Let's Talk About Sex: How to Manage Anxiety About Sex

By: Lily Ostler, LMSW

So you’re having sex, and it’s awesome, awkward, exciting, uncomfortable, confusing, exhilarating, sexy, and strange. I hear you! Beginning a sexual relationship– whether it’s your first time ever or your first (and maybe only) time with this person– can bring up so many thoughts and emotions. Sex is supposed to be fun and pleasurable, but it can also bring up a lot of anxiety around some of the risks associated, like STIs and pregnancy. In honor of #NOBABIES4ME, we’re going to dive into sex, pleasure, pregnancy risk, anxiety about pregnancy, and what to do about it! 

Let’s face it– anxiety around pregnancy before, during, and after sex can kill the vibe for you and your partner - you feel distracted, less aroused, and overwhelmed. If you’re a person who can get pregnant and you’re constantly worried about getting pregnant, there are some things you can do to calm your mind. 

Let’s first talk about how your sexual response system works and how to communicate your comfort levels, concerns, wants, and needs with your partners to enhance your sexual experience and reduce anxiety around pregnancy.

The sexual response system

Our sexual response system, at its most basic explanation, works with “gas” and “brakes.” Everyone has things, people, places, experiences that make our bodies step on the gas (get aroused, climax, etc.) and ones that step on our brakes (less arousal, not climax, etc). Paying attention to what turns you on (and off!) is the first step in figuring out how to communicate with your partners, and how to understand why your anxiety about pregnancy is making sex feel less fun. 

Managing anxiety around sex

We know that anxiety can diminish your sexual response and kill the vibe, but how can we manage it so we can keep having fun? Knowledge and communication! 

If your goal is #NOBABIESFORME, you might feel more confident going into a sexual relationship by knowing about the types of hormonal or non-hormonal birth control options available to you. Hormonal birth control, like the pill, can be very effective when used correctly, and options like the implant and IUD can be over 99% effective without needing to remember to take a pill every day. Non-hormonal options– like tracking your ovulation window– require you to know your hormone cycle really well, but can be effective for many people (especially when used with a non-hormonal barrier method like condoms!) 

Communicating your concerns around pregnancy and STIs with your partner can also help put your mind at ease! If you’d feel better using a condom (which can prevent STIs as well as pregnancy)  in addition to hormonal birth control, tell your partner that - explain your worries and concerns and how that is impacting your pleasure during sex. Creating a relationship that feels safe and open to discuss boundaries, wants, and needs is a great way to step on that gas pedal and turn you both on! Remember, communication and honesty is the sexiest thing of all!