Sex During Pregnancy: The Full Rubdown On What’s Safe, What’s Normal, What Not To Do

sex during pregnancy
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Just because you’re knocked up doesn’t mean you cease to be interested in sex — after all, in most cases, it’s the cause of your current state. Still, it’s understandable if you pump the brakes on your love life as soon as you start to experience those first few signs of pregnancy. A hundred questions might be running through your head and, let’s be real, at least a few probably revolve around whether a penis or a dildo can poke your baby in utero during pregnancy sex.

Fortunately, you’re still allowed to get frisky while you’re pregnant (and, thanks to surging hormones, you might be frisky AF). We’re here to help put your mind at ease and set your libido free as we explore the effects, advantages, benefits and everything in between of sex during pregnancy.

Is sex safe during pregnancy?

In a word, yes. “Sex during a normal pregnancy is perfectly acceptable and actually it is recommended,” board-certified OB-GYN Geoffrey Cly, MD, of HonestObgyn.com told Scary Mommy. “Sex is very important for intimacy, especially since your emotions will be going up and down and many women want to feel that closeness.”

So, during an uncomplicated pregnancy, it’s all systems go where sex is concerned. And it’s a good thing, too. As much as your brain may have pumped the brakes at first, your hormones could be revving up. Explained Dr. Cly, “I have women tell me their sex drive has never been higher and they want to have sex with their partner all the time [during pregnancy]. It is usually the partner, in these instances, who is holding back or concerned they will bump the baby.”

Is sex during pregnancy ever off-limits?

While it isn’t the norm, some pregnancies preclude sex — and, more specifically, climaxing — during certain stages or, in rare cases, altogether. According to Dr. Cly, these include preterm labor, shortening of the cervix (either naturally or after a cervical cerclage), and placenta previa. “This is because the uterus contracts during an orgasm,” said Dr. Cly, noting that uterine contractions could cause labor to kick in early in women with these conditions. Breast stimulation and certain hormones in semen called prostaglandins can also cause uterine contractions.

sex during pregnancy, woman in bed
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So, can climaxing cause miscarriage?

No. The conditions mentioned simply make women more susceptible to being sent into early labor by uterine contractions, which can caused by orgasms. But per the Mayo Clinic, most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn’t developing normally. Other reasons your OB-GYN may put a moratorium on sex during pregnancy? If you have unexplained vaginal bleeding, have a history of preterm labor or premature birth, have a history of miscarriage, or are pregnant with multiples. Also, if your water has already broken, sex increases the risk of infection.

If you’re concerned or have any of these conditions, make sure you talk to your health care provider before you put those pregnancy hormones to good use.

Should you take any sex precautions during pregnancy?

In a healthy pregnancy, your baby is protected by the strong muscles of your uterus, amniotic fluid, and an infection-barrier mucus plug that blocks the opening of the cervix. And while that’s a pretty kickass protective trio your body has created, there are additional precautions you can take during pregnancy if you plan to be sexually active.

As always, it’s imperative to protect yourself — and, when you’re pregnant, your baby — from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These diseases and/or infections can be passed to you if you have unprotected sex or other intimate physical contact with someone who is already infected. You can get STIs from vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Because STIs can have negative effects on your baby during pregnancy and birth, you obviously want to be cautious. So, if you’re having sex while pregnant, make sure you know your partner’s sexual history. If possible, avoid sex with someone who has other sexual partners. Don’t have sex with your partner if they have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. And always use a condom, especially if you’re not in a mutually monogamous relationship or if you’re having sex with a new partner.

Need more incentive to glove up before you love up?  Although it’s extremely rare (like, fewer than a dozen cases reported), superfetation is the fertilization and implantation of a second ovum sometime after the start of a pregnancy. As in, it is possible to get pregnant while pregnant. Just FYI.

sex during pregnancy
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Are any types of sex off-limits during pregnancy?

As we’ve already established, vaginal sex is generally A-OK during pregnancy unless your OB-GYN or midwife has told you otherwise. What about other types of sex, though?

Sex with toys: The common perception is that vaginal sex is when a male inserts his penis into a female’s vagina. However, it can also include the penetration of the vagina by a woman, man, or non-binary partner with sex toys, fingers, and/or the tongue (more on the latter in a minute). Accordingly, there are a few safety caveats.

“Inserting a sex toy into the lower part of the vagina will not cause any problems as long as that toy has been cleaned properly and does not have any bacteria hiding on it,” said Dr. Cly, noting that rough sex with toys could be troublesome. “Vigorously pushing a toy all the way up to the upper vagina and cervix could cause problems and initiate some preterm labor and preterm contractions. And in severely aggressive thrusting, the toy could disrupt the placenta and cause major bleeding or an abruption. So, if someone wants to use a toy, I would recommend using it on the outside or only in the lower part of the vagina that is close to the outside.”

Oral sex: In a healthy pregnancy with two healthy partners, oral sex is typically deemed safe. Still, there are points of concern. For women receiving oral sex, it is crucial that your partner doesn’t blow air into the vaginal opening. Trapped air bubbles can enter the placenta as an air embolism, which can cause problems with fetal development. Also, the pressure differential caused by trapped air can cause blood vessels to rupture.

As far as giving goes, oral sex is “likely” safe. Said Dr. Cly on the subject, “A pregnant woman can perform oral sex on a male partner, but she might have an increased gag reflex because of the pregnancy hormones.” If you aren’t in a mutually monogamous relationship, use a condom while performing oral sex to protect against STIs.

Anal sex: Anal sex is a bit more complicated. Although it’s unlikely to harm the baby, it’s probably still best to ask your health care provider if it’s OK to have anal sex during your pregnancy. There are two primary concerns.

First, bacteria like Giardia and Group B Streptococcus often colonize the rectum. If vaginal or oral sex follows anal sex, or if there is any touching of hands or genitals after anal sex, that bacteria can be spread to the vaginal tract. There, it can cause infections that could be dangerous for the baby in utero or even be transmitted to the infant during delivery. Second, because anal sex is more likely to damage tissue, it’s easier to transmit or contract STIs through anal sex.

Plus, anal sex might be uncomfortable if you’re dealing with pregnancy-related hemorrhoids (which, ugh, are the worst but common in your state). Anal could even cause the hemorrhoids to become inflamed or ruptured, and anal bleeding definitely merits a call to your doc.

sex during pregnancy
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What sex positions are best during pregnancy?

Obviously, your body goes through a lot of changes while baking up that beautiful little human (or humans) in your belly. This means that sex positions which worked before pregnancy or in the early stages of pregnancy might not work later — some may even cease to be safe. Take, for example, the flat-on-your-back “missionary position.” After your fourth month of pregnancy, the weight of your growing baby could constrict major blood vessels and put added pressure on your internal organs.

But, as a general rule of thumb, any sex position you find comfortable during pregnancy is probably okay… within reason. In other words, it’s probably best to avoid sexual acrobatics that could leave you more prone to slipping and falling. Otherwise, get creative! As your pregnancy progresses, keep the lines of communication open with your partner about what works for you. As your belly grows, you might feel more comfortable in positions that allow you to control the depth and speed of penetration, like woman on top. Spooning, in which your partner lies behind you, could be nice since it relieves the amount of pressure placed on your belly.

Wondering if doggy-style is safe during pregnancy? Probably. Just make sure you’re on a soft, non-slip surface (like the bed). “A woman’s center of gravity is different because of the weight of the fluid and the baby in the placenta, causing her to be off-balance toward the end of her pregnancy,” explained Dr. Cly. And, no, your partner’s penis isn’t going to ram into your baby’s head. Fear not; that isn’t where dimples come from.

What are the benefits of sex during pregnancy?

As for whether pregnancy-time sex is good or bad, the general consensus is… good! In fact, there are several benefits of sex during pregnancy. Ask any woman who has had a super-powerful pregnancy orgasm, and she’ll undoubtedly tell you the same — you can thank increased blood flow to the genitals for that. Other positive effects of sex during pregnancy include burning calories, releasing feel-good endorphins, creating intimacy with your partner, boosting your immune system, and enhancing your sense of happiness.

There are even benefits of sperm during pregnancy. “I do recommend couples have sex when they are approaching their due date to help stimulate contractions and cervical dilation. The sperm have prostaglandin chemicals in them that will help soften and dilate the cervix,” said Dr. Cly, adding that climaxing “will help the uterus to contract, and that can help with dilation and descent of the baby.”

Is there a point you should stop having sex during pregnancy?

Unless you’ve been given specific instructions otherwise by your health care provider, you should be able to enjoy sex throughout your pregnancy. Still, use your best judgment. If something seems off, tell your provider. This could be anything from heavy bleeding and cramping to fluid gushes too substantial to be discharge or ejaculate.”This happened to one of my pregnant couples when they were having sex close to her due date,” Dr. Cly shared. “The amniotic fluid broke while they were having sex and she was on top in a cowgirl position. She also had more amniotic fluid than normal. The fluid splashed all over him and he completely freaked out, thinking he broke her water and knocked his baby in the head.”

Naturally, the man hadn’t knocked his baby in the head, and everyone was fine (if not a little traumatized). The moral of the story? You should be fine to have sex all the way up to your due date, but your body is a complex matrix of creation right now. You never know what might happen. Just keep calm and give your OB-GYN or midwife a call if you’re concerned.

Are there consequences of not having sex during pregnancy?

Admittedly, there aren’t many disadvantages of sex during pregnancy to speak of. However, that doesn’t mean there are consequences of not having sex. The truth is you might not be in the mood, and that’s okay. Hormonal surges make some people feel extra sexy during pregnancy. For others, the hormones are overridden by pesky little pregnancy symptoms like nausea, constipation, hemorrhoids, headaches, back pain, and more.

Toward the end of your pregnancy especially, you may consider hanging a “do not disturb” sign on your vagina door. Because your baby and belly are both growing, you’re more prone to aches, pains, and fatigue. This may equal uncomfortable or painful sex during pregnancy in the third trimester. Basically, you might find yourself more interested in what’s about to come out of you than anything that might go in.

Those feelings are valid. Share them with your partner so that you can explore other ways of being loving. If no sex during pregnancy sounds like your speed, you can be intimate through kissing, cuddling, massage, making out, or even mutual masturbation. There is more to intimacy than just sex.

Written by Julie Sprankles.

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