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Sex & Intimacy in Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time when expectant parents have many questions. At Childbirth Graphics, we create innovative pregnancy education resources to help answer many of those questions for eager parents-to-be. Our childbirth education materials are reassuring teaching tools that help expectant couples understand the healthiest choices they can make during pregnancy, how their baby is developing, and the important steps they can take to help ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Pregnancy is also a time of changes for both partners, including changes in their sexual relationship. Many expectant parents worry that sex may be harmful during pregnancy—that intercourse could hurt the baby, causing a miscarriage. Some parents may fear that the baby “knows” that sex is taking place or that intercourse will cause discomfort or pain for the mother-to-be. Worries such as these are common, and many of them are unfounded.

Unless a woman’s healthcare professional advises otherwise, sex during pregnancy is safe for both mother and baby. The baby is fully protected in the mother’s uterus by the amniotic fluid and by her abdomen.

Read on below to learn more about sex and intimacy during the special time of pregnancy.

Will an Expectant Mother’s Sexual Desire Change?

It is common for a woman’s sexual desires to be different when she is pregnant. Hormonal changes during pregnancy cause some women to experience an increased sex drive, while others may show little interest in sex.

During the first trimester, nausea, fatigue, breast tenderness, and the frequent need to urinate affect many women’s desire for sex. The second trimester may bring renewed energy and an increased desire for sex as the early discomforts of pregnancy subside. Some women find that they are more responsive during this period, but it is not uncommon for desire to decline again late in the pregnancy.

This experience will be different for every woman, so it is important for an expectant mom to communicate her feelings to her partner.

How Can an Expectant Mother Stay Comfortable During Sex?

Positions for intercourse that work before pregnancy and in early pregnancy may be uncomfortable or unsafe later in the baby’s development. For example, after the fourth month, a woman should avoid lying flat on her back because the weight of the uterus puts pressure on major blood vessels. Side-lying, woman-on-top, or rear-entry positions are comfortable for many couples.

If an expectant mother engages in oral sex, her partner should not blow air into her vagina. Blowing air into the vagina can cause an air embolism (when an air bubble blocks a blood vessel), which is potentially fatal for both mother and child.

Can Sex Cause Early Labor?

The contractions a pregnant woman may feel during or after orgasm are different from labor contractions. In normal, low-risk pregnancies, intercourse and orgasms do not cause labor to occur early. A pregnant woman should discuss any concerns she may have with her healthcare professional.

When Is Sex Not Safe?

If her pregnancy is considered high risk, a pregnant woman’s healthcare professional may advise her to abstain from intercourse for all or part of her pregnancy. The most common risk factors include, but are not limited to:

  • History or threat of miscarriage

  • History of preterm labor

  • Multiple fetuses

  • Unexplained bleeding

  • Leaking of amniotic fluid

  • Infection of either partner

  • Placenta previa (a condition in which the placenta covers the cervix

If a woman’s healthcare professional limits her sexual activity during pregnancy, there are other ways she can to intimate with her partner. Cuddling, kissing, massage, candle-lit dinners, and open communication can provide an outlet for sexual needs.

When to Call Your Healthcare Professional

Contact your healthcare professional about any questions you may have about sex during pregnancy or if you are unsure whether sex during pregnancy is safe for you. Call your healthcare professional if you notice any unusual symptoms after intercourse, such as pain, bleeding, discharge, or contractions that seem to continue after sex.

Throughout pregnancy, always follow your healthcare professional’s advice. If you have any questions, contact your healthcare professional.

Learn More

Learn more about pregnancy-related topics and issues as well as our pregnancy education resources by visiting our Pregnancy Education Products Section.

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