Has pregnancy spiked your interest in sex? Or is sex the last thing on your mind? Either way, here's what you need to know about sex during pregnancy.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
If you want to get pregnant, you have sex. No surprises there. But what about sex while you're pregnant? The answers aren't always as obvious.
Here's what you need to know about sex during pregnancy.
As long as your pregnancy is proceeding normally, you can have sex as often as you like — but you might not always want to.
At first, hormonal fluctuations, fatigue and nausea might sap your sexual desire. As your pregnancy progresses, weight gain, back pain and other symptoms might further dampen your enthusiasm for sex.
Your emotions might take a toll on your sex drive, too.
Concerns about how pregnancy or the baby will change your relationship with your partner might weigh heavily on your mind — even while you're eagerly anticipating the addition to your family. Fears about sexual activity harming the baby or anxiety about childbirth might team up to sap your sex drive. Changes in your self-image might play a role as well, especially as your pregnancy progresses.
Although many couples worry that sex during pregnancy will cause a miscarriage, sex isn't generally a concern. Early miscarriages are usually related to chromosomal abnormalities or other problems in the developing baby — not to anything you do or don't do.
Your developing baby is protected by the amniotic fluid in your uterus, as well as the strong muscles of the uterus itself. Sexual activity won't affect your baby.
As long as you're comfortable, most sexual positions are OK during pregnancy.
As your pregnancy progresses, experiment to find what works best. Rather than lying on your back, for example, you might want to lie next to your partner sideways or position yourself on top of your partner or in front of your partner.
Let your creativity take over, as long as you keep mutual pleasure and comfort in mind.
Oral sex is safe during pregnancy. If you receive oral sex, though, make sure your partner doesn't blow air into your vagina. Rarely, a burst of air might block a blood vessel (air embolism) — which could be a life-threatening condition for you and the baby.
Generally, anal sex isn't recommended during pregnancy. Anal sex might be uncomfortable if you have pregnancy-related hemorrhoids. More concerning, anal sex might allow infection-causing bacteria to spread from the rectum to the vagina.
Exposure to sexually transmitted infections during pregnancy increases the risk of infections that can affect your pregnancy and your baby's health.
Use a condom if:
- Your partner has a sexually transmitted infection
- You're not in a mutually monogamous relationship
- You choose to have sex with a new partner during pregnancy
Orgasms can cause uterine contractions, but these contractions are different from the contractions you'll feel during labor. Orgasms — with or without intercourse — aren't likely to increase the risk of premature labor or premature birth.
Similarly, sex isn't likely to trigger labor even as your due date approaches.
Although most women can safely have sex throughout pregnancy, sometimes it's best to be cautious.
Your health care provider might recommend avoiding sex if:
- You have a history of preterm labor or premature birth
- You have unexplained vaginal bleeding
- You're leaking amniotic fluid
- Your cervix begins to open prematurely (cervical incompetence)
- Your placenta partly or completely covers your cervical opening (placenta previa)
That's OK. There's more to a sexual relationship than intercourse.
Share your needs and concerns with your partner in an open and loving way. If sex is difficult, unappealing or off-limits, try another type of contact — such as cuddling, kissing or massage.
Whether you give birth vaginally or by C-section, your body will need time to heal. Many health care providers recommend waiting four to six weeks before resuming intercourse. This allows time for your cervix to close and any tears or a repaired episiotomy to heal.
If you're too sore or exhausted to even think about sex, maintain intimacy in other ways. Stay connected during the day with short phone calls, email messages or text messages. Reserve a few quiet minutes for each other before the day begins or while you're winding down before bed.
When you're ready to have sex, take it slow — and use a reliable method of contraception if you want to prevent a subsequent pregnancy.
July 24, 2012
- Johnson CE, et al. Sexual health during pregnancy and the postpartum. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2011;8:1267.
- Lockwood CJ, et al. The initial prenatal assessment and routine prenatal care. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed April 23, 2012.
- Tulandi T, et al. Definition and etiology of recurrent pregnancy loss. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed April 23, 2012.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Your Pregnancy and Childbirth Month to Month. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; 2010.
- Hutcherson H. What Your Mother Never Told You About Sex. New York, N.Y.: Berkley Publishing Group; 2002:253.
- STDs & pregnancy - CDC fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/std/pregnancy/STDFact-Pregnancy.htm. Accessed April 30, 2012.