Is It Safe to Have Sex During Pregnancy?

When, and when not, to go for it.

Although you probably think you know everything about sex by the time you get pregnant, you may still have plenty of questions about sex during pregnancy. Those might include "Am I going to hurt the baby?" and "Will the baby know we're having sex?"

Here's some general advice: There's no need to stress out.

Relax, Sex During Pregnancy Is Okay

"Sex [during pregnancy] in general is absolutely fine," Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale Medical School, told Health. You are not going to poke your fetus, and for most expecting mothers, there's no reason to avoid sex throughout the trimesters.

That's especially true if your due date has come and gone. Depending on your sexual partner, sperm is rich in hormones called prostaglandins, which can actually stimulate the uterus to contract, according to a 2014 study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. That's why, said Dr. Minkin, "we tend to encourage people to be sexually active if they're post-[due] date."

Should I Avoid Certain Positions?

There's no right or wrong way to have sex when you're pregnant—you're not going to crush the baby in the missionary position or lying on your belly. Just choose the position that feels good for you. That said, "rear entry or (pregnant) woman on top seems to be more comfortable," noted Dr. Minkin.

Different positions may be more or less comfortable as the trimesters progress.

For some, sex can become more adventurous during this time. If you were nervous about sex because you didn't want to get pregnant, the fact that that's no longer an issue can be liberating, said Dr. Minkin. "It's the same as women who go on birth control and have a great libido."

And, with higher levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which boost blood flow, you may enjoy sex even more than you did before becoming pregnant.

Still, You May Not Be in the Mood

While intercourse is totally fair game while you're pregnant, don't be surprised if you're just not feeling it. People have less sex in the third trimester than in any other, according to research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2022. This is probably because they're so physically bulky and tired by that point, said Dr. Minkin.

Then there's the release of the hormone prolactin, which occurs all throughout pregnancy and may reduce libido, according to a 2016 study in the journal Endocrine. Also, body image can do a number on you; so much of libido is psychological, and it's possible that your rapidly changing shape could have you feeling out of sorts in your own skin, and less attractive as a result.

When You Should Avoid Sex During Pregnancy

If you feel pain: "If you experience pain with sex: stop, of course, and then check in with your provider to have things investigated," said Dr. Minkin. "If everything checks out okay, you may resume activities."

If you have pre-term labor: Expecting mothers who are being treated for pre-term labor—meaning they are at risk of going into labor early—should not be having sex (with a male partner), according to the Mayo Clinic. The prostaglandins in sperm could bring on unwanted contractions.

If you have placenta previa: This is a condition in which the placenta is covering your cervix, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA). You should abstain from having both intercourse and orgasms. Otherwise, you risk causing the placenta to bleed, putting you and your baby in danger.

If you have unexplained bleeding: Some pregnant people may bleed after intercourse, because the cervix is very tender and sensitive. You should discontinue intercourse until you have been seen by your health care provider to prevent any further irritation, says the APA.

If you are leaking amniotic fluid: This is the fluid that surrounds the fetus inside the amniotic sac, which is inside the womb. Usually, the sac breaks when labor begins, but sometimes, it can rupture earlier. If this happens, seek medical care, and do not do anything to introduce bacteria into the vagina, including having sex or douche, according to Sutter Health.

If you think your partner has an STI: It's not enough to use protection, since no contraception is 100% effective in blocking sexually transmitted infections. And it is possible to become infected by a sexually transmitted disease (STDs) during pregnancy, says the APA. In addition, your baby could pick up that bacteria as it passes through the birth canal.

Weigh Out the Factors

Sex, when you're pregnant, may be a completely different—even liberating— experience for you than sex outside of pregnancy. Still, it's generally safe and, with more mindfulness to the most comfortable position, you can enjoy sex during the nine months when you're expecting.

Updated by
Taylyn Washington-Harmon
Taylyn Washington-Harmon

Taylyn Washington-Harmon is the associate editor at Health.com. A former social media guru, she's worked for a number of lifestyle and beauty brands and has previously written for SELF and STAT. She loves skincare, anime, and her pitbull Momo.

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