Colby has been with his wife for six years. They’ve been married for four. They met in college. He thought she was a “smoke show” (his words). He still finds her attractive, especially now that she’s carrying their first son. But Colby is experiencing what he sees as puzzling problem.
“I have had no desire to have sex with her. I don’t love her any less, as a matter of fact, I have more desire to please her than ever. I feel like I am letting her down,” he laments in a reddit post. “She is my everything, and the thought that she may feel like I am disinterested kills me.”
Colby’s situation isn’t rare. Therapists note that plenty of men aren’t quite so eager to jump into having sex with their pregnant wives, for issues that relate to everything from general worry to basic attraction. So what’s a loving husband to do?
The science is still out on what exactly happens to men’s sex drive during pregnancy. Some studies have found that men are actually more attracted to their wives when they’re pregnant. Others suggest fears surrounding the safety of the fetus may prevent some men from initiating sex. Another study, published in the American Journal of Human Biology, found that expectant fathers experience drops in testosterone — the hormone most closely associated with male sex drive. Different couples will go through different experiences. Some, like Colby, might just have a harder time barreling through.
“A changing body can be very difficult for some men,” notes Mary Jo Rapini a psychologist who specializes in sex and intimacy issues. “Some guys hold to a picture-perfect image of women they’re sexually attracted to.” The aesthetic of maternity wear probably doesn’t help matters much either. “A lot of women dress differently during their pregnancy,” Rapini says. “Some guys perceive that as a form of rejection.
While some men may take issue with their pregnant wife’s body or the clothes they wear, they remain in the minority. According to Rapini, the majority of couples who come see her for problems pertaining to pregnancy, and sex, are there for much deeper reasons.
“Typically, men who don’t find their pregnant wives attractive are also sitting on major fears about the future, about being a good dad, about being able to provide,” says Rapini. “What women need to understand is that if he’s not attracted to their pregnant body, it rarely has to do with them.”
Becoming a parent is an enormous step and there are so many factors that tangle up to create a web of concern. Anxiety, for instance, can decrease sexual drive, as an increase of the stress hormone cortisol can overload sexual drive. When a father is thinking about the numerous big picture issues related to having a child — Will I be a good father? Am I ready for this? Are we financially secure enough for this? Will everyone be healthy? — those are certainly distractions that take away from sexual desire.
According to Rapini, communicating these concerns usually helps free up enough space to invite intimacy back into the relationship. This means there’s a need for men to speak freely without fear of upsetting their wives. If this seems impossible between the two of you, seeking out some professional help can help to provide a space to speak openly.
It’s worth noting that once Rapini gets couples into the office, the goal isn’t to get them back into bed. “A lack of sex alone won’t kill a relationship,” she says. “What can kill a relationship is when other forms of intimacy stop.”
Undersexed and expecting couples, Rapini suggest, should focus on other forms of intimacy. “Touch is important. Talking is important. Maintaining an emotional connection is extremely important,” she says. “It’s one thing not to be attracted to your wife, but if you’re not intimate anymore, well, that’s going to be a problem.”