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What Is Sex During Pregnancy?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 23, 2021

Sex during pregnancy is the act of having vaginal, oral, or anal sex while a partner is pregnant. Both pregnant people and their partners often have questions about sex during pregnancy. Should you have sex while you’re pregnant? Is it safe? Can the baby feel it? Are there times when you shouldn’t do it? Will sexual desire change during pregnancy?

These are all understandable questions given the changes and uncertainty that come along with pregnancy. The simple answer is that if you have a low-risk pregnancy, sexual intercourse throughout the entirety of the pregnancy is generally safe.

However, there can be reasons why a doctor might tell you to avoid pregnancy sex. These include:

  • A history of miscarriages or early labor.
  • Bleeding from the vagina.
  • Leaking fluid from the amniotic sac (the fluid-filled bag that holds your baby).
  • A sexually transmitted disease (STD) that has not been treated in either partner.
  • Pain in the vagina or abdomen.
  • Cervix starts to open early.
  • Placenta is covering the cervix opening partially or completely.
  • You’re pregnant with two or more babies.

Your doctor will advise you about having sex if you fit any of these circumstances.

If you do have sex during pregnancy, you may want to experiment with different positions. When the pregnant partner lies flat, the baby's weight can push on major blood vessels. This could make the missionary position uncomfortable. Lying on your side during sex helps reduce the pressure on your belly. You can also try sex with the pregnant partner on top.

Intercourse isn’t the only kind of sex you can have while pregnant. Oral sex is safe. It’s important, however, that you never blow air into the pregnant partner’s vagina during oral sex. It can cause an air bubble to form in their blood. This could lead to possibly life-threatening problems for mother and baby. Some doctors recommend avoiding anal sex while pregnant. Your doctor can help you decide if it’s safe for you.

While pregnancy can present many reasons for not having sex, it can enhance sex for some people. This may be due to the increased blood flow to the vulva, which causes more sensitivity, or the oxytocin (a chemical that makes you happy) that your body releases during orgasm. It can also help ease pregnancy aches and pains.

Myths About Pregnancy Sex

Myth #1: Sex Can Hurt the Baby

Many couples fear sex during pregnancy will bump, poke, or harm the baby. The truth is that the amniotic sac, the fluid-filled bag your baby grows in, is well padded. The thick, muscular walls of the uterus add an extra layer of protection. 

What you might feel during sexual intercourse is your baby becoming more active if the sounds and movement wake them up.

Myth #2: Pregnancy Kills Your Sex Drive

Pregnancy brings many emotional and physical changes. Your libido (sex drive) may change as well. It could increase or decrease, depending on many factors. You might feel extra sexy or less attractive than usual.

The uncomfortable side effects of pregnancy: nausea, vomiting, swollen feet, fatigue, etc., can dim your interest in sex. So can shifting your identity toward being a parent. This holds true for both partners.

You may find sex feels better during pregnancy because your vagina gets wetter and the baby adds afeeling of fullness to the area. Plus you don’t have to worry about using birth control. Or if you’ve been trying to conceive, the pressure is off.

Whether you want sex during pregnancy, don’t want it at all, or are somewhere in between, your experience is normal.

Myth#3: Sex Can Induce Labor

You may have heard that sex can push your body into labor. However, the muscles you use during an orgasm are different from those muscles that deliver the baby. There’s no need to worry.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Brenner Children’s Hospital: “Sex During Pregnancy.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Sex During Pregnancy: Your Questions Answered.”

Journal of Basic and Clinical Reproductive Sciences: “Inherent Dangers in Orogenital Sex During Pregnancy.”

March of Dimes: "Sex During Pregnancy."

University of Illinois Hospital: “Pregnancy and Sex.”

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