You Should Know about Sex During Pregnancy


Most women who are having a normal pregnancy may continue to have sex right up until their water breaks or they go into labor. There are some circumstances, though, in which you may need to modify your activity or abstain from sex altogether for part or all of your pregnancy. Your midwife or doctor should let you know whether you have or developed any complications that make sex a no-go.  If you are uncertain, ask your health care provider.

A baby is not hurt when a pregnant woman and her partner have sex. The amniotic sac and the strong muscles of the uterus protect the baby, and the thick mucus plug that seals the cervix helps guard against infection. During intercourse, the penis does not go beyond the vagina, so it will not reach the baby.

[Read more about Intercourse]

You may worry that your baby is watching. Again, it is sweet of you to think of your baby first. And while it is nice to think that your little one perks up at the sound of your voice, the truth is that it is not remotely possible for your baby to actually see what you are doing, let alone remember it. Also, your baby might actually enjoy the gentle rocking of your uterine contractions during orgasm.

Sex cannot trigger labor if you have a normal, low-risk pregnancy. Sexual stimulation or orgasm cannot start labor or cause a miscarriage. While orgasm may cause mild uterine contractions, as can nipple stimulation and the prostaglandins in semen, the contractions are generally temporary and harmless.

[Read more about Miscarriage]

You may be concerned that sex could infect your baby. When you are pregnant, your mucus plug means your cervix is pretty much closed for business. Your amniotic sac works to protect your baby from the elements including semen and any infectious organisms. Of course, that is assuming your partner does not have a sexually transmittable disease.

Many women report that sex feels different during pregnancy. Some find it more pleasurable, at least at times. Others may generally find it less so, for part or all of the pregnancy.

Husband touching wife's belly on bed

Increased blood flow to the pelvic area can cause engorgement of the genitals. The heightened sensation that results may add to your pleasure during sex. You may have more vaginal discharge or moistness, which could also be a plus. On the other hand, you may not like how these changes feel and may find that genital engorgement gives you an uncomfortable feeling of fullness. And, as mentioned above, you may also feel some mild abdominal cramps or contractions during or immediately after intercourse or orgasm.

Your breasts may feel tingly, tender, and unusually sensitive to touch, particularly in the first trimester. The tenderness generally subsides, but your breasts may remain more sensitive. Some women will find this heightened sensitivity to be a turn-on, while others will not, and may even prefer that their breasts not be touched at all.

Let your partner know if anything feels uncomfortable, even if it is something you are used to doing together. Experiment and make adjustments as a couple to make sex relaxing and pleasurable for both of you. Remember, too, that there is more to physical intimacy than sex. If you do not feel like having sex or your practitioner has advised you not to, you can still hug, kiss, and caress each other.

There is a wide range of individual experiences when it comes to sexual desire during pregnancy. Some women have a heightened libido throughout pregnancy, while others find they’re less interested in sex. Many women find that their sexual appetite fluctuates, perhaps depending on how they’re otherwise feeling physically and emotionally.

You may feel too tired, moody, or nauseated to make love, especially in the first trimester. It is not unusual to feel overwhelmed by the physical and emotional changes you are going through. But take heart you may find that your sex drive returns in the second trimester after morning sickness and fatigue have eased up.

It is also not uncommon, however, for desire to wane again in the third trimester, particularly in the last month or two. At this point, you may be too big, achy, or exhausted to make love comfortably. You may feel self-conscious about how your body has changed or preoccupied with the approach of labor and birth.

Let your partner know how you feel and reassure him that you still love him. It is crucial to keep the lines of communication open and to support each other as best you can as you go through these changes together.

Most partners find their pregnant lover as attractive as ever or even more so, though not all do. But there are all kinds of reasons your partner’s desire may be dampened at least part of the time during your pregnancy. For example, your partner may be apprehensive about the burdens of parenthood, and that anxiety may affect sexual desire.

[Read more about Parenthood]

Probably the most common reason that men become more tentative about sex during pregnancy is a fear that intercourse will hurt the baby. If your partner needs reassurance about the safety of sex during pregnancy, bring him with you to your next prenatal appointment. Most important, talk to each other about your fears and anxieties, as well as your needs and desires. Open communication can defuse a lot of tension and allow you to relax, enjoy each other, and find ways to be intimate, whether or not you’re having intercourse. 

