Pregnancy doesn't always bring major changes in sexual function for expectant mothers, according to UCLA researchers.

The small study of 30 women was conducted by experts including Jennifer Berman, MD, UCLA assistant professor of urology and director of UCLA's Female Sexual Medicine Center (search).

Participants included 10 infertility patients and 20 women who did not have fertility treatment.

During the first and third trimesters of pregnancy, the women rated their sexual function, focusing on six topics: desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain.

There were slight decreases in each area between the first and third trimesters, but overall, the changes were minor.

That surprised the experts. They expected that many of the physical changes associated with pregnancy, such as a bigger abdomen and breasts, might have negative effects on a woman's sexual function and desire.

"We hypothesized that pregnancy is associated with many changes and at times difficulty," write the researchers in their abstract, which was recently presented in Philadelphia at the annual meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.

Berman and colleagues expected that common pregnancy symptoms — such as first trimester nausea, body changes, and third trimester discomfort — might contribute to sexual function changes during pregnancy.

However, the data did not show any significant differences in sexual function during pregnancy's early and late stages.

The results were similar for infertility patients and those who had not received fertility treatment.

By  Miranda Hitti, reviewed by  Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCE: 60th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, Philadelphia, Oct. 16-20, 2004.