Everything You Need to Know About Having Sex While You’re Pregnant


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Source: Canva
Source: Canva

We’ve covered a spectrum of juicy topics when it comes to sex and motherhood. From the best sex toys for busy parents to what sex after baby is really like, we’re always looking for ways we can support your connection to your sex life, partner(s), pleasure—and ultimately, your entire well-being. And intimacy and connection don’t have to stop once you’re expecting a baby. If you’re currently pregnant or hope to become pregnant soon (congratulations!), or even if you’re just simply curious, there are considerations to make before diving headfirst into pregnant sex.

From worrying perhaps you shouldn’t have sex to fearing you might hurt your baby to wondering if a lower-than-usual libido is ‘normal,’ there’s no shortage of understandable concerns. With the help of experts, we’ve done our best to try to cover them all. Ready to discover intimacy and pleasure in the heart of your pregnancy? Read on for what you need to know about having sex while you’re pregnant. 

Editor’s Note: Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

13 Things to Know About Sex During Pregnancy

1. It’s (mostly) OK to have it!

We were lucky to have the chance to speak with two experts: obstetrical provider Soha S. Patel, MD, MSPH, FACOG, Assistant Professor, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and physical therapist Katie Weingartz, PT, DPT, University of Michigan Brighton Center for Specialty Care, who specializes in the pelvic floor and postpartum physical therapy. Both women expressed that as long as you have a low-risk, ‘normal’ pregnancy, you’re definitely able to have sex throughout the entire course of your pregnancy if you so desire. 

Dr. Patel noted, “If you look at the research, most studies have shown no increased risk of preterm birth or labor or other issues associated with sexual activity unless there are complications.” In a similar light, Weingartz stated, “From a physical therapy perspective, it is safe for most people to have sex during pregnancy unless your birthing provider has given specific instructions to avoid sex.”

So, if you were worried about a nine-month dry spell, you’ve got the green light to enjoy sex. For the most part…   

2. There are certain complications or conditions where having sex isn’t possible 

Dr. Patel was very clear that, unfortunately, there are certain contraindications to having sex during pregnancy that women should be aware of. Besides intercourse or penetration, this includes any stimulation that could create contractions or pelvic cramping, like orgasm does. Reasons why sex isn’t possible commonly include:

  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Leaking amniotic fluid
  • The cervix beginning to open prematurely (which could be due to things like irritation, uterine contractions, the fetus putting pressure on the cervix, etc.)
  • Placenta previa, where the placenta is covering the cervical opening 
  • A history of preterm labor or multiple miscarriages
  • Any risk of contracting an STI from your partner

Of course, this is just a preliminary list. Dr. Patel voiced that you should always discuss intercourse with your medical provider first to be absolutely sure whether or not it’s a possibility. From a physical health standpoint, Weingartz added: “One question to ask yourself is: Am I able to participate in moderate intensity exercise, with a heart rate between 125-140 beats per minute without difficulty? If the answer is yes, that will help guide your decision toward sex being safe for you.” 

If you need to abstain from having sex during your pregnancy, remember there are many fulfilling ways to be intimate with your partner. Maybe it’s a massage or steamy makeout session, with sexy music filling the background. Perhaps it’s a slow and sensual shower together. When you’re ‘forced’ to get creative sexually, you might surprise yourselves by discovering new paths to pleasure!  

3. You’re not going to hurt your baby, nor do they know what’s going on

It’s totally normal to freak out at the thought of sex’s potential impact on the life growing inside of you. In fact, it’s one of the most common concerns. You might fear you’re going to cause a miscarriage. Or that you’ll poke or crush your baby. Could they be aware of what’s going on? Will it scar them for life? 

The good news is, if your pregnancy is normal or low-risk—i.e., with none of the above-listed complications and as indicated by your provider—there is no evidence to suggest that sex increases your risk of having a miscarriage. Dr. Patel offered reassuringly, “The developing baby is protected by the amniotic fluid and the sack in the uterus. And the uterus itself is a very strong muscle, so sexual activity will not affect your baby as long as you don’t have those complications.” So that checks off poking or crushing your baby as well.

Moreover, Dr. Patel also confirmed that your baby “…cannot see what you’re up to and has no idea what’s going on. There’s no damage to be done.” While you may still hesitate to engage in sex as you normally would, hopefully, this helps you feel more optimistic about having it. If and when you decide to… 

4. It’s perfectly normal for your libido and desire to shift

Even when you’re not pregnant, sexual desire naturally shifts over time. What’s going on in our lives easily affects it, too. Given the dramatic physical and emotional changes that happen when you’re pregnant, it’s all the more likely to shake up your libido. Your breasts and belly are changing, your hormones are circulating differently, and your energy levels probably aren’t what you’re used to.

