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Sex During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

Have fun, listen to your body, and be open with your partner.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sex during pregnancy is the absolute last thing on some women’s minds, especially when they are dealing with nausea, vomiting, and overwhelming fatigue. Other women, however, may crave sex in pregnancy. And men, too, are split into different camps regarding sex during pregnancy. Some men may find nothing sexier than a pregnant woman, but other men may be too afraid of hurting the baby or their pregnant partner to enjoy sex.

But desire aside, is sex during pregnancy even safe?

The good news -- or bad news, depending on how you look at it -- is that “sex during pregnancy is extremely safe for most women with uncomplicated, low-risk pregnancies,” says Dayna Salasche, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics/gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and an obstetrician at Northwestern Specialists for Women, both in Chicago. “Some people feel like they enjoy sex during pregnancy more and others enjoy it less,” she tells WebMD.

Trimester by Trimester Guide to Sex During Pregnancy

During the first trimester, many women report no great desire for sex because they feel tired and nauseous, but during the second trimester, “they are feeling better, there is more lubrication, and they have engorgement in the genital area,” says Monica Foreman, MD, an obstetrician at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y. This makes sex more appealing and potentially more satisfying. What’s more, most women are still fairly comfortable during second trimester because their stomach is not overly rounded yet. This is not quite true during third trimester. As the stomach grows and fatigue returns with a vengeance, sex may seem less attractive -- not to mention physically difficult during the final weeks of pregnancy.

If the dad-to-be is nervous about having sex with his increasingly pregnant partner, “we tell them that their baby is well protected. It is an egg surrounded by a pillow and another pillow and that there is no way they will hurt the baby, and that usually makes them feel much better,” Salasche says.

Whether or not having sex close to your due date during third trimester can bring on labor is an old wives’ tale, but having an orgasm causes the release of prostaglandins, which can theoretically cause contractions.

“At 40 weeks, this can’t hurt,” Foreman says.

Sexual Positions During Pregnancy

“As she grows, the traditional man-on-top position is more uncomfortable for pregnant women,” Foreman says. Other, more comfortable sexual positions during pregnancy may include intercourse from behind or side-to-side (spooning).

And “at some point, a pregnant woman should not be flat on her back because the growing uterus can compress major blood vessels,” Salasche says. This can cause pelvic pressure and pain. This phenomenon typically occurs during the third trimester. Lying flat on her back can also cause "supine hypotensive syndrome," which results in a change in heart rate and blood pressure that can lead to dizziness and other symptoms or signs.

One sexual act to avoid during pregnancy is blowing during oral sex, Foreman adds. “If oral sex is performed on the pregnant woman while blowing air into the vagina, the woman can develop an air embolus, which can travel to the lung and have potentially fatal consequences.”

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