It was four o’clock in the morning, and I had been awake for almost two hours. After a full hour of tossing and turning, my six-months-pregnant belly blocking any hope of getting comfortable, I grabbed my phone and sneaked out to the living room. After an attempt at doing some reading and finally accepting that sleep just wasn’t coming, I decided to do what I’ve been doing almost daily since I hit the second trimester of my pregnancy: I masturbated.
After a couple of orgasms thanks to my favorite vibrator, I finally felt drowsy. I happily headed back to bed for some peaceful sleep.
It was around this time, a couple of months ago, that I realized just how much masturbation during pregnancy I'd been doing. I have always had a healthy sexual appetite and loved both sex with my husband and occasional self-pleasure sessions, but my pregnancy seemed to send my desire into hyperdrive. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a combination of things was driving my hands down my pants almost daily—the sharp increase in libido that comes with the hormonal wave of pregnancy, pregnancy-induced insomnia, the added stress of growing a human.
As soon as this dawned on me, I’ll be honest, I felt like a bit of a freak. Masturbation during pregnancy doesn't exactly feel like the sort of thing you can casually bring up to your ob-gyn. But I realized I couldn’t possibly be the only pregnant woman using masturbation as a sleep aid and stress reliever. And if I wasn’t, why weren't more women talking about it?
Sex Drive During Pregnancy
I already knew that pregnancy can lead to an increase in sex drive—science and just about any pregnant woman you ask will tell you that. I read dozens of posts in my due-date group on Facebook from women talking about how they felt like “bunnies” whose husbands simply couldn’t keep up. “During the second and third trimester, women experience an increase in blood flow to the genitalia, and for many women, this presents a more arousing sexual experience and more intense orgasms,” says Leah Millheiser, M.D., director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University Medical Center. “As a result, women may enjoy sex a bit more."
Sex with my husband was certainly leading to more intense orgasms, but I still found myself reaching for solo sessions more often than not. "As long as there are no medical issues that prevent a pregnant woman from having sex, she can have as much sex as she is comfortable with," says Millheiser.
I definitely am not the only woman masturbating her way through pregnancy. “Between the end of my first trimester and the beginning of my third trimester, I found myself very horny—except I had no actual interest in sex due to the uncomfortable pains and aches from pregnancy,” says Lauren, 38. “Masturbating allowed me to scratch that itch without having to put myself in an uncomfortable position. As a bonus, I felt more relaxed and calm afterward.”
That post-orgasm bliss is definitely something I can relate to—which might explain why masturbating before sleep has become a ritual. Not only have I been using masturbation as a way to get some additional shut-eye after a bout of pregnancy insomnia (which, unfortunately, has been happening almost every day), but I also enjoy masturbating before a midday nap. “Masturbation almost always happened before an afternoon nap, as that’s when I was alone,” says Lucy, 36, another woman I spoke to. She recounted the way that masturbation helped her psychologically prepare for a VBAC (a vaginal birth after a Cesarean section): “It sounds weird now, but it was almost like meditating,” she says. “I was a little stressed out about the prospect of a potential uterine rupture, so taking a daily afternoon nap, where I gently helped myself relax and slip into sleep by masturbating, helped a lot.”
Considering the various benefits of female masturbation, it should come as no surprise that pregnant women—especially those who see an increase in libido—continue to masturbate. Typically, some of those benefits include “relaxation, anxiety and stress reduction, and intimacy with a partner, such as during mutual masturbation,” says Millheiser.
During months when a lot of things may not feel so good—let’s hear it for morning sickness, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, heartburn, hemorrhoids, constipation, and headaches—self-pleasure doesn't need a justification. “I literally just masturbated because I was that horny during pregnancy,” says Angela, 38. “I probably did it every day during my third trimester and still had sex with my husband that night.” Sarah, 39, agrees: “During my second pregnancy, all of my appetites were increased,” she says. “I probably masturbated a couple of times a week, in addition to having sex with my husband.”
Is Masturbation During Pregnancy Safe?
In most cases, masturbating during pregnancy is perfectly safe. “In general, a woman cannot hurt the baby during masturbation,” Millheiser says. “However, placing sex toys inside of the vagina during masturbation should be avoided if conditions such as preterm cervical dilation, preterm premature rupture of membranes, vaginal bleeding, abnormal positioning of the placenta, or preterm contractions and labor are present.”
Hearing this came as a real relief. Before this pregnancy, I suffered a miscarriage. And like so many women, I questioned every little thing in fear that it might happen again. “I had suffered a miscarriage prior to my pregnancy,” says Sarah, 39, “and I knew that an orgasm was a ‘wee little contraction,’ so I made my ob-gyn swear on his life that orgasming wouldn’t make me lose this totally viable, healthy pregnancy. I probably asked him nine times and didn’t even care if he and his nurses talked about the weird horny lady after I left my appointments.”
I know what she meant; when I masturbated early on in pregnancy, I could feel my uterus contracting and it freaked me out for sure, but since Millheiser confirmed that a woman cannot hurt the baby during masturbation, I tried to stress about it less. I also spoke to my own doctor about my situation—something that all pregnant women should do—who echoed Millheiser’s words.
Masturbating during pregnancy is a regular routine for me—and many other women. With how much goes on in our bodies and minds during pregnancy, masturbating is something within our control to make ourselves feel a little better. And honestly, anything that helps me relax, quiet my anxious brain, and lets me fall asleep quickly is something I will certainly continue to do.
Originally Appeared on Glamour