So, if you’re not in the mood, you’re allowed to be. If you’re in the mood all the time, you’re allowed to be. If you’re in the mood one minute and suddenly you’re completely turned off, you’re allowed to be. Embrace it all! You’re pregnant, and it’s one of the most special journeys of your lifetime. As Weingartz encouraged, “Keep having sex when and how YOU prefer! Keep your mind open to doing things differently if needed. Be realistic with expectations of your whole self during your pregnancy.” Overall, try to invite whatever feels good in the moment, sans guilt, “shoulds,” and pressure, and meet your body where they’re at. 

sex during pregnancy
Source: Andrea Bertozzini | Unsplash

5. Having sex during pregnancy benefits your health

If you’re looking for that extra spark of encouragement to have sex during your pregnancy, this is it! Dr. Patel recommends that her patients continue sexual activity as they feel comfortable doing so. Of course, the pleasure it provides is a wellness perk in and of itself. So are the rushes of happy hormones it sends through your body, like oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamine. And actually, thanks to boosted blood flow to your cervix during pregnancy, you might even experience more pleasurable sensitivity to your vulva when you have sex, too. 

Beyond feeling good, sex during pregnancy can nurture intimacy between you and your partner, help you sleep better, and engage your pelvic floor muscles to better support their use during labor and postpartum. And if you don’t have enough reason already, studies have found that exposure to semen can reduce chances of having preeclampsia, a high-risk pregnancy condition. So, if the mood strikes, think of it as taking extra good care of yourself—and, in turn, your partner and your baby.

6. Sex positions matter

Whether you and your partner try to explore different sex positions or tend to stick to your tried-and-trues, you might wonder if there are ‘better’ positions for when you’re pregnant. Early in your pregnancy, pretty much any position is fair game (unless you have physical limitations for other health reasons). Meanwhile, once you’re anywhere between 20 weeks and your third trimester, it’s suggested that you avoid a position like missionary. Not only might the thought of a body pressing on your growing belly sound uncomfortable, but it could also potentially restrict blood flow between you and your baby (this is the same reason side sleeping is recommended during later stages of pregnancy). 

“As your body changes, certain positions may be less comfortable than others, or what was previously not pleasurable may be more sensitive and pleasurable during this time,” Weingartz highlighted. If you’re experiencing aches and pains, sore breasts, or exhaustion but hope that a bit of sexual healing will do you good, let those body signals guide you toward positions that feel right for you. Beyond that, the sex positions you choose to try throughout your pregnancy really depend on one thing, and one thing only: whatever keeps you most comfortable and in pleasure! 

7. Lube is your best friend

Both Weingartz and Dr. Patel encouraged the use of a quality lubricant to maximize pleasure and comfort. As a liquid medium, it can enhance sensations, allow body parts to move more smoothly, and increase the amount of time you’re able to enjoy sexual activity. So many women think that they’re supposed to be able to self-lubricate naturally and that that should be enough. That couldn’t be further from the truth! “It is not uncommon to notice feeling aroused, but the genitals aren’t responding with natural lubrication,” Weingartz explained. Plus, no matter how much you self-lubricate, the expression ‘wetter is better’ has gained credibility for a reason. 

Your body already has so much to take care of to nurture your pregnancy, so why not give it a helping hand by incorporating lube? Ideally, when selecting a formula, choose one that’s on the simpler side, free of a long list of ingredients with chemicals that are hard to pronounce. These are going to be more body-friendly and less likely to throw off the pH balance of your vagina. The last thing you need is extra irritation or a pesky yeast infection down there. Though she said it can be trial and error, Weingartz recommended trying Good Clean Love, Sylk, Slippery Stuff, and Uberlube.

8. A little blood is OK

Obviously, it could be alarming if you notice blood or spotting post-sex during your pregnancy. However, since your cervix is undergoing so much change, it turns out this can be relatively common. According to Dr. Patel, “During sex, the cervix is more sensitive because there is a large amount of blood flow to the genital area in general. So, it is also possible to experience some spotting, but it is not necessarily a cause for concern.” Weingartz seconded this. Still, both experts absolutely recommend discussing any post-sex bleeding with your obstetrical provider or midwife. It can offer you peace of mind and confirm it’s not something more serious.   

9. Communication is key

Once you become pregnant, everything you do transforms into thinking for two. How you approached sex yourself was one thing. How you feel approaching sex now that you’re carrying your baby is another. Considering your sex life could fill you with all kinds of new hopes, fears, turn-ons, and turn-offs. The reality is that sex might look completely different from what you and your partner are used to. Or transform in some ways but not others.  

The key is preserving the pleasure and enjoyment you derive from your sexual connection together. You just may have to arrive there in new and creative ways. The ultimate recipe for continuing to nourish your sex life together in some way, shape, or form? True communication. Dr. Patel stated this is the most crucial part of understanding sex during pregnancy. “Having a conversation with their partner about how they’re feeling, their needs, and what their actual desires are is one of the first things I talk to patients about.”

sex during pregnancy couple
Source: Luana Azevedo | Unsplash

10. Your second trimester could be your “sweet spot”

It’s normal for your sexual desire to ebb and flow throughout the course of your pregnancy. But if there’s going to be a period where you’re more likely to embrace the mood, Dr. Patel noted that it’s the second trimester. She pointed out that this is the point where you’re past the extreme body changes that accompany going from not pregnant to pregnant—like breast changes, morning sickness, a new normal of fatigue, etc. Meanwhile, during your third trimester, your belly and baby are growing to their biggest. It’s likely having sex won’t be the most comfortable then, either. Enter the second trimester, the “honeymoon sweet spot,” where Dr. Patel observes that “a lot of women feel [it’s] a great trimester to pursue intercourse if that’s what they desire.”

11. Sex might induce labor once your due date arrives

Dr. Patel said that when the third trimester rolls around, the only time she really gets asked about intercourse is to the tune of, “What can I do to speed up the labor process?’” Although there aren’t conclusive studies confirming with 100 percent certainty that sex will induce labor, it’s still something your obstetrical provider or midwife might suggest. Especially if you’re at or past your due date and eager to welcome your newborn into the world! To be clear, it won’t induce labor prematurely. There are many conditions that need to be just right for your labor process to begin.

The potential science behind it is two-fold. First, it’s possible that the prostaglandin in semen can help ripen the cervix and prepare it for labor. At the same time, when you orgasm, your release of oxytocin and subsequent uterine contractions can also initiate part of the hormonal mix necessary to go into labor. Having sex with your partner might not send you straight to the delivery room, but it can’t hurt. And perhaps give you something to enjoy in the meantime!

The best thing you can do is be completely honest with your partner about where you’re at sexually and trust yourself to know exactly what your body and baby need.

12. It’s OK not to have sex

We asked Dr. Patel the one thing she wished she could tell her patients about sex during pregnancy. Her response? It’s perfectly OK not to have it. She encounters many women who feel like they’re supposed to have sex to satisfy their partner’s sexual needs. Or they fear not having it is going to cause friction in their relationship. A partner might even be the one putting on the pressure to have sex. 

Not all women have the go-ahead from their obstetrical provider or midwife for intercourse. If they have complications, then sex truly won’t be possible. Even if you don’t have one, there are still legitimate physical and emotional barriers that can interfere with sexual desire. And having it might not be first on your list in terms of finding comfort. Dr. Patel urged, “There’s more to intimacy than sex. Sharing your needs and concerns with your partner is really important. They may not appreciate that sex can be difficult, or completely unappealing, or off-limits.”

That being said, we discovered an interesting finding when we asked hundreds of our readers about sex during motherhood. Over half of women said they don’t actually have to be in the mood for sex but usually get in the mood if they start doing it anyway. Now, these women weren’t necessarily pregnant, and by all means, honor your desires first and foremost. But, given that there are some nice benefits to sex during pregnancy, you might wind up finding there are times when you’ll really enjoy it—even if you didn’t initially think you would!

13. Talk to your care provider

Sure, internet sources and talking with your mom friends can offer some helpful guidance. Nevertheless, definitely make a point to talk with your OB-GYN or midwife, too. “It’s imperative to discuss any desire for intercourse with an obstetrical provider. They probably know your medical history the best and can ensure there are no complications or contraindications to having it,” Dr. Patel explained. They can also offer tailored sex-related advice that’s just for you. 

It’s understandable that during your checkups, you’ll have a lot that’s front of mind to talk and ask your provider about. But try not to forget about sex! You might even feel a bit bashful discussing your sex life. But remember, they field all kinds of embarrassing pregnancy questions. They’re well-equipped to guide you. Ultimately, it’s part of their job to ensure you feel comfortable and confident with how sex plays a part in your unique pregnancy journey. 

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