Pregnancy and Sex: Is It Safe?
Every woman wants to have a safe and healthy pregnancy. In fact, many women go to great lengths to ensure their baby's well being by tailoring their stress levels, sleeping patterns, diets and even kicking bad habits (like smoking and alcohol consumption) to accommodate the new life inside them. And while the benefits of these precautions are well documented and publicized, there still seems to be a cloud of uncertainty around how safe it is to have sex during pregnancy, which is why we've come up with this guide.
Is it Normal to Have Sex while Pregnant?
Before we talk about anything else, let's just get this straight: yes! If you are experiencing a normal pregnancy (or one that is considered as low-risk for miscarriage or premature birth) than it is also perfectly normal both to have sex and to want to have sex while pregnant. On the other hand, not wanting to have sex is also normal, and should not be a source of embarrassment.
Although we often think of women as being the most sensitive about the health and well-being of their baby during pregnancy, in fact many men report feeling awkward about initiating sexual activity due to fear of causing pain or problems for either his partner or their baby. On the other hand, many women actually say they experience a heightened sense of sexual desire during pregnancy, which is likely caused by hormonal changes that cause the vulva (the area around the opening of the vagina) to enlarge and the breasts to be extra sensitive. Also, some women report the newfound freedom of not having to worry about contraception, combined with a new sense of intimacy with their partner makes their sex-life less inhibited.
However, this feeling will likely vary in intensity throughout the pregnancy. For example, women who experience morning sickness and general fatigue during their first trimester are not likely to feel particularly desirous. And once a woman reaches her third trimester she may be feeling uncomfortable due to weight gain, and therefore may feel discomfort or a lack of desire for sex during this time.
In any case, talking with your partner in an open and honest way about your feelings around sex during pregnancy early on and regularly is the best way to ensure you both feel connected and fulfilled.
Once a woman has reached the second trimester it is generally not encouraged that she lie on her back due to the added pressure her growing uterus would place on major blood vessels; thus making sex in the missionary position increasingly risky - not to mention uncomfortable. Here are several other positions that you can try:
- Spooning (while lying down man enters woman from behind)
- Woman on top
- Woman on hands and knees, rear entry
- Side lying, woman's knee pulled up
Also, be aware that oral sex can be harmful if the man blows air into your vagina, as this could potentially block a blood vessel.
When Can Sex Be Harmful to a Pregnancy?
For women experiencing normal pregnancies, sexual intercourse should have no bearing on the overall health and safety of your baby. She is safely stowed in the uterus, where the amniotic sac and strong muscles protect her from coming into contact with the penis. Neither intercourse nor orgasm will cause you to have a miscarriage.
Many women also worry about orgasms inducing labor. In fact, semen does contain a chemical that could encourage contractions, which is why many health experts do not recommend having sex during the final weeks of pregnancy. Of course you should first visit your health care provider early to determine what risks (if any) intercourse could pose to your baby.
Some reasons why sex should be avoided during pregnancy include:
- Your doctor has advised against it
- You have a history of premature birth or labor
- If your placenta partially or completely covers your cervix (placenta previa)
- Your water has broken
- Your are currently experiencing unexplained bleeding
- Either yourself or your partner have an active, sexually transmitted disease (std)
- During the first trimester if a woman has a history of miscarriages or threatened miscarriage, or shows signs of a threatened miscarriage
- During the last trimester if a woman has a history of premature or threatened premature labor, or is experiencing signs of early labor
- In the last trimester, if twins are being carried
But remember that even in the absence of these symptoms your body will tell you what is right for you. If for any reason you are feeling uncomfortable about the prospect of intercourse during pregnancy speak with your partner and your doctor so you can make your pregnancy the best time for you!
And for all your questions on sex and pregnancy including comfortable positions, sex drive and possible complications, check out sex and pregnancy to get the answers.
For more information on sex and pregnancy check out our pregnancy videos.