Having sex during pregnancy: Is it safe?
Medically reviewed and updated by: Hussain Abdeh MPharm: 2211840
Updated on: 15/06/2021
Can you have sex during pregnancy?
Sex and pregnancy can be seen as two ideas exclusive from one another. However, it is a myth that you shouldn’t have sex during pregnancy. For most women who are having a normal pregnancy, it is safe to have sex throughout all of the trimesters.
Sexual intercourse during pregnancy does not affect or harm the foetus. The amniotic sac paired with the uterus’s strong muscles protects the baby. The cervix is also guarded against any infection by a thick layer of mucus. The penis does not go past the vaginal wall during sex, meaning that the baby is completely unaffected.
However, there are some circumstances where it is not safe to have sex while pregnant. Some pregnancy complications can mean that you may have to abstain or change the way you have intercourse with your partner.
If you have been spotting in early pregnancy, your midwife or doctor will probably advise you to not have sex until you are around 14 weeks. Another reason you may be advised to abstain from intercourse during pregnancy is if you are in the later stages of pregnancy, and you have previously gone into early labour.
Is it safe to have sex at any stage when pregnant?
It does not matter if you are 6 weeks pregnant or 32 weeks pregnant, sex is safe during pregnancy unless you are advised otherwise by your doctor. Although it is safe, your sex life may have to be adjusted during pregnancy.
For instance, some women’s sex drives may decrease, while others may have a heightened libido. It is very common for a woman’s libido to fluctuate during the course of her pregnancy.
Pregnant women need to pay particular attention to their sexual health throughout their pregnancy as their body is going through a number of changes. STIs also become a greater risk when pregnant.
Sex during your first trimester
Research has shown a 20% decrease in pregnant women having sex due to a decreased libido.
There are various reasons why this may be the case, such as:
- Fear of miscarriage or harm to the baby
- Fear of infection
- Feeling sick
- Physical awkwardness
This does not mean that you will definitely experience a decreased sex drive in your first trimester. Some women may actually find that their sex drive is higher during pregnancy.
Sex during your second trimester
Many women find that their sex drives increase during their second trimester because they have got used to being pregnant. This makes them more accepting of their bodily changes and more aware of how to handle any difficulties.
Studies have concluded that you may experience pros and cons in your sex life during this stage of pregnancy. A study reported that some women may become more introverted, which can cause a feeling of isolation in their partners; this can cause relationship issues. However, the study also said that one fifth of women had orgasms for the first time while pregnant.
Sex during your third trimester
Most women will find that their sex lives decrease significantly during their third trimester. A woman’s sexual interest generally decreases during this point; even their partners will normally have less interest in sex.
Most couples will continue to have sex during the seventh month; between 50% and 75% of couples continue having sex in the eight month; only around one-third of couples will still be having sex in the ninth month of pregnancy.
Many women worry about their uterus contracting during an orgasm in the third trimester. Feeling unattractive and worrying about the awkwardness that may come with having sex in the late stages also puts a lot of women off having sex.
Sexual intercourse can be difficult during the third trimester due to the discomfort caused by several positions, as well pelvic congestion.
The later you are in pregnancy, an orgasm may even set off mild contractions. You will feel the womb muscles tense. In medical terms, this is known as ‘Braxton Hicks’ contractions. Although they may be uncomfortable, they are perfectly normal.
Will having sex when pregnant trigger labour?
You may have heard theories or suggestions that sex can help to induce an early labour. Biologically, there is plausibility behind this theory. Firstly, sexual intercourse has been found to create an increase of uterine activity, i.e. contractions.
Secondly, semen contains prostaglandins, which are used synthetically in childbirth to encourage the cervix to prepare for labour. However, there is very little evidence from scientific study to suggest that having sexual intercourse during pregnancy will actually induce labour. In fact, one scientific study completely dispels this theory. The study found that women who had sex while pregnant were less likely to have a spontaneous labour compared to women who didn’t have sex.
What are the safest sex positions to use when pregnant?
Generally, having sex during pregnancy doesn’t need to be drastically different to intercourse before pregnancy. The majority of sex positions are safe during pregnancy; although you may find that some positions are more comfortable than others, especially as your tummy grows.
The missionary position is not an ideal position to have sex in during pregnancy. It may become increasingly uncomfortable as your partner’s weight is focused on your belly. Also, as your breasts become more tender or sensitive, you may want to avoid any pressure on your chest. The missionary position also compresses the blood flow from the mother to her baby.
Most couples find the easiest way of having sex when pregnant is to lie on your sides facing one another, or with your partner behind.
Experts recommend trying the following positions during pregnancy:
- Reverse cowgirl
- Doggy style (sex from behind)
- Anal sex
If you are still feeling aroused but having sex during your pregnancy has become too difficult, consider other ways to be intimate. You may find oral sex or self-stimulation easier. It is important to remember that physical intimacy does not always have to come from sexual gratification.
Kissing, hugging and caressing one another will still allow you to feel loved and intimate. So long as you are open and communicate with one another, you can enjoy each other, regardless of whether you are having sexual intercourse or not.