Sex during pregnancy
Sex is a healthy part of a loving relationship with your partner. But is it OK for you to have sex when you’re pregnant? For most women, yes, sex is safe during pregnancy. If you have questions about having sex during pregnancy, talk to your health care provider.
Here are the top things you need to know about sex during pregnancy:
- If your pregnancy is healthy, you can have sex. You and your partner can use positions that are safe and comfortable throughout pregnancy.
- Sex doesn’t hurt your baby. The amniotic fluid in your uterus helps protect your baby when you’re having sex.
- If you have pregnancy complications now or if you’ve had them in the past, having sex during pregnancy may not be safe.
- If after having sex you have heavy bleeding, painful cramps or leaking amniotic fluid, call your provider or go to the emergency room.
- It’s OK for you to have changing desires about sex during pregnancy. Talk to your partner about what makes you feel comfortable.
When is sex not safe during pregnancy?
Sex may not be safe during pregnancy if you have certain pregnancy complications now or if you’ve had them in the past. If you have any of these complications, talk to your provider to see if it’s OK for you to have sex:
- You’re pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets or more)
- You had a miscarriage in the past or you’re at risk of having a miscarriage in this pregnancy.
- Miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- You had a premature baby in the past or you have signs of preterm labor in this pregnancy. A premature baby is a baby born too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Preterm labor is when your labor starts early, before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.
- You have an incompetent cervix. This is when the cervix opens too early during pregnancy. The cervix is the opening to the uterus (womb) that sits at the top of the vagina. An incompetent cervix can cause you to have preterm labor.
- You have placenta previa. This is when the placenta lies very low in the uterus and covers all or part of the cervix. Placenta previa can cause serious bleeding and other complications later in pregnancy.
How can you make sex safe during pregnancy?
Sex doesn’t hurt your baby during pregnancy. The muscles of the uterus and the amniotic fluid that surrounds your baby in the uterus help protect your baby. The mucous plug help keeps your baby safe from infection. The mucous plug is a mass of mucous that blocks the opening of the cervix. If your partner is male, his penis doesn’t make contact with your baby during sex.
Talk to your provider about what sexual activity may be off-limits. In some cases, you may be advised to limit sexual activity or to pay attention to if you’re having contractions after sex.
Even though sex is safe for most women during pregnancy and doesn’t hurt your baby, you do want to protect your baby from certain infections you can get during sex. Here’s what you can do to help keep you and your baby safe:
- Protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (also called STIs, sexually transmitted diseases or STDs). An STI is an infection you can get from having unprotected sex or intimate physical contact with someone who is infected. STIs can cause problems for your baby during pregnancy and birth. You can get an STI from vaginal, anal or oral sex. If you have sex during pregnancy, have sex with only one person who doesn’t have other sex partners. Don’t have sex with a partner who may have an STI. If you have a new partner, use a condom.
- If you have oral sex, be sure your partner does NOT blow air into your vagina. Oral sex is sex that involves the mouth and genitals (sex organs, like the penis and vagina). Blowing air into the vagina can cause an air embolism (an air bubble that blocks a blood vessel). This can cause serious problems for you and your baby.
- Ask your provider if it’s OK to have anal sex. Anal sex is sex that involves the penis and the anus. Anal sex may be unsafe during pregnancy because the anus is full of bacteria. If you have vaginal sex after anal sex, you may be more likely to get an infection with bacteria in your vagina. Bacteria are tiny organisms that live in and around your body. Some bacteria are good for your body. But others can make you sick.
What are signs of problems during or after sex?
If you have pain during sex, tell your provider. If you have heavy bleeding like normal menstrual period bleeding, leaking of amniotic fluid or painful cramps that don’t go away after sex, call your provider or go to the emergency room.
It’s normal to have some cramps or spotting after sex when you’re pregnant. Having an orgasm can cause cramps. Spotting is light bleeding. When it happens you have a few drops of blood on your underwear. Spotting is so light that the blood doesn’t cover a panty liner.
How can pregnancy affect your sex life?
Your interest in sex and desire for sex (also called your sex drive) can change throughout pregnancy. Rising and falling hormone levels and other changes in your body may affect your sex drive.
Whatever your mood is, let your partner know what feels comfortable or uncomfortable. Your partner’s desire for sex may increase or decrease too. Sometimes partners may feel closer to you and sometimes they may be more anxious about your health and your baby’s health. Talking to your partner openly about these issues can help.
