These are some of the many questions that may be on a pregnant woman’s mind (and her partner’s) during prenatal visits with her obstetrician.
A new review in the Canadian Medical Association Journal answers many of those questions. As a general rule, sex in pregnancy is considered safe in women with low-risk, uncomplicated pregnancies. Women with or at risk for certain complications such as placenta previa or preterm labor should avoid sex during pregnancy. Placenta previa occurs when the placenta lies low in the uterus and partly or completely blocks the cervix.
“For healthy, uncomplicated pregnancies, it is very safe to have intercourse as long as you are comfortable enough to do it,” says study author Claire Jones, MD, an obstetrician at Mount Sinai Hospital and University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The new report should “relieve some of the fears that pregnant women who are otherwise healthy have, and relieve the fears of their partner, as well, who might be afraid of having sex for reasons that are not really founded.”
The new report answers other questions such as:
Can Sex Bring on Labor?
A common old wives’ tale is that sex on or around your due date can bring on labor. There is little evidence to support this, but sex at term is considered safe, the new report suggests.
When Is Sex OK After Delivery?
After delivery, a woman’s body (and her lifestyle) goes through many changes. Resuming sexual activity after having a baby depends solely on a woman’s comfort level.
“Most women are comfortable to engage in sex by three months,” she says. ”The main reasons people don’t is because of pain. The risk of infection or sex causing stitches to become undone is very low.”
Most complications occur in the two weeks after delivery, and it is unlikely that women would be comfortable enough to have sex during this time frame, Jones says.
“Don’t be alarmed if sex is painful the first time after delivery, “she says. Lubricants may help relieve dryness, which can occur because of hormonal fluctuations after pregnancy, especially if you are breastfeeding.
Is Oral Sex OK During Pregnancy?
When Is Sex During Pregnancy Not OK?
Certain pregnancy complications may make sex risky. Mike Adler, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, says “people with placenta previa should abstain from intercourse because we don’t want to cause catastrophic bleeding."
He also advises people at risk for preterm labor to abstain from sex. “If a woman has a history of preterm labor at 24 weeks and is in the middle of the second trimester, I will tell them to abstain,” he says.
Donnica Moore, MD, president of Sapphire Women’s Health in Far Hills, N.J., adds that “the new report highlights how little scientific evidence there is for the recommendation that doctors tend to make to abstain from sexual relations during pregnancy.”
Many couples are counseled to avoid sex by doctors who take the “better safe than sorry” approach, she says. “With the exception of very severe complications such as placenta previa, it really is not known for sure whether couples should abstain from sex,” Moore says.
“If your doctor recommends abstaining from sex during pregnancy, be sure to ask why and what the basis is for that recommendation,” she says.