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How Sex During Pregnancy Can Be Safe, Healthy, and Enjoyable

by Vannessa Rhoades 08 Feb 2023
How Sex During Pregnancy Can Be Safe, Healthy, and Enjoyable

Though you and your partner may have had frequent intimacy before you conceived, your feelings around sex may be a bit more complicated during pregnancy. It’s normal to feel anxious about having sex and to have lots of questions about what’s safe to do. Is sex good during pregnancy? Will it hurt the baby? What are safe sex positions during pregnancy? How can I increase my sex drive during pregnancy?

In most cases, it’s completely safe for a woman to be sexually active throughout her pregnancy unless her healthcare provider has advised her otherwise. In fact, sex during pregnancy comes with benefits for both mom and baby. 

As your body begins to change, you may find your sex drive increasing or decreasing or that certain positions become more or less comfortable. Having open, honest discussions with your partner throughout your pregnancy can help make sex more enjoyable for both of you. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of sex during pregnancy, safe sex positions, when to avoid sex, and how sex may change.

Benefits of Sex During Pregnancy

Sex during pregnancy can have significant advantages for a pregnant person and their partner. Potential advantages may include:

  • Improved overall happiness. Endorphins released during orgasm can help the mother and baby feel happier and more relaxed.
  • Increased bonding between partners. For some couples, sex during pregnancy helps them feel more connected.
  • More powerful orgasms. Elevated blood flow to the genital region may contribute to a higher number of stronger, better orgasms for pregnant women.
  • Improved boost immune system. A 2004 study revealed that sex increases IgA, an antibody that helps prevent colds and other infections.
  • Better physical health. Having sex burns calories and can help to keep both partners fit.

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Is Sex Safe During Pregnancy?

Having sex will not injure the baby at any point during an average, uncomplicated pregnancy. Your infant is safeguarded and cushioned from any harm by amniotic fluid, a mucus plug around the cervix, and strong uterine muscles. Though some people worry that orgasms or sexual activity may harm the infant, raise the odds of experiencing a miscarriage, or trigger early labor, in a healthy uncomplicated pregnancy, this is not an issue.

A number of studies have demonstrated that vaginal sex during pregnancy has no links to an increased risk of preterm labor or premature birth. However, if a healthcare provider considers a woman to be at high risk for complications, they may advise her to avoid sexual intercourse during the pregnancy or just in the later stages.

During the later stages of pregnancy, you may find that orgasm or sexual penetration can trigger Braxton Hicks contractions. These are mild “practice” contractions many women experience as their due date begins to approach. They are not an indication of labor and shouldn’t be cause for concern.

Safe Sex Positions During Pregnancy

In general, any position that feels comfortable to you is alright during pregnancy, but you may have to be a bit experimental in order to adapt to your expanding belly. Many women feel more comfortable in positions where they can control the speed and depth of penetration. During the later stages of pregnancy, you should opt for positions that don’t put pressure on the belly or have you lying on your back for extended periods.

Some of the more comfortable safe sex positions during pregnancy include the following:

  • Pregnant partner on top. This position allows you to be in control of both penetration depth and clitoral stimulation.
  • Side-by-side spooning. This keeps the weight off your belly and back.
  • Rear-entry. Your partner doesn’t have to work around your belly in this position which may make things more comfortable for both of you.
  • Oral sex. A partner should avoid blowing air into the pregnant woman’s vagina as this can create an air embolism (an air bubble blocks a blood vessel). Though rare, an air embolism can be extremely dangerous for both the woman and the baby.
  • Anal sex. Anal sex is safe during pregnancy but may be painful if the woman has pregnancy-induced hemorrhoids. Avoid having vaginal sex immediately after anal sex, as this could introduce bacteria from the rectum into the vagina, causing infection.
  • Mutual masturbation
  • Sitting at the edge of the bed

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When You Shouldn’t Have Sex During Pregnancy

Your healthcare provider may recommend that you avoid sexual intercourse during pregnancy if you experience any of the following conditions:

  • Issues with the cervix that could raise the chances of miscarriage or triggering early labor
  • Cervical incompetence, in which the cervix dilates prematurely
  • A history of premature labor
  • Placenta previa, in which the placenta partially or entirely covers the entrance to the cervix
  • Carrying multiple babies
  • Leaking amniotic fluid
  • Significant blood loss or unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Your water has broken, which may increase the risk of infection

During pregnancy, it is critical that a pregnant person protects both themselves and their baby from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Use a condom, dental dam, or other barrier contraception during all sexual encounters with new sexual partners.

How Pregnancy Affects Your Sex Drive

Different people will have different experiences with their sex drive during pregnancy. For some people, the boost in hormones and increased blood flow to the genital region may increase their libido, especially during the second trimester. For others, surging hormones, reduced energy levels, physical discomfort, and other bodily changes may make you less interested in sexual activity. These changes can affect your partner’s sex drive as well. If you’re not in the mood, you can still stay connected to your partner through other non-sexual activities like snuggling, kissing, or talking.

Sex After Childbirth

It’s essential to give your body ample time to heal after labor and delivery. You’ll need several weeks for the cervix to close, postpartum bleeding to subside, and for some people, allow surgical incisions or tears to heal. For many people, this is around six weeks after a vaginal delivery. It’s important to first get clearance from your healthcare provider before resuming sexual activity after childbirth.

When to Contact a Doctor

For a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, sexual activity is not linked with any dangers to the mother or infant. Whether connected to sex or not, if a person has any unusual pain or bleeding during pregnancy, they should consult their healthcare provider immediately.

The Takeaway

In general, sex during pregnancy is safe and healthy for both the mother and baby. It may take a little experimentation to find the most comfortable position to accommodate your growing belly, and your libido may fluctuate considerably as your pregnancy progresses. This is completely normal. Communicating honestly and openly with your partner can help you continue to have a healthy sex life throughout the duration of your pregnancy.

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