Can pregnancy hormones create sexual compulsion?
February 1, 2011 7:00 PM   Subscribe

At what point does it go from typical pregnancy hormones to a physiological/psychological concern?

After years of "false starts", my wife has successfully made it out of her first trimester and is entering her 18th week of pregnancy. My concern is her libido. I understand that hormones can have all sorts of effects and a slight increase in sexual desire does sometimes occur as a result.

The problem is, it's starting to go past a healthy desire to the point of a compulsion. Last weekend, I politely declined after spending the entire morning shoveling the driveway (bad back) and she absolutely lost it on me. This has never happened. Tonight, after approximately an hour of intimacy (once before we got out of bed... should have shoveled the driveway but, whatever... and once after work) I just walked into our sitting room to find her pleasuring herself with a toy. Also, a couple nights ago, she had asked if I would be bothered if she were to start "fooling around" with one of her childhood friends (a woman) and when I said I was a bit uneasy at the idea, I was derided for being "boring and mopey."

I'm becoming less and less comfortable with this surge of sexual energy, and I don't dare bring it up with her as any interference has not gone well.

Not to mention the fact I don't feel comfortable disclosing this to any relatives or friends, as it is a personal matter, and when I casually touched upon the issue with my brother in-law (my sister's husband) he teased me for being "out of shape."

When should I be concerned, and what is the best way to confront her about this issue? Also, could this have the potential to harm the baby?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I think you are tangling up a lot of different issues.

1. Her blowing up at you when you don't want sex - not cool, but pregnancy hormones do make people moody, so this is normal. Talk to her about how to best navigate these situations together, without necessarily making it about sex.

2. Her wanting more sex. Again, normal, and it's not clear to me why the situation with the toy bothers you other than that it seems like more evidence toward a larger problem.

3. Harm to the baby - don't worry about it. Seriously, it's fine.

4. Her wanting to fool around with a childhood friend - this is the one that strikes me as odd and worrisome. But it's possible that when she shared it with you she was just talking about a fantasy and had no real intention to act on it. The fact that she responded so poorly when you were uncomfortable shows that she isn't being very sensitive to your feelings. You do need to talk to her more even though it seems you feel like you are walking on eggshells. But I would frame it less in terms of how her desire for sex freaks you out and more in terms of how you feel when she says these things to you.
posted by mai at 7:09 PM on February 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Random datapoint: One of my good (male) friends has moaned each time that his wife has been pregnant, she has become sexually insatiable.

Here's the Mayo Clinic on sex during pregnancy.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:11 PM on February 1, 2011

Crazy-horny happens to a lot of women during pregnancy. I've been there, and some of my friends have been there; not every mom I know but it happens.
I don't think it could hurt the baby (hormones and sex) but I'd try to discourage new partners right now, because of the baby, ya know?
posted by bebrave! at 7:16 PM on February 1, 2011

When I was pregnant I was the complete opposite. We didn't have sex for the whole 9 months. I still think my husband has post traumatic stress over it.

Pregnancy causes CRAZY hormonal changes. Serious crazy town.

I can't even begin to give you advice on how to deal with this situation...most of the times, dealing with a pregnant lady can be a!

Don't worry about harm to the baby, you can't harm a baby with sex. Even rough sex. Or a lot of sex.

I might suggest that you wait until after she gives birth to confront her if the problem continues that long (it won't). Confronting a pregnant lady sounds like a bad idea. Is there any way you can just hold your breath and your tongue and give her the benefit of doubt and just KNOW that pregnancy hormones make ladies go crazy? It does go back to normal eventually, and sometimes lessens towards the end of pregnancy itself, but seriously, hormones=crazy.

In the meantime, maybe do your own research into what women go through during pregnancy, and it might help you see that your pregnant wife is not the same person as your non-pregnant wife.

Hang in there!!!
posted by katypickle at 7:20 PM on February 1, 2011

I asked for and fantasized about all kinds of ridiculous things while I was pregnant. And since I was also sorta moody, I was not great about self editing-so my husband got an earful about the UPS guy, the Schwans guy, the lady next door with the nice hair, etc etc etc. So I wouldn't put too much stock in the crazy ideas-she probably won't follow through on any of them. Now, if she does-whole other story-you can't blame hormones for infidelity. But assuming it stays talk, accept that this too shall pass and be relieved that she went for the toy and left you alone for once.
posted by supercapitalist at 7:20 PM on February 1, 2011 [12 favorites]

Welcome to potential fatherhood!