Happy couple kissing

For the most part, oral sex is safe. Licking is fine, but blowing into your genital area is a no-no. Forcing or blowing air into the vagina could cause an air embolism – a bubble of air that gets into your blood circulation. This rarely happens, but it can be life threatening for you or the baby.

It is also not safe for your partner to give you oral sex during pregnancy if he has an active outbreak of oral herpes or feels one coming on. And during the third trimester, if your partner has ever had oral herpes, he should avoid giving you oral sex altogether, whether or not he has symptoms.

If you are not sure what your partner’s HIV status is, use a dental dam (a sheet of latex that you place between your genitals and your partner’s mouth). There’s some evidence suggesting that a person may be able to transmit HIV through microabrasions or tiny cuts in his mouth.

You may have to experiment to find the positions that are comfortable for you. Finding a comfortable position for intercourse becomes more of a challenge as your belly grows. For example, the missionary position, man on top, becomes increasingly difficult as your pregnancy progresses and is nearly impossible late in pregnancy. If you do use this position after the first trimester, wedge a pillow under you so you are tilted and not flat on your back, and make sure your partner supports himself so his weight is not on your abdomen.

It is normal to feel some cramping during or just after intercourse or orgasm, but if it does not go away after a few minutes, or if you have any pain or bleeding after sex, call your caregiver. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or midwife whenever you have any questions or concerns about sex, particularly if you are unsure whether you need to abstain or have fears about the baby’s safety. If you are told to stop having sex, make sure you understand whether you need to avoid penetration or orgasm or both.

Ask your provider if it is OK to have anal sex. Anal sex is sex that involves the penis and the anus. Anal sex may be unsafe during pregnancy because the anus is full of bacteria. If you have vaginal sex after anal sex, you may be more likely to get an infection with bacteria in your vagina. Bacteria are tiny organisms that live in and around your body. Some bacteria are good for your body, but others can make you sick.

Couple's feet under the bedsheets

While for the majority of couples sex is safe during pregnancy, your health care provider may restrict intercourse at certain times or even for the full nine months in some high-risk pregnancies. Intercourse may be permitted without orgasm for the woman. Or foreplay may be allowed as long as penetration is avoided. Or penetration is permitted but only if a condom is used. Knowing precisely what is safe and when it is safe is essential, so ask for details if your practitioner instructs you to abstain. Ask why sex is off the table, whether that refers to intercourse, orgasm or both, and whether the restrictions are temporary or apply for the entire pregnancy.

Your interest in sex and desire for sex (also called your sex drive) can change throughout pregnancy. Rising and falling hormone levels and other changes in your body may affect your sex drive. Here are some common sex drive changes you may feel during pregnancy:  

1. First trimester

  • Changing hormone levels early in pregnancy and changes in your body’s shape may make you feel sexy. But these changes also may lead to pregnancy discomforts that make you less interested in sex, like feeling tired or sick to your stomach (also called nausea), having sore breasts and needing to go to the bathroom often.

2. Second trimester

Happy couple lying on bed
  • You may feel better during the second trimester. Discomforts you may have had in the first trimester may have gone away or you may be able to manage them better in the second trimester. Your belly is growing but it’s still small enough to have sex comfortably. Women gain about 3 pounds of blood during pregnancy, and most of that blood flows below your waist. You may find that extra blood flow helps you have an orgasm more easily, maybe even more than once. An orgasm is when you feel intense pleasure from sex. When you orgasm, you may feel contractions in and around the vagina.

3. Third trimester

  • Toward the end of pregnancy, you may feel less interested in having sex. As your belly gets bigger, you may find some sex positions to be uncomfortable. You may be less interested in sex because you’re more focused on giving birth and having a new baby. It is okay to have these feelings. You and your partner can still be loving and close even if you do not want to have sex.

Sex will probably be restricted under the following, and possibly other, circumstances:

Whether you give birth vaginally or by C-section, your body will need time to heal. Consider waiting to have sex until your health care provider gives you the green light often four to six weeks after childbirth. This allows time for the cervix to close, postpartum bleeding to stop, and any tears or repaired lacerations to heal.

If you are too sore or exhausted to even think about sex, maintain intimacy in other ways. Stay connected during the day with short phone calls or text messages. Reserve a time for each other before the day begins or before you go to bed.

When you’re ready to have sex, take it slow — and use contraception until you’re ready for any subsequent pregnancies.

It is important to know that your feelings and desire about sex will change while you are pregnant, which is completely normal. As long as you and your health care provider are on the same page on how your pregnancy is going, it is safe to have sex during pregnancy.


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