Questions about sex during pregnancy are common. Many couples want to continue an active sex life but wonder whether having sex will harm the pregnancy. Below are some answers to commonly asked questions regarding sex in pregnancy.
Is it safe to have sex during pregnancy?
Yes, with rare exceptions. In an uncomplicated pregnancy, there is no evidence that having either intercourse or oral sex is dangerous. There are only a few conditions in which abstaining from sex is recommended. These include preterm labor and placenta previa (a low-lying placenta that covers the opening at the bottom of the uterus). These complications are unusual and they do not create dangers until the second half of pregnancy. If you experience preterm labor or if an ultrasound shows placenta previa in your pregnancy, your practitioner will tell you if you need to avoid sexual activity.
Is it normal to have an increased or decreased interest in sex?
Hormones change during a pregnancy, and a woman might react to this change by being more interested or less interested in sex. A couple's emotional reaction to the news of the pregnancy can also affect the amount of interest that a couple has for sex. Physical changes associated with a growing pregnancy (and mother's abdomen) may require experimentation with new positions and activities. Whether you choose to have intercourse or prefer to be hugged, caressed or held as your intimacy while you are pregnant, talk frequently with your partner about your comfort and interests. Communication is the key to a sex life that is satisfying for both partners.
I worry about hurting the baby during sex. Is that a risk?
No. The growing baby is well protected by the uterus and amniotic fluid. The baby floats inside the uterus, untroubled by pressure against the abdomen even during vigorous sexual activity. During intercourse the woman can safely position herself beneath, next to or on top of her partner without danger to the baby.
What about orgasms? Sometimes after sex I feel crampy or see a drop or two of blood.
Orgasms are not dangerous and will not cause preterm labor or delivery. Sometimes after having sex, however, women may feel an achiness or cramps. This probably results from stimulation of the cervix. Because the cervix is engorged and well supplied with blood in pregnancy, a spot or two of blood may be found after sex. Any cramping or bleeding should disappear after the woman rests an hour or two in bed. If the symptoms get worse or do not end quickly, call your practitioner. Such worsening would be unusual.
Some couples find that the cramps that can come with sex in pregnancy worry them so much that sex is no longer enjoyable for one or both partners. Such couples may wish to experiment with other forms of sexual activity or consider using a condom. Some of the chemicals in semen may stimulate the cervix, so catching the semen with a condom may prevent cramping.
Is oral sex OK in pregnancy?
Yes. If pleasurable, there is, in general, no reason to avoid oral sex.
Are infections spread to the baby by sex in pregnancy?
Sexually transmitted infections can be a special concern during pregnancy. Some antibiotics are not safe to use in a pregnant woman. Also, infections in the vagina or uterus may create a danger of preterm labor or can cause illness in the baby. It is important that vaginal and genital infections be identified in pregnancy. Skin to skin should be avoided if your partner has cold sores from herpes virus because there is a risk of spreading herpes to you and to the baby. HIV testing is recommended for all women in pregnancy. Treatment will reduce the risk of the baby's being infected with HIV.
Last updated May 30, 2012