Yes, pregnancy hormones can definitely make you go a little off the deep edge in lots of ways. And the second trimester is notorious for a huge leap in libido.

The toy thing doesn't seem outrageous to me. She may be having more of an interest in sex, but a harder time climaxing. The toy might have been a strictly goal-oriented activity, if you get what I mean. Just a physical release, and not something that should worry you. People masturbate!

I totally understand your rejection based on the back thing, and her giving you a hard time over that was wrong, but remember that she may be having body image issues about weight gain with the pregnancy, etc., and take your "not right now, thanks," to mean you find her less attractive in some way now that she is pregnant. After the less couple days, I think you are over that hurdle.

The playing around with the friend thing...was she serious, do you think? Or maybe putting it out there as a fun, kinky fantasy? In which case your rather aghast response may be why she said you were "boring and mopey"--unkind words, and again uncalled for, but a lot less worrisome than an actual interest in going outside the marriage for some action.

And no, none of this will harm the baby in any way! Be careful with letting your thoughts head in that direction. You don't want to be one of those guys who mentally separates "desirable woman" from "mother of my child" and starts to treat his pregnant wife as if she were not a sexual being, which she very obviously is!

Also, don't let the ribbing from your BIL get to you. He was likely as uncomfortable with the subject as you were and didn't know what to say!

Here are what some actual pregnant women are going through with sexual urges (and sometimes lack of them) during their pregnancies.
posted by misha at 7:36 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah...I had a ridiculously overactive libido, and the most earthshattering orgasms, during pregnancy. I mean, it was nice when my husband would join me, but when he had to do things like eat, work, breathe...whatever, I, like supercapitalist, had an active imaginary stable. In my mind, I was Madeline Khan as Empress Nympho....Yes, yes, yes, yes, no...yes, yes, yes, yes YES!

Many of my friends have reported similar libido increases; with the sudden ability to direct porn movies in the privacy of their own head.

It does return back to normal. Trust me, after the baby is born, there's gonna be a while where you miss the Empress Nympho stage.
posted by dejah420 at 7:37 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ah, pregnancy-- the only time my wife had any real libido in the past several years.

After the 4th kid ( arrived at 5pm, and we had been doing it at noon ), I got a vasectomy.

That was two years ago. I think we've had sex maybe 6 times since...

Count your blessings.
posted by Ninevolt at 7:41 PM on February 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Well, how uncomfortable are you? I can understand the idea of her being sexual with others being a bit much for you. You should not be expected to accept that if you don't want to. That said, have you considered offering to help her out in ways that are kinder on your back and don't take tons of energy? Using your hands, fingers, or mouth. Taking the "bottom" position. Remotely triggered vibrators. That kind of stuff.

Now, at the same time I get that finding her in random places masturbating might be unsettling. I cannot imagine most women being cool with finding their guy jerking it on the loveseat. I think you'd be quite reasonable to ask her to do her thing in private, behind a closed, locked door.

I might add, maybe you finding her was planned as something between revenge for spurning her advances and a plea for the sexual attention she wants from you. Same might go for the friend suggestion. Just a thought.

Whatever you say should be gentle and not aimed to make her feel inadequate, unsexy, or ashamed. Pregnant women can be very sensitive about their bodies and sexual attractiveness. She may also feel, not irrationally, like this time when she has the chance to be sexual, will be greatly diminished after she has the baby.

As far as I understand, it is not true that the baby could be harmed unless the sexual activity is exceptionally rough or she has some unusual condition/anatomy abnormalities, by the way. Though, I'm no OB/GYN.
posted by MrFish at 8:09 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

To some extent I wonder if she's concerned that you might be finding her changing body unattractive and that she's constantly testing you. Pregnancy is a total mind f--k in so many ways. I had no libido at all for the entire thing so it can go any way in that regard. If I were you, I'd try to humor her as much as possible (though, it's true, the snow needs shovelling so all within reason) within your comfort zone. Her moods may change again!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:43 PM on February 1, 2011

My second child is three months old. None of what you've described is significantly contrary to my experience of the second trimester, with the exception of the proposed infidelity. I didn't have to ask my husband about that because I already know his feelings about it (OMG no), so I kept it in the realm of menage-a-moi. But yes, we had sex more times during those 13 weeks than we'd probably had the previous year, and I was thinking about it basically every minute of every day.

