Sexpectations: Your Sex Life During Pregnancy

Sex While Pregnant: Yes? No? Stop? Go?

Man and woman lying in field
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Pregnancy brings with it a bevvy of new experiences and changes—both physical and emotional—that can either leave you lusty around the clock, or not at all. The differences in levels of sexual arousal can be attributed to fluctuating hormones which vary for each woman throughout each stage. Meanwhile, emotionally most women tend to crave intimacy like never before.

Physical challenges like fatigue and nausea are common in the first trimester and rarely leave women in the mood, while increased breast sensitivity can cause pleasure or pain in that particular area. By the second trimester, many women find themselves more lubricated and less tired, relishing their still small baby bump. With body confidence high and increased blood-flow to the nether regions, sex can be both more appealing and satisfying.

But fatigue commonly returns in the third trimester and brings with it physical limitations in the final weeks of pregnancy. Baby movement can be a turn off—sometimes for both partners—and fears about body changes can tank libido. Finding the right position can also be awkward—missionary isn’t possible and being on top usually feels uncomfortable—but it can be done! Some women also describe having unresolved orgasms, which basically means the orgasm lingers and doesn’t quite satisfy.

It is important to express both physical and emotional needs during this time—and to remember that no two women (or pregnancies) are alike. What was okay one month may not work or be safe the next. Sex during pregnancy is something most couples can enjoy—and even love—once they’re armed with a little information.

Is it safe?

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Many women and soon-to-be-dads worry about possibly hurting the little one during sex. There’s no need to fear, as the fetus is wrapped in a protective cushion. Though if bleeding or foul-smelling discharge occurs after sex, make an appointment with your OB-GYN, as these could be a sign of infection or other problems. It is important to report any changes to your doctor and to keep communication flowing with your partner about what is and isn’t comfortable. The one thing to always avoid is blowing into the vagina during oral sex, as this can cause an air embolus and have potentially fatal consequences.

While sex bringing on labor is an old wives tale, having an orgasm near the due date can theoretically cause contractions (which at that stage, is not a bad thing). Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, doing the deed during pregnancy is not only safe, but has actual benefits (beyond the Big O)!

What do you mean, there are benefits?

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Pain relief, more restful sleep and a better mood…what woman doesn’t want these while carrying her baby? Though most medications and supplements are off-limits during this time, sex can be Mother Nature’s cure-all for soon-to-be-moms. Not only do orgasms produce calming, mood-boosting and soothing chemicals, but the physical activity of intercourse also lowers blood pressure and increases the antibody IgA, boosting immunity and helping prevent cancer! Not overly orgasmic? Pregnancy is the first time many women experience orgasms—or multiple orgasms—thanks to surging hormones and blood flow. But that’s not all. Pregnant orgasms build up the pelvic floor, preparing the body for childbirth. This action makes post-partum recovery quicker and more complete! In fact, practice Kegel exercises to strengthen those muscles (and your climax). 

What are the best ways to get busy?

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As always, talking honestly about likes and dislikes is vital for comfort and enjoyment. This is especially important when considering which position to try! Trusty old missionary is not advised (or comfortable) in the third trimester, while cowgirl can leave some women feeling self-conscious. Doggy style and spooning are the most suggested poses, as both allow for maximum comfort through all stages of pregnancy. For some women, their motor may be running hot and ready for action at all hours. For others, a little assistance can help get things going. Water-based lubricants are both safe and great for getting juices flowing.

When is sex not a good idea?

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If there’s a history of repeated miscarriages, pre-term labor or bleeding, sex will have to wait until after childbirth. These conditions are usually apparent in the early weeks of pregnancy and most doctors advise their patients to avoid intercourse. For those at high risk for miscarriage, the number of orgasms allowed may be restricted. There are, however, conditions that only become apparent in the second or third trimester. Women with a shortened cervix or problems with the placenta are put on pelvic rest (a fancy way of saying no pre-term sex). Even if there are no physical restrictions, a woman may simply not feel emotionally available for intercourse, in which case, she shouldn’t have it.

Can I, er, take care of myself?

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Whether using a hand or a hand-held device, masturbation is a great way for pregnant ladies to get satisfied. Even those with physical restrictions are usually allowed to use vibrators, though this should always be discussed with a doctor. Taking care of business solo also keeps women in tune with their changing bodies and makes the transition back into sex after birth that much easier.

What if I don’t want to have sex at all?

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With all this talk of hormones and blood-flow, some women may be wondering if they’re normal for not wanting to have sex at all. The answer is yes. Pregnancy affects everyone in different ways and the constant physical changes (not to mention imminent lifestyle changes) can leave women feeling far from frisky. Hormones fluctuate throughout each trimester and month-to-month, so though the desire may currently be lacking, it will most likely eventually return. Intimacy can be experienced in a number of non-sexual ways and even if sex is off the table, physical contact may be something you crave. Cuddling, massages and old-fashioned make-out sessions can be great ways for couples to connect and feel close. Some women also feel self-conscious about their burgeoning bellies and worry that it’s a turn-off for their partner. While most men actually report feeling turned-on by their baby mamas, talking about it helps to avoid hurt feelings. Communicate, listen to your body (and your partner) and enjoy your time with each other—however that looks.

When is it okay to have sex again?

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Though the doctor will give the go-ahead when it’s safe to have sex again, wait until you personally feel ready. Waiting four to six weeks is generally recommended in order to allow the cervix to close, for postpartum bleeding to stop and tears to heal, but some women may need to wait up to three months. It is important to avoid intercourse while there is still bleeding so as to not cause infection. Also, remember to consider using protection—even if you’re breastfeeding and your periods haven’t returned you can still get pregnant! Beyond the physical, there will be emotional changes too as hormones fluctuate and find a new normal. Make decisions that feel best for you. 

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