Can you have sex while pregnant?

Did the title catch your eye? Sex during pregnancy is a question many are afraid to ask. It’s also a topic surrounded by myths and misconceptions.

But we’re here to give you the science-backed facts to ensure you can manage your sex life throughout pregnancy while protecting your baby’s health. Let’s get started.

Can you have sex while pregnant?

Yes, you can have safe sex during pregnancy. The only time you shouldn’t is when your doctor or midwife has told you not to.

Some women enjoy sex during pregnancy, whereas others don’t want to. Both are completely normal, especially as your hormones fluctuate.

Is sex during pregnancy bad for the baby?

Engaging in sexual intercourse during pregnancy will not hurt your baby. This is because the baby sits in your womb, and a penis or penetrative sex toy can’t reach beyond your cervix. The two will never touch.

In healthy pregnancies without complications, sex and orgasms won’t increase your risk of early labour or miscarriage. However, having sex near the end of pregnancy can result in mild contractions. These are Braxton Hicks contractions and are perfectly normal without cause for concern.

However, if you ever feel something’s wrong, you should always ask your doctor for a professional opinion.

Sex in pregnancy: Changes in each trimester

To understand sex during pregnancy, it’s best to examine each trimester individually. Here’s what you need to know for each term:

Sex in the first trimester

Sex in the first trimester differs for each woman. As you’ve only just conceived, there are a lot of hormonal changes. These changes tend to decrease your libido, but don’t worry if you’re experiencing a high sex drive – this is also normal.

Many first-trimester symptoms can cause a drop in sexual desire. These include:

  • Nausea and sickness
  • Fatigue
  • Discomfort
  • Fears and anxiety

Experts estimate that most couples see a 20% decrease in sexual intercourse over the first trimester.

While having sex while pregnant is safe, many women still fear penetration due to harm to the baby. This is a completely normal emotion, and you should never have sex because you feel pressured into it.

Sex in the second trimester

Once you reach the second trimester, you might notice your desires and habits changing. Many couples rekindle their sex life in this trimester, as hormones increase your libido and you’re more used to being pregnant and the changes that come with it.

Some sex therapists theorise that couples feel more intimate and secure during this period, which can lead to a more fulfilling sex life. As you prepare for the baby’s arrival, you may even spend more time with your partner than ever. It’s a period to enjoy each other before you grow your family.

Fun fact: One study found that many women discover orgasm for the first time in the second trimester due to increased pelvic congestion.

With the boost in sex drive, you can take the time in the second trimester and experiment in the bedroom. You could try new sexual positions, kinky games, or delve into sexy fantasies. Increasing sexual pleasure is always a good idea.

Again, it’s completely okay and normal to withdraw from penetrative sex. Pregnancy looks and feels different for everyone. You could explore non-penetrative sex or even abstain completely. The choice is yours!

Sex in the third trimester

Sex in the third trimester looks slightly different, primarily because of the baby’s size. Couples are less likely to opt for “women on top” positions and more likely to use spooning or side-based positions for maximum comfort.

Female orgasms cause pelvic contractions, and many mothers-to-be worry about the potential of a (very unlikely) early delivery. Women also tend to have more anxiety surrounding body image, positional difficulties, and the sexual satisfaction of their partners.

Did you know some couples believe that sex on the due date increases the chances of labour? Like other labour myths, no research or evidence confirms this tale.

Sex during the third trimester is often more challenging because of these emotional and physical difficulties. If you’re unsure about having sex during this time, consult a doctor or midwife for medical advice. However, many couples enjoy a healthy sex life right up until a full-term pregnancy. Follow whatever feels best for you.

Potential risks of sex during pregnancy

For most couples, sex during pregnancy is 100% safe. However, there are some risks. For example, pelvic inflammatory disease or bleeding due to placenta praevia.

Common reasons to avoid penetrative sex while pregnant include:

  • Placenta praevia
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Any cervix issues (these can cause early labour or miscarriage)
  • Broken waters (as sex after can cause infection)
  • A history of early labours
  • If you’re having twins and are in the third trimester

Safe sex and pregnancy

Safe sex practices should continue into pregnancy, especially if you have sexual intercourse with multiple partners. Many STIs can be passed from mother to baby through birth, breastfeeding, and pregnancy, so it’s never been so important to be safe under the sheets.

Use a condom or another type of barrier protection to keep you and your baby safe from STIs. When in doubt, you can also get tested for sexually transmitted diseases at your local sexual health clinic or with your doctor.

How to make sex more comfortable during pregnancy

Sex can be more uncomfortable when heavily pregnant. But there are some tips and tricks to keep you feeling comfortable as you get closer to your due date:

  • Avoid being on top. As your bump grows and your breasts become tender, avoid any “riding” positions
  • Avoid deep penetration. While it may be okay for some, deep penetration tends to be more painful during pregnancy
  • Embrace your side. From spooning to laying on your side and facing each other, having sex on your side relieves you from the weight of your baby bump
  • Use pillows. Laying on pillows and using them for support can help you distribute your weight better
  • Try doggy. Balance on your hands and knees and try being penetrated from behind. Use a cushion to support your stomach if needed

The takeaway

There’s no right or wrong answer regarding sex in pregnancy. If you have the thumbs up from your doctor or midwife, you can experiment and enjoy sex as much as you want. It’s a great way to pass the time until the baby arrives!

Learn more about sex and relationships on our blog.

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