It had nothing to do with fears of being found unattractive, or concerns about losing my chance later, or anything like that. It was just NEED MOAR SEXING NOW, and it was unending.

What about it specifically makes you uncomfortable?
posted by KathrynT at 10:47 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

as a currently 2tri preggo lady, who is ridiculously horny ALL THE TIME OMG, she is crying out for help! i know you're tired and have a bad back, but she is gassy and bloated and wants to feel pretty and loved (and orgasmed). surprise HER for a change and just grab her boobs and go downtown, or give her a poking. i bet if you satisfy her without complaint at least once, she'll feel like you want her, and will be more content. part of the problem very well may be that she senses your disdain which is frustrating - she may think that you think she's 'fat' or 'less appealing,' which doesn't help.

seriously - one awesome poking, full of dirty talk abotu how beautiful she is and how grateful you are to her that she's carrying your child, how you've been waiting all day to do her, etc....and i bet there will be a lot of tension relieved in more ways than one!

as for the masturbating on the sofa - i don't blame her. she won't get to do that ever when there's a kid bopping around. perhaps she's always wanted to masturbate in the living room - she may be working on her bucket list! :)

as for the girl fantasy - next time she brings up something like that, just say something along the lines of 'but i want your gorgeous self all to me' instead of just generic disdain. i reiterate - she is simultaneously super horny and super insecure. i know it is probably annoying on your part but be kind and understanding and meet her wildest dreams sometimes! as dude above says - there may come a time in the not-so-distant future where you're missing these days! :)
posted by 2003girl at 12:35 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is going to be straight-forward, because I couldn't see anything in your question that is a problem for your wife, unless you make it her problem. And I think that's what you're doing.

"Sexual compulsion"? Seems a little strong for your situation, which sounds like your wife wanting and thinking about sex more than you do. She is not seducing mailmen, or finding new sexual partners every day over the internet. In fact, she is going to you to express her libido, trying to recruit and engage you in her fantasies. Wife fooling around with a female friend - sounds like a Hustler letter, and there is a high chance it's aimed at you, especially if she is straight. Have you considered she might have wanted you to find her masturbating when you came home, and fantasized you'd join her? Instead you ask questions on the internet that shame and pathologize her (on the sofa with a toy! considering infidelity! asks for sex TWO times a day! omg, sex addict!). If I were her, I might be on the internet already looking for some side action away from my husband who frankly sounds repulsed by me.
posted by Shusha at 7:10 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

To answer the titular (snicker) question, no, I don't think they can create compulsion or create behavior.

Hormones create the desire, but our minds and personalities and (lack of?) good judgment are what guide what we do with that desire. We have all experienced that moment, where our hormones are raging and we are the most horny we have ever been, and our minds reach the edges of our fantasies, egos and insecurities. We know just how fragile our decision making processes and feelings are at that point. Because nothing hurts more than trying to entice someone with our sexy wiles, and get shot down. ESPECIALLY if it is a loved one. We can maybe deal with getting rejected by a stranger, but getting waved off by our spouse/SO feels like a failure.

So, try your best to meet all her needs- physical and emotional. Look at it like a yin yang kind of thing- on average, over time, you and she will meet each other's needs and desires. Right now, it is your turn to give a little more than average and her turn to need a little more than average.

(I would point out that meeting a partner's needs may include being boring and mopey. It is impossible to judge where the line between being a good sport and needing to put on the brakes is. You kind of have to play out the various options and guess at what the right answer is. Right now, your wife is disappointed that you didn't like her girl fantasy. Is she disappointed because that's something she really wanted to do, and only now has the guts to try? Or because it was just a fun thing she wanted to fantasize about with you? In a year from now, what would she regret more: doing it, or not doing it? Would she be madder at you for stopping her, or for not stopping her? You can't *know*, but you can guess.)

(It also wouldn't hurt to talk to her about this, from the standpoint of your own vulnerability. When she is not in the throes of horny-mones. BY NO MEANS do I mean making this about you, or that you should believe or say anything like "yeah, well, what about ME?" Because that is ridiculous and selfish. And a mistake partners make all the time.

All I mean is, make sure she knows how happy, committed and prepared you are for your new adventure together. And because of that, you are worried that you might accidentally do the wrong thing for the right reason. Maybe even ask her straight out: does she really, really want to fool around with her friend? Or did she just want to explore it with you as a fantasy, and you misunderstood?)

And, congratulations!
posted by gjc at 7:31 AM on February 2, 2011

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