OK, first thing is first – Is it safe and OK to have sex when pregnant? In general, yes!
While there a few instances where it’s best to abstain from sex will pregnant (we’ll get to those soon), sex in pregnancy is safe and there are many reasons why it can actually be good for you too.
While you may think it sounds like a silly question, you’d be amazed at how many women and men worry that having sex during pregnancy may be bad for the baby or that it will induce pre-term labour. And let’s face it, it’s not something people talk about openly anyway– let alone when you are pregnant!
It’s completely normal to question everything when you’re pregnant. The last thing you want to do is something that could potentially put you or your baby at risk. Sex while pregnant is no different. You know even as a midwife when I first found out that I was pregnant, it was something that Ross and I needed to talk about and, if I’m entirely honest, even felt a bit nervous about! That’s why I wanted to create our Birth Beat quick-reference guide for you, to help answer all your questions and reassure you that even the ‘’experts’’ can have the same worries.
Of course, when it comes to sex in pregnancy it goes without saying that it’s only if and when you feel like it. You may find that your sex drive is lower during the early stages, particularly if you’ve been feeling unwell, higher than normal at other times and perhaps non-existent in those final weeks and days before bub arrives!
I know personally, both my pregnancies were completely different. With Polly, I had loads of energy and felt that pregnancy glow that everyone talks about, which if I can be totally candid, translated pretty well into the bedroom (overshare! I know, I know). However, it was an entirely different story when I was pregnant with Theo. I was super tired, felt horrible and sex was the furthest thing from my mind a lot of the time.
Changes in your libido, either way, are completely normal and common in pregnancy. What’s important is that you communicate with your partner and let them know how you’re feeling – whether that’s enjoying a higher than normal sex drive or perhaps having no interest in being intimate at times, it’s all completely OK.
Before we get into all the fun stuff, let’s start with the potential reasons that sex during pregnancy may not be safe for you. There are times when your doctor or midwife may advise that you avoid having sex. Some of the reasons can include:
- If your membranes have ruptured or if you are leaking amniotic fluid
- If you have any history of premature birth or preterm labour
- Your cervix has started opening prematurely, which is what’s known as cervical insufficiency
- You’ve experienced unexplained vaginal bleeding
- You have placenta previa – which is when your placenta partly or completely covers your cervix
- In some instances, if you’re pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets etc.)
For most women who are healthy and have a low-risk pregnancy, you’ve got the green light to have sex if and when you feel like it! If you have any concerns just ask your healthcare provider and remember they’ve heard it all before, so don’t be embarrassed.
Still not convinced? Here are a few of the most common questions and concerns I’ve heard from pregnant Mummas over the years.
Will having sex hurt the baby?
Fear not, your body is beautifully designed and your bubba is nicely protected inside the womb! The uterine muscles are very strong and along with the amniotic sac and fluid, protect the baby perfectly. Nothing is going to be poking the baby or even come close – trust me! Don’t forget that there is also a thick mucus plug covering your cervix which helps to guard bub against infection.
The only time this may be different is if you plan on having sex with someone who is not your partner, with an unknown sexual history. The risks to you and your baby can be greater if you contract an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) while pregnant.
Can having sex in the early stages of pregnancy increase my chance of a miscarriage?
No, sex doesn’t lead to miscarriage or going into labour early (unless you fall into the high-risk categories as mentioned above).
Early miscarriages happen for many reasons, but having sex is not one of them. Causes of miscarriage can include hormonal imbalances, chromosomal abnormality and a number of other complicated reasons. So, if you feel up to it amidst the morning sickness and fatigue that can come with those first few months of pregnancy, lucky you and go for it!
Will having an orgasm increase my chance of going into early labour?
While having sex is one of the most well-known old-wives’ tales when it comes to inducing labour naturally, having on orgasm isn’t suddenly going to set you off into to labour. Well, not unless you were naturally going to anyway!
Some women may feel uterine contractions after reaching the big-O but these aren’t the same as the ones in labour. Although, if you do experience these it can be a positive sign that your uterus is strong which is a good thing as you prepare to go into labour.
However, if you have reached your due date and are trying everything you can to go into labour naturally there are a few reasons why being intimate may help. While it can seem physically impossible at this stage (time to get a bit creative!), having sex may help start the labour process – but only when both your baby and body are ready in a normal, low-risk scenario.
How you wonder?
Semen naturally contains prostaglandins, which helps to soften and ripen the cervix. While this can be helpful, it will not trigger labour unless you’re ready to go anyway.
Another trick that I teach in our Birth Beat course is that nipple stimulation can help, thanks to the release of oxytocin. A synthetic version of oxytocin, known as Syntocinon is used to induce labour or during caesareans, so helping your body produce this naturally through nipple stimulation may be helpful in those later stages when you’re willing to try pretty much anything and everything to get that bubba out!
What are some of the benefits of having sex when pregnant?
Not only is it OK to have sex when you’re pregnant, it most cases it can actually be very beneficial! Here are just some of the ways it can help you enjoy a happy and healthy pregnancy:
- It can help strengthen your pelvic floor and the uterine walls – orgasms during pregnancy are actually very useful! Orgasms can help prepare your body for labour and promote a faster post-partum recovery. Bonus fact: being pregnant means an increased blood flow which can result in high sex drive and better orgasms. Not a bad problem to have!
- Lower stress and blood pressure – thanks to that wonderful rush of endorphins and bonding time with your partner.
- Enhance your immune system, which is great for preventing illness during pregnancy. Sex helps boost levels of IgA, an antibody that supports your body’s natural immune response
- Increases heart rate and helps you stay active – moderate activity during pregnancy is good for you and baby so if you’re feeling up to it, sex is a fun way to get the blood pumping!
Finally, remember that what’s ‘normal’ for you may not be normal for everyone else. It’s important to discuss how you’re feeling with your partner, be open to finding creative ways to be intimate and above all, trusting what feels right for you and your body. Communication is always key and don’t forget – if you ever have any concerns, pain after sex, bleeding or unusual discharge, consult your doctor, obstetrician or midwife.