Here are some common sex drive changes you may feel during pregnancy:
First trimester. Changing hormone levels early in pregnancy and changes in your body’s shape may make you feel sexy. But these changes also may lead to pregnancy discomforts that make you less interested in sex, like feeling tired or sick to your stomach (also called nausea), having sore breasts and needing to go to the bathroom often.
Second trimester. You may feel better during the second trimester. Discomforts you may have had in the first trimester may have gone away or you may be able to manage them better in the second trimester. Your belly is growing but it’s still small enough to have sex comfortably. In fact, you may want to have sex more often than you did in the past!
Women gain about 3 pounds of blood during pregnancy, and most of that blood flows below your waist. You may find that extra blood flow helps you have an orgasm more easily, maybe even more than once. An orgasm is when you feel intense pleasure from sex. When you orgasm, you may feel contractions in and around the vagina.
Third trimester. If you and your partner both desire it, it’s OK to have sex until the birth of your baby unless your provider has told you otherwise. Toward the end of pregnancy, you may feel less interested in having sex. As your belly gets bigger, you may find some sex positions to be uncomfortable. You may be less interested in sex because you’re more focused giving birth and having a new baby. It’s OK to have these feelings! You and your partner can still be loving and close even if you don’t want to have sex.
Which sex positions are best during pregnancy?
Positions that work before pregnancy and early in pregnancy may be uncomfortable or even unsafe during later stages of pregnancy. For example, lying flat on your back (also called the missionary position) after the fourth month of pregnancy puts pressure on major blood vessels because of the weight of your growing baby. Try these positions instead:
- Woman on top. This position puts you in control of how fast, slow and comfortable you are during sex. It can also take the pressure off your belly.
- Spooning. Lay sideways with your partner lying behind you. Having sex in this position helps lower the amount of pressure placed on your belly.
- Woman on hands and knees. You may also choose to support yourself on your elbows. This position works best during the first and second trimester because it lowers the pressure placed on your belly. As your belly gets bigger, you may find this position uncomfortable.
What are other ways you can be close with your partner?
You don’t have to have sex to be loving with your partner. You can be intimate by:
- Massage. This is when you and your partner gently rub each other’s bodies.
- Mutual masturbation. This is when you and your partner touch yourselves to bring yourselves to orgasm.
- Oral sex
To stay connected with your partner, talk about your needs in an open and loving way. Let pleasure and comfort be your guide. If something doesn’t feel right for either of you, change what you’re doing. If you’re worried about how pregnancy is affecting your relationship with your partner, tell your provider.
How soon can you have sex after giving birth?
It’s best to wait until after your postpartum checkup (about 6 weeks after giving birth) to have sex again. Use birth control when you feel ready to start having sex again. Talk to your provider about when it’s safe to start birth control and what kind is safe to use if you're breastfeeding.
Even after your body has healed, these common changes may affect your sex life:
- Your vagina may feel dry due to changes in hormones, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Use a lubricating cream or gel to help make the vagina more slippery. Try different positions to help you feel more comfortable.
- You may not feel as much pleasure during sex because your vaginal muscles may be weak after giving birth. This problem usually goes away over time. You can make your vagina muscles stronger by doing Kegel exercises. To do Kegel exercises, squeeze the muscles you use to stop the flow of urine and hold them for 10 seconds. Do this 10 to 20 times in a row at least 3 times a day while laying down or you can try sitting or standing when you feel stronger.
- Your sex drive may be lower than usual. This may be because of the changes in hormones after giving birth. This is normal, so don’t worry! There are lots of reasons for feeling less interested in sex, like being really tired or stressed from taking care of your baby. Or you may worry that sex will be uncomfortable or painful. Try being close at time other than bedtime to help boost your sex drive. If you’re not up for sex, try other ways of being close with your partner.
- You may feel fatigue taking care of your new baby. You and your partner may want to sleep after your baby has fallen asleep. You may also have less interest right away because you have less time, energy and focus for sex as a new parent.
If you’re worried about having sex again, talk to your partner. Your partner may have the same kinds of feelings. If you and your partner desire sex, try to find a time when you don’t feel rushed like when your baby is sound asleep. You can also be intimate with your partner in ways like hugging or kissing.
Most couples go back to having an active sex life sometime during the first year of their baby’s life. If you’re still worried, feel pain or discomfort when resuming sex or feeling pressure about having sex, tell your provider.
Last reviewed February 2020