Sex During Pregnancy

Congratulations! You’re going to have a baby. While you and your partner may be feeling happy and excited about the newest member of your family, you both know this will mean many changes in your relationship as a couple.

Sex during pregnancy is different. This information helps parents-to-be understand the changes they will face as sexual partners during the pregnancy and after the baby’s birth. It also can help to begin discussions between the two of you, which are always important, but are especially so now. It is not meant to replace the information provided by your doctor.

Early pregnancy (first trimester)

You may notice changes in your sexual activity during the earliest weeks of pregnancy. Physical discomfort is very common for women at this time. You may feel very tired, nauseous, or experience some vomiting. The feeling that you need to go to the bathroom often (urinary frequency) also is very common. Your breasts may feel very tender, even painful to the touch. These symptoms result from changes in your hormones and blood circulation caused by your pregnancy.

Tiredness, nausea, and urinary frequency affect your sexual desire and activity. Few people, pregnant or not, are interested in sex when they are tired or don’t feel well. Along with physical discomfort, you also may worry that sexual intercourse can cause a miscarriage. Intercourse or other types of sexual activity will not cause a miscarriage in a normal, healthy pregnant woman. However, if you have cramps or vaginal bleeding, or have had more than one miscarriage, talk with your doctor.

If your doctor advises you not to have sexual intercourse, you may express your love and desire in other ways such as oral/genital sex and masturbation.

However, avoid forcefully blowing air into the vagina during oral sex since an air bubble (called an air embolus) can enter the blood stream of the pregnant woman. This can be dangerous to the mother.

In rare cases, your doctor may advise against all forms of sexual activity that result in orgasm. During an orgasm, rhythmic, muscular contractions occur in the uterus. Sometimes, these contractions may have a harmful effect on your pregnancy.

Mid-pregnancy (second trimester)

The second trimester of pregnancy is usually a time when the expectant mother feels at her best physically, emotionally, and sexually. As your energy returns, you may notice an increase in sexual desire and activity. At this stage in your pregnancy, there is an increased blood flow to the entire pelvic area, including the vagina. There also is an increase in the amount of lubrication (wetness) in your vagina. This is the same thing that happens to your body during sexual arousal. As a result, you may notice that you are more easily aroused, and more interested in sex than ever before.

While this is very common during midpregnancy, some expectant fathers may feel uncomfortable. As always, it is very important to discuss your feelings openly and honestly.

Late pregnancy (third trimester)

The overall sense of physical, emotional, and sexual well-being usually continues into the third trimester. However, as the due date approaches, you may again notice a decrease in sexual desire and activity. Fatigue may again become a problem. Simple activities such as getting in and out of bed or standing and walking may be very tiring. Body movements during lovemaking may become so tiring that you avoid all sexual activity.

As your baby grows, you and your partner both may worry again that sexual activity may hurt the baby. The contractions of an orgasm might feel like labor contractions. If your baby moves around a lot, you might think he or she has been harmed in some way.

Remember that your baby is well-protected high up in your pelvis and well-cushioned by the “bag of waters”(amniotic fluid) surrounding it. Most doctors do not restrict sexual activity for the normal, healthy pregnant woman. Most permit sexual intercourse, oral/genital sex, and masturbation up to the time of delivery, or for as long as you feel well and healthy. However, if you notice any bleeding, or if the amniotic sac breaks, do not have intercourse. Call your doctor immediately.

The uterine contractions that normally occur during orgasm may last for a while and feel rather strong. Although these contractions are normal and not harmful, some women may find them uncomfortable and avoid orgasm for that reason.

Sexual positions

As your baby grows and your uterus becomes larger, you may need to adjust your position for intercourse. The “man on top” position may be too uncomfortable because of his weight on your abdomen. Try other positions, like the “woman on top,” on your sides, facing each other, or the rear entry position, either on your sides or on your hands and knees.

Oral/genital sex and masturbation are also fine and may be especially appropriate toward the very end of pregnancy, when the baby may feel so large and low that intercourse is very uncomfortable.

Breast tenderness

You may notice that your breasts are very tender. Kissing or sucking them (stimulation) may be too uncomfortable. It also may cause the release of fluid from your nipples, called colostrum. This is normal and harmless. However, it may be unpleasant for some couples. Breast or nipple stimulation can cause uterine contractions by releasing a hormone called oxytocin. These contractions are usually harmless. However, if you have a history of premature labor you should discuss the safety of breast or nipple stimulation with your doctor.

While sexual activity may decrease, your need for love and understanding from each other increases. Showing your love and support are especially important during the last days of pregnancy as sexual activity declines. Remember you love each other. Remember to say so.

Editorial provided by Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

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