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Sex during pregnancy: What's OK, what's not

If you want to get pregnant, you have sex. No surprises there. But what about sex while you're pregnant? The answers aren't always as obvious.

Here's what you need to know about sex during pregnancy.

Is it OK to have sex during pregnancy?

As long as your pregnancy is proceeding normally, you can have sex as often as you like.

However, hormonal fluctuations, fatigue, nausea and breast tenderness early in pregnancy might lower your sexual desire. As your pregnancy progresses, weight gain, back pain and other symptoms might dampen your enthusiasm for sex.

Your emotions can take a toll on your sex drive, too. Concerns about how pregnancy or the baby will change your relationship with your partner might weigh heavily on your mind — even while you're eagerly anticipating the addition to your family.

Can sex during pregnancy cause a miscarriage?

Although many couples worry that sex during pregnancy will cause a miscarriage, sex isn't generally a concern. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn't developing normally.

Does sex during pregnancy harm the baby?

Your developing baby is protected by the amniotic fluid in your uterus, as well as the strong muscles of the uterus itself. Sexual activity won't affect your baby.

What are the best sexual positions during pregnancy?

As long as you're comfortable, most sexual positions are OK during pregnancy.

As your pregnancy progresses, experiment to find what works best. Rather than lying on your back, for example, you might want to lie next to your partner sideways or position yourself on top of your partner or in front of your partner. Let your creativity take over, as long as you keep mutual pleasure and comfort in mind.

What about oral and anal sex?

Oral sex is safe during pregnancy. If you receive oral sex, though, make sure your partner doesn't blow air into your vagina. Rarely, a burst of air might block a blood vessel (air embolism) — which could be a life-threatening condition for you and the baby.

Anal sex might be uncomfortable if you have pregnancy-related hemorrhoids. More concerning, anal sex that is followed by vaginal sex might allow infection-causing bacteria to spread from the rectum to the vagina.

Are condoms necessary?

Exposure to sexually transmitted infections during pregnancy increases the risk of infections that can affect your pregnancy and your baby's health. Avoid all forms of sex — vaginal, oral and anal — if your partner has an active or recently diagnosed sexually transmitted infection.

Use a condom if:

  • You're not in a mutually monogamous relationship
  • You choose to have sex with a new partner during pregnancy

Can sex trigger premature labor?

Orgasms, as well as the prostaglandins in semen, can cause uterine contractions. Most studies haven't shown that sex during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of preterm labor or premature birth. However, if you’re at risk of preterm labor your health care provider will recommend avoiding sex.

Similarly, sex isn't likely to trigger labor even as your due date approaches.

Are there times when sex should be avoided?

Although most women can safely have sex throughout pregnancy, sometimes it's best to be cautious.

Your health care provider might recommend avoiding sex if:

  • You have unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • You're leaking amniotic fluid
  • Your cervix begins to open prematurely (cervical incompetence)
  • Your placenta partly or completely covers your cervical opening (placenta previa)
  • You have a history of preterm labor or premature birth
  • You're carrying multiples

What if I don't want to have sex?

That's OK. There's more to a sexual relationship than intercourse.

Share your needs and concerns with your partner in an open and loving way. If sex is difficult, unappealing or off-limits, try another type of contact — such as cuddling, kissing or massage.

After the baby is born, how soon can I have sex?

Whether you give birth vaginally or by C-section, your body will need time to heal. Consider waiting to have sex until your health care provider gives you the green light — often four to six weeks after childbirth. This allows time for the cervix to close, postpartum bleeding to stop, and any tears or repaired lacerations to heal.

If you're too sore or exhausted to even think about sex, maintain intimacy in other ways. Stay connected during the day with short phone calls or text messages. Reserve a time for each other before the day begins or before you go to bed.

When you're ready to have sex, take it slow — and use contraception until you're ready for any subsequent pregnancies.

Last updated: July 31st, 2015

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