Sex during pregnancy is perfectly safe for most women, though desire for sex may change during different stages of pregnancy — and certain adjustments may have to be made.
Among the more enjoyable changes pregnancy brings to many women is a heightened sex drive and strong orgasms during some stages of pregnancy.
For most women, intercourse during pregnancy is perfectly safe. If the pregnancy is progressing normally, sex is in no way harmful to the baby, says Annette Perez-Delboy, MD, associate clinical professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
Your baby is well protected within your uterus. Amniotic fluid cushions the baby, and a thick mucus plug seals the cervix tight to guard against infection, Dr. Perez-Delboy says. Although an orgasm may cause some uterine contractions, they’re not labor pains, so there’s no need to worry, she adds.
A pregnant woman’s sex drive typically spikes in the second trimester, when energy levels rise and nausea subsides. Sex may be on your mind a lot due to an increase in blood flow to the vagina, says Perez-Delboy. The vagina becomes more engorged and vaginal lubrication increases. As a result, your desire to have sex rises and orgasms become stronger.
As your anatomy changes and you experience pregnancy weight gain, getting the most enjoyment from intercourse may call for variations to your usual routine.
Enjoying Sex During Pregnancy
You may find that this is a time of sexual freedom and, if this is your first pregnancy, you may appreciate intimacy more during you and your partner’s last months without the responsibilities of parenthood. As your sexual desires peak, you may need to make some adjustments for your own comfort, depending on the stage of pregnancy you’re in.
- Experiment with new sexual positions. When pregnancy weight gain causes your belly to enlarge, try lying on your side during sex, either facing toward or away from your partner, suggests Perez-Delboy. Having the woman on top may also be more comfortable, because she can control the depth of penetration. Other options are for the woman to position herself on hands and knees with her partner kneeling behind or for her to sit on his lap.Women shouldn’t lie flat on their back in late pregnancy because the weight of the baby and the weight of their partner may put pressure on the inferior vena cava, a large vein that brings blood back to your heart. Pressure can cause dizziness and cause your heart rate to speed up, Perez-Delboy says.
- Put safety first. If your partner has a history of sexually transmitted disease (STD) or if there’s even a possibility of STD or HIV exposure when you’re having sex, always use a condom. HIV can be transmitted to the baby, and some other STDs can be transmitted to the baby during delivery.While oral sex during pregnancy is generally permissible, remember that it’s never safe to blow air into the vagina because this could cause an air embolism (in which a blood vessel becomes blocked by air bubbles), which could become life-threatening. Doctors don’t recommend anal sex during pregnancy because it could spread bacteria from the rectum to the vagina and possibly cause an infection, Perez-Delboy says. It also may be uncomfortable due to hemorrhoids during pregnancy.
- Communicate openly. You and your partner may have different ideas about how often to have sex during pregnancy. Talk about each other’s changing needs. If intercourse when pregnant becomes difficult, particularly in the final stage of pregnancy, find ways other than penetration to be close, such as using massage or cuddling.
When Sex During Pregnancy Isn’t Safe
Your doctor may tell you not to have sex while pregnant if:
- You’re at risk for a miscarriage.
- You’re at risk for preterm labor, which is giving birth before 37 weeks.
- You have placenta previa, in which the placenta is covering the cervical opening.
- You’re experiencing vaginal bleeding, which is more common when you’re pregnant with twins or triplets.
- You have an infection.
- Your membranes have ruptured.
- You have a short cervix, which increases risk for miscarriage or preterm labor, or the cervix has opened.
Expect pregnancy to bring waves of changes — physical, emotional, and sexual. By listening to your body and recognizing your needs, you will be better able to enjoy the unique pleasures of this special time in your life.