Sex during pregnancy_ How to stay safe and have fun
Is it safe to have sex when I'm pregnant?
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 develop – any complications that make sex a no-go. If you're uncertain, ask your practitioner.
Does sex during pregnancy harm the baby?
No, a baby isn't hurt when a pregnant woman and her partner make love. 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 doesn't go beyond the vagina, so it won't reach the baby.
Can having sex trigger labor?
No, not 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.
Will sex feel different now that I'm pregnant?
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.
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 won't (and may even prefer that their breasts not be touched at all).
Let your partner know if anything feels uncomfortable, even if it's something you're used to doing together. If you find you're feeling turned on but not enjoying intercourse, consider other erotic activities, such as mutual pleasuring, oral sex, or self-stimulation. Experiment and make adjustments as a couple to make sex relaxing and pleasurable for both of you.
Remember, too, that there's more to physical intimacy than sex. If you don't feel like having sex or your practitioner has advised you not to, you can still hug, kiss, and caress each other.
I've had a low sex drive since I got pregnant. Is this normal?
There's 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's not unusual to feel overwhelmed by the physical and emotional changes you're going through. But take heart – you may find that your libido returns in the second trimester after morning sickness and fatigue have eased up.
It's 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's crucial to keep the lines of communication open and to support each other as best you can as you go through these changes together.
Will my pregnancy affect my partner's sex drive?
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.
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.
Is oral sex safe when I'm pregnant?
For the most part, yes, 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's 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're 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.
If you have questions about other specific sexual activity, take a look at our expert answers on what's safe during pregnancy.
How can I protect myself from sexually transmitted infections?
If you're at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – that is, you're not in a mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner – you should abstain from intercourse or at least use latex condoms every time you have sex. If latex isn't a good option for you, use polyurethane male or female condoms.
Which are the best sexual positions when I'm pregnant?
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're tilted and not flat on your back, and make sure your partner supports himself so his weight is not on your abdomen.)
If you feel like getting creative, see our slideshow of pregnancy sex positions. You'll find helpful illustrations and tips for making the positions comfortable at different stages of pregnancy.
What kind of symptoms should prompt a call to my doctor or midwife?
It's normal to feel some cramping during or just after intercourse or orgasm, but if it doesn't 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're 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.
Remember, too, to talk with your doctor or midwife during one of your visits about sex after your baby is born.