Sex During Pregnancy: An Overview
Most women who are having a normal pregnancy may continue to have sex right up until their water breaks or they go into labor. You won't hurt the baby...
On the list of "is it safe" questions that pregnant women have (can I eat sushi? fly on a plane? highlight my hair? etc.), sex ranks pretty high. It's sex that got you pregnant (in most cases), but what happens now that you've achieved your goal? The good news is that with just a few precautions you can still keep things hot in the bedroom.
Is it safe to have sex while 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. You won't hurt the baby by making love. The amniotic sac and the strong muscles of the uterus protect your baby, and the thick mucus plug that seals the cervix helps guard against infection.
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 caregiver.
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. Here's what's going on.
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. You may also have abdominal cramps during or immediately after intercourse.
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 all the time. 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 caregiver has advised you not to, you can still hug, kiss, and caress each other.
I haven't really been in the mood 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 abated.
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 partner's sex drive change?
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, he may be apprehensive about the burdens of parenthood, and that anxiety may affect his sexual desire.
Probably the most common reason that men become more tentative about sex during pregnancy is a fear that sex could 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 importantly, 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 it safe for my partner to give me oral sex?
For the most part, yes. Licking is fine, but your partner shouldn't blow into your genital area. Forcing or blowing air into the vagina could cause an air embolism (a bubble of air that gets into your blood circulation). This happens very rarely, but it could 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 micro-abrasions or tiny cuts in his mouth.
How can I protect myself from sexually transmitted infections during intercourse?
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 positions tend to be the most comfortable?
You may have to experiment to find which positions are best 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, your partner will need to keep his weight off your abdomen. And wedge a pillow under you so you're not flat on your back.) Some couples find pregnancy to be an opportunity to get creative and try some new positions. Here are some suggestions:
• Straddle your partner as he lies on his back. This way, there'll be no weight on your abdomen and you can control the depth of penetration.
• Straddle your partner as he sits on a sturdy chair.
• Lie side-by-side with your partner facing your back and entering from behind. (Deep thrusts can become uncomfortable as the months pass. Penetration tends to be shallower in this position.)
• Lie on your side, tilted back somewhat with a pillow wedged under your back to support you as you face your partner. This position allows him to keep most of his weight off your belly.
• Shift your bottom to the side or foot of the bed and lie back with your knees bent and feet perched at the edge of the mattress. (After your first trimester, wedge a pillow under one side so you're not completely flat on your back.) Your partner kneels or stands in front of you.
• Support yourself on your knees and elbows. Your partner kneels and enters from the rear.
What kind of symptoms should prompt a call to my practitioner?
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 healthcare provider.
Don't hesitate to talk to your practitioner 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.
Reviewed by the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board