Let's Talk About Sex During and After Pregnancy - Baby Chick
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Let’s Talk About Sex During and After Pregnancy

This article explores questions about sex during and after pregnancy, including whether it's harmful to baby and what is/isn't safe to do.

Updated May 21, 2024

by Jessica Tomes

Medically reviewed by Stephanie Sublett

Board-Certified OB/GYN, FACOG, IBCLC
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Is it safe to continue having sex during pregnancy? For most women, the answer is a resounding “yes.” If you are having a normal, unproblematic pregnancy — by all means, have at it, sister! You can continue to have sex right up until your water breaks or you go into labor.5 Under some circumstances, some women will have to modify their activity or abstain from sex for part or the entirety of their pregnancies. Your physician or midwife should let you know if sex becomes a no-go at any point. But don’t be afraid to speak up! There is no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to having a baby. So, let’s talk about it!

Can Sex During Pregnancy Hurt the Baby?

Nope! Sex during pregnancy will not harm baby. The amniotic sac and the uterus muscles will protect the baby, and the mucus plug seals the cervix to protect against infection. Contrary to popular opinion, the penis does not go past the vagina during sex so that it won’t reach baby. You don’t have to worry about poking baby in the head.1,7

Can Sex During Pregnancy Cause Labor?

Not if you are having a normal pregnancy. There are prostaglandins in your partner’s semen, which can help soften your cervix, but this doesn’t usually happen until the end of your pregnancy.3 Sexual stimulation or orgasm CANNOT cause labor or miscarriage. Orgasm CAN cause mild (and harmless) contractions, but these should subside. (If not, you may want to call your doctor!)2 Sex with penetration can cause cramping and light vaginal spotting, and orgasming can cause cramps. Any severe or persistent cramping and/or heavy bleeding, like a menstrual period, should be evaluated by your OB-GYN.7

Many women say sex feels different during pregnancy. Some will experience an increase in sexual desire as well as pleasure. Others may find it less pleasant for parts (or all) of pregnancy.1 It just depends — we are unique, and so are our pregnancies. No one pregnancy is the same.

Did you know? Increased blood flow to the pelvic area can cause engorgement of the female genitalia. The heightened sensation may add to your pleasure during sex! Bonus: it may also increase vaginal discharge (or moisture).4

How Might (Pregnant) Sex Change?

Your breasts might feel tingly or tender to the touch, especially during your first trimester. If this isn’t your first rodeo, you may start leaking milk a little sooner this time around — and may not even want to be touched!8 The tenderness generally subsides. Some women will find this a turn-on in the bedroom, and others do not. Always be open and honest with your partner regarding your desires. Most men need a little help in the mind-reading department, from my experience.

If you are uncomfortable, speak up. Let your partner know. You can try other things together (if you are uninterested in intercourse), like oral sex or even self-stimulation. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find what works for you as a couple. I mean, duh, obviously, there’s more to physical intimacy than just sex. Try kissing, holding hands, a sensual massage, or gentle caressing. You can express your love for one another without actually making love.

How Might Pregnancy Affect My Partner?

Maternity photography, Brandie Payne Photography, Sex during pregnancy, Sex after pregnancy
Image (and cover image) courtesy of Brandie Payne Photography

Just like your libido might fluctuate or even disappear during pregnancy — think nausea, extreme fatigue, lack of sleep, and raging hormones, those final uncomfortable days of pregnancy — your partner may also experience changes in sexual desire.5 Some men find their partners just as or even more attractive during pregnancy. Others get hung up on the idea of hurting baby during sex (remind him this is a misnomer) or can’t get past the idea of having sex with their “precious pregnant wives.” It’s important to be mindful and respectful of his feelings and desires — after all, it takes two to tango. Open communication eases tension.

Believe it or not, oral sex is generally safe during pregnancy. Licking is okay, but do NOT allow your partner to blow into your vagina — this could cause an air bubble that could get into your blood circulation and be life-threatening to you or your baby.6 Another no-no? If your partner has oral herpes (cold sores), he should not go anywhere near your lady parts.9 Wait until the outbreak clears, then have at it! (If you so choose.) Worried your partner could have an STD? Protection (latex condoms) is always the best option — or abstinence.10 Better safe than sorry.

What about positions? Laying flat on your stomach isn’t a good idea, and laying flat on your back missionary style isn’t wise after the first trimester (try wedging a pillow under your back). Your preferences will probably change as your belly grows. Bleeding after sex or cramps that won’t go away are good reasons to call your doctor or midwife. Don’t be afraid to talk to your health practitioner about any sex during pregnancy-related questions, and never hesitate to contact them when something feels wrong.7

Sex After Baby…

Your physician will probably tell you to wait until (at least) after your six-week postpartum checkup to engage in sexual activity after baby.11 You may find things feel a little different down there at first, and you will probably need to ease back into your pre-baby sexual routine. You may find you need extra lubrication. I recommend Good Clean Love’s Almost Naked Organic Personal Lubricant. It’s infused with a touch of lemon and vanilla and is formulated to provide the same long-lasting glide as conventional lubricants without all the irritating chemical additives. I encourage you to try it — once your doctor says it’s safe to play again!

Truth: Baby will take up a LOT of time and energy. Also true: Keeping the fire and passion alive with your partner is equally important as caring for baby. However you choose to go about sex during pregnancy, make time for one another. It may not always be easy, but it will certainly be worth it.

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Wife, mommy to three precious little girls, currently pregnant with baby a boy, and owner of The Plaid Pony. Read more

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