A guide to sex during pregnancy.
What to expect when you have sex while you’re expecting.
When we talk about sex, procreation can be a big part of the picture—but humans, though animals, don’t get it on for purely biological reasons: we also want to feel good. That doesn’t mean you have to stop having sex with your partner while you’re expecting—in fact, you might find it more enjoyable.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s perfectly safe and normal to have sex during your pregnancy, unless your doctor or midwife tell you otherwise, due to any health risks it may cause (more on that later). All those hormones will also have an impact on your sex drive, and your growing belly (and resulting soreness) might make it necessary to branch out from your usual positions, but all in all, getting it on through the trimesters can potentially have its benefits.
How to have sex during pregnancy
Let’s set something straight: If your partner has a penis, you don’t have to worry about it hurting the embryo growing inside your uterus. According to the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS), there’s no risk of this—but some sex positions will be better than others. The healthcare system notes that in the first trimester, it might be uncomfortable having your partner on top, because your breasts will likely be sensitive. Deep penetration can also cause discomfort. Instead, the NHS advises lying on your side, with your partner in front or behind you.
Oral sex is also generally deemed safe during pregnancy, with one small (and specific) caveat: It’s important that your partner doesn’t blow air into the