Sex During Pregnancy

This question arises frequently: Can I have sex while I’m pregnant? The answer, most times, is yes. In fact, sexual desire during pregnancy often increases because of the various physical and emotional changes that women go through. Typically, there is increased blood flow to the pelvis that makes the genital area more sensitive to touch, making sex more enjoyable. The breasts, too, become larger and more sensitive.

Will Sex Hurt the Baby?

Women, and their partners, often worry that the baby might be injured during sexual activity. But fortunately, the baby is well-protected during sex. The cervix is closed and blocks any harmful pathogens from reaching the baby. The uterus itself is a protective muscle that holds the baby, and within the uterus the baby is contained within the amniotic sac surrounded by amniotic fluid. Since the baby is protected, it is generally safe to engage in masturbation and oral, vaginal or anal sex throughout all three trimesters of pregnancy.

Will Sex Induce Labor?

Sex also does not cause labor to happen. However, especially in the third trimester, a woman may experience some cramping or contractions immediately after sex or during orgasm. With orgasm, oxytocin is released which can cause the uterus to contract. Male semen, similarly, contains prostaglandins which may also cause contractions.  Contractions from sex will typically go away in 1 to 2 hours. If they continue or become stronger, notify your obstetrician or midwife.

There is also a chance for slight bleeding or spotting. There are many small blood vessels in the cervix that can leak when touched, especially during sex. It’s normal to have mild spotting for 24 to 48 hours after sex; heavy bleeding, or bleeding that resembles a period or continues past 48 hours is not normal. A woman should, again, contact her obstetrician or midwife if this type of bleeding occurs.

When Not to Have Sex

Photo by Andrea Bertozzini 

When your obstetrician or midwife advises you not to. The presence of certain conditions would make sexual activity or intercourse too risky. Specifically, if a woman is leaking amniotic fluid, or has an episode of preterm labor or vaginal bleeding heavier than spotting or a condition like placenta previa (i.e. where the placenta covers part or all of the cervical opening), sex is discouraged.  Additionally, the presence of herpes lesions in either you or your partner’s mouth or genitals would also warrant sex being avoided. Pregnant woman are susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), so condoms or other barrier methods should be used.

When you aren’t in the mood or are truly uncomfortable. A woman’s growing abdomen and other body changes can make sex uncomfortable. I advise women to talk with their partners and be honest about how they feel. If a woman is not in the mood for sex, she should avoid it. However, some of the discomforts can be minimized to keep sex enjoyable. For example, the use of lubricants (especially water-based varieties) will prevent injury and maintain comfort. A woman may also need to try different positions such as lying on her side, mounting her partner, or on her hands and knees to maintain comfort and not tire easily.

What about after delivery?

After delivery, most women can resume sex after her postpartum bleeding has stopped and any lacerations or injury from delivery have fully healed. Each woman is different and women heal at different rates. Your obstetrician or midwife will be let you know when sex can resume. However, other forms of intimacy that do not involve vaginal or anal intercourse can continue to be practiced.  When you do have sex, take it slow and do what feels right. Lubricants will help minimize injury. Fertility may have resumed, so consider some form of birth control (e.g. condoms or hormonal contraception) to avoid getting pregnant again immediately .

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