet George Michael once said, is natural. Sex is fun. Sex is best when it’s one-on-one. But things get complicated and a bit more stressful when you’re trying to conceive — or “TTC,” as some folks say. All of the scheduling, fertility tracking, and other efforts that going into trying to make a baby often often rob sex of its spontaneous excitement. The end result can look more like a stress-inducing chore than a burning primal desire.
“[People get anxious] because they are absolutely fixated on the end result: a pregnancy,” notes Dr. Christine Milrod of Sex and Life Coaching. “Couples can change their mindset by understanding the human body, and that the more relaxed the attitude, the more enjoyable the sex and the greater chances for actual conception.”
Talk About Sex More
Regularly talking about the sex you’re having — the frequency, the duration, the good, the bad, the high-five-able, and the hey-why-don’t-we-try-this? — is key to a healthy romantic life. After all, without such openness you can’t understand what someone needs — or tell them what you want to explore. Besides, you’re trying to make a person here, so you’d better get used to the idea of being giving and vulnerable
Get Off the Clock
It’s easy to get tied up in a routine when trying to conceive, Milrod notes. You’re working on a limited time frame and so making a schedule makes, well, sense. But it also makes having sex feel like work and also expects both partners to be aroused automatically. Intimacy, desire, and excitement are important. Switch up the schedule. Switch up the time of day.
Make Some Plans
We’re not trying to be hypocritical here. There’s a difference between building excitement and anticipation for sex and saying, “We need to have sex at this time because that’s our best shot.” When talking about sex and you both agree to try sex position #34676 tomorrow night, that’s a pretty fun thing to look forward to.
Speaking of Which: Give Position #34676 a try.
Or whatever. It’s understandable to get caught up in the we-need-to-have-sex-this-way-to-make-a-baby of it all and lean into the best sex positions for pregnancy. But getting out of your routine and trying something so exotic and bonkers helps you focus on the enjoyment and draws your focus from anything extraneous. Just be sure to stretch. The last part of sex position #34676 is a doozy.
Lean Into the Romance
The best sex begins outside of the bedroom. That is, there’s a build-up of desire. Every once in a while, it’s good to lean into the clichés: Cover a bedspread in rose petals, put on some Marvin Gaye, put your phones in a box, and do every single “romantic” gesture you can think of. The point here is to put the focus on the act and the connection you and your partner have that brought you to the point of considering having children together in the first place.
Bust Out Some Costumes
Break out the Halloween costumes or old clothes and play “Countess Dracula and the anemic Englishman” or whatever. Remember, you’re allowed to have fun and enjoy yourselves during all this. That’s kind of the point. Role-play and spice things up (just maybe leave out the plastic fangs when you the future kid asks where they came from).
When You’re both in the Mood: Don’t think. Just do.
“Quite frankly, the most enjoyable and spontaneous sex can often lead to a pregnancy because there isn’t the pressure or performance anxiety associated with it,” says. Dr. Milrod. Think of it this way: This will likely be one of the last times you can just go at it in the middle of the day on the most convenient piece of furniture before you have to beware of the pitter-patter of little mood destroyers.
But…Don’t forget foreplay
Along the lines of falling into routines for sex, it’s easy to skip foreplay and go right to the baby making because you’re on a tight schedule. Sure, sometimes embracing the pure passion of it all leads us to skip foreplay. But let’s face it, that kind of sex likely doesn’t happen too often. Besides, nearly every good performance requires some preparation. And nothing gets your mind off the notion of “we’re doing this for a reason” better than those little reminders of, “Oh, yeah, THIS Is why we like doing this in the first place.”
Break Out Some Sex Toys
Speaking of foreplay, why not experiment with bedroom playthings? Sex toys add a new element into the mix and may unlock new preferences you didn’t even know you had. The more interactive or “shareable” the devices, the better.
Watch Something Sexy That’s Not Porn
Porn isn’t often helpful because it, too, is focused solely on the act and creates wildly unrealistic expectations of sex. Instead, watch something that has some build up, some story, some romance…and then nakedness.
…But Also Watch Porn if You Want
Hey, do you. If you do happen to be one of those couples who know each other’s predilections inside and out, watching porn together can absolutely help you get into the mood or inspire you to try something fun and new.
Don’t Tell Your Partner to “Relax”
It does not help. Period. Dr. Milrod sees this all the time with couples and it does nothing but aggravate and annoy. You know how it feels when someone cuts you off in traffic and the person asks why you’re getting so mad and it just dials up the intensity? Now imagine this happening in your bedroom during the most intimate moment of your life. Exactly.
Talk to Someone Else…
Making the choice to get pregnant and start a family is the most intimate decision two people can make and it can come with a lot of anxiety, too. Talking to someone — a therapist or a close personal friend — can help you understand your feelings and lessen the pressure. The lighter you feel, the more fun the sex can be.
But Be Wary of Unsolicited Advice
Be careful of sharing your plans with extended family or on social media. This invites a lot of opinions and ups the cultural pressure to ‘have a baby,’ warns Dr. Milrod. The last thing you want is for your Aunt Cathy to pop up in your feed asking how the sex is going in all caps.
Embrace Your Fantasies
Our culture isn’t all the comfortable with sex at its most basic, so bringing up fantasies is often a huge barrier for couples. But when couples discuss and play out the fantasies, they offer a chance to infuse more fun, excitement, and distraction into the bedroom. If they’re discussed without shame and agreed up, then lean into them. “Okay, so I have this thing where I want us to be mystical mages in a fantasy version of Britain…”
Just Get Silly With Each Other
Take turns showing one another the funniest videos you’ve seen on YouTube. Pop in a comedy. Have a paper towel tube sword fight in the basement. The point is to take the pressure off. “When people get serious, they often get tense and performance-oriented,” says Dr. Milrod. “Couples who have a healthy relationship and feel secure together often share laughs. That really goes a long way toward trying to make a baby.”
Spend Some Time Apart
“Too much togetherness can be suffocating and very unsexy,” notes Dr. Milrod. This is especially true in our current situation. But do what you can to find space. Go for a drive. Do work in the backyard by yourself. Just separate yourselves for a few hours so you can miss the other person’s presence and build that desire.
Get out of the Bedroom…
Some of us are completely fine having sex in the same room, on the same bed. No problem there. But if sex feels routine or stale, change up the location. Go to the kitchen counter. Test out the living room couch. A change of locations — and surfaces — changes up how you have sex, and can add some much-needed variety. Just remember to wipe everything down before you have the in-laws over for dinner.
…Or Get a Room
The same old scenery loses its sex appeal, especially if your home has been a source of stress or feelings of inadequacy. If there’s nowhere in the house that feels sexy or dangerous or naughty, splurge on a fancy hotel for one night. Order room service. Sit on the balcony. Or pretend you’re having an illicit affair or you’re two jet-setting, star-crossed lovers finally in the same time zone.
The right kind of sexting can do a lot to build desire and anticipation. Sure, an eggplant emoji and peach emoji can work. So can a good old-fashioned nude pic. But don’t forget to send one another compliments, appreciations, or just sweet notes throughout the day.
Get Sweaty Together
Remember: This Should Be Fun
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that sex should be fun. Trying to conceive can make it seem like another task on the list rather than an intimate activity between two people. Will it always be mind-blowing? Of course not. But if you take the pressure off yourselves and embrace that side of it, the opportunity to build some more closeness, emotional intimacy, and excitement will help your relationship grow — and make the process all the more enjoyable.