Updated on Sep 12, 2023

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Sex During Pregnancy: Can You Have Sex While Pregnant?

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By Babylist Team | Updated on Sep 12, 2023
Image for article Sex During Pregnancy: Can You Have Sex While Pregnant?

When your body is no longer quite your own, the experience of sex—or even the idea of it—can seem just as foreign to you.

There may be times during the course of your pregnancy when you want sex more; other times, you may have no interest, or even wonder if it is a good idea.

That’s all normal, says MadameOvary.com1 founder Dr. Mary Jane Minkin. Minkin draws from more than 35 years of educating and providing medical care to women in order to help you answer the questions you might have about sex and pregnancy.

Is sex safe during pregnancy?

That’s the most common question, Minkin says, “and for almost everybody, the answer is yes.” But there are a couple of caveats; talk to your healthcare provider if you have any of these pregnancy complications:

  • Placenta previa: Placenta previa 2 is a condition in which the placenta is covering some or all of the cervix.

  • Preterm labor: If you’re in your third trimester and have been experiencing contractions (real one, not Braxton-Hicks) and/or your healthcare provider has put you on bed rest

You and your doctor should discuss whether vaginal intercourse or orgasms are safe if you have either of these conditions.

If you have any pain or bleeding after sex, it’s a good idea to call your healthcare provider.

Is anal sex safe during pregnancy?

As long as you have the go-ahead from your doctor, anal sex is just as safe as vaginal sex during pregnancy. Though you should avoid it if you have any hemorrhoids, which are very common during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, and can cause pain and itching. And the typical rules for anal sex still apply: be gentle, and never go from anal sex to vaginal sex (it can introduce bacteria to the vaginal canal that can harm both you and baby).

Sex Drive During Pregnancy

Feeling turned on, turned off, or—strangely—both? What’s the deal? The hormonal answer is “you have an increase in estrogen and progesterone,” Dr. Minkin explains. “Estrogen increases [sexual desire] and progesterone decreases it. So it depends on what’s winning.” You may find your sex drive fluctuates throughout your pregnancy, and it’s totally normal if it does.

Some people develop hemmorhoids or varicose veins in the vulva and vagina during pregnancy, which can make intercourse difficult and feel painful. The condition can be treated like most other varicose veins throughout the body, Dr. Minkin says. Try elevating your hips when you lie down to help promote circulation and avoid standing for long periods of time. There also are support garments and wearable ice packs designed specifically for this that may help alleviate pain and prevent the varicose veins from getting worse.

If you’re just not feeling it, know you’re not alone. Research shows 3 that vaginal intercourse and other sexual activity—as well as sexual desire—decreases throughout pregnancy for many people.

Benefits of Sex During Pregnancy

If you are in the mood, good news: having sex while pregnant can actually provide some benefits! (And if your partner is the one who’s a bit nervous about causing pain or hurting the baby, maybe you can use this to coax them.)

Pregnancy sex can help induce labor

This is a common concern among pregnant people, but don’t worry; unless you’re at risk for preterm labor, having sex in the later weeks of pregnant will only help things along 4 once your body is ready (i.e. having sex won’t cause you to go into labor before baby is ready). But how does it work?

  • Orgasms produce contractions. This is true regardless of when you have sex, but especially later in pregnancy, you may notice your abdomen hardening immediately after experiencing an orgasm. That hardening is actually your uterus contracting, and you may feel Braxton-Hicks contractions for a few minutes afterward. If you’re close enough to real labor, you may feel real contractions kick up.

  • Cervix-softening prostaglandins. A compound found in semen, prostaglandins help soften (“ripen”) the cervix to prepare it for dilating during labor.

  • Oxytocin. Oxytocin is a natural hormone that can help induce labor. If you’re induced in the hospital, it’s usually via oxytocin’s synthetic counterpart, Pitocin.

Pregnancy sex can tone your pelvic floor

A strong pelvic floor is important for battling urinary incontinence after giving birth. While you can visit a pelvic floor physical therapist and practice Kegels to strengthen that muscle group, orgasming can help a lot too.

Pregnancy sex can reduce stress

Hello, oxytocin! The hormone responsible for helping induce labor is also responsible for helping put you in a good mood. Aside from the good workout that can help your muscles relax and get you on your way to a good night’s sleep, the stress-relieving qualities of having sex while pregnant center around oxytocin and its ability to relieve pain (sore hips? gone!) and generally make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

What are the best sex positions during pregnancy?

If you’re comfortable, have a good time and be creative—especially with positions 5 as your body continues to change. And if you’re worried about hurting the baby, don’t be. “Usually kids are pretty resilient…and there’s fluid to cushion the baby. It’s like they’re swimming,” Dr. Minkin says.

If you’re not comfortable with sex, “talk to your partner, and just say, ‘Listen, I’m just not very interested right now’,” Dr. Minkin says. Vaginal intercourse and sex in general aren’t the only forms of intimacy for couples. Kissing, touching, and hugging also can provide closeness, and maybe a lot more comfortable for you, especially in the later months of pregnancy.

When to stop sex during pregnancy

If you’re both enjoying sex, you can do it right up until your due date (unless your doctor says no, of course). Once your water breaks, however, “nothing in that vagina,” Dr. Minkin says. Vaginal intercourse, and even tampons, can introduce bacteria to the birth canal, which is especially prone to infection after your water breaks 6 and that layer of protective fluid is gone.

Not sure if your water has broken? Better safe than sorry—give your doctor a call and they can test for the release of amniotic fluid.

Pregnant woman holding her stomach on a bed with a plant in the background

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  1. "Madame Ovary"http://madameovary.com/.

  2. Mayo Clinic Staff"Placenta previa"May 11, 2022https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/placenta-previa/symptoms-causes/syc-20352768.

  3. Elias Bartellas, Joan M. G. Crane, Melita Daley, Kelly A. Bennett, Donna Hutchens"Sexuality and sexual activity in pregnancy"An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, vol. 107, no. 8Aug 1, 2000, pp. 964-968https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2000.tb10397.x.

  4. "Can sex induce labor?"https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/sex-to-induce-labor#can-sex-induce-labor.

  5. HAYLEY MACMILLEN"14 Positions For Hot Pregnancy Sex"May 11, 2017https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2016/05/110380/pregnant-sex-positions-to-try.

  6. "What to know about your water breaking"Feb 10, 2020https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/water-breaking#what-to-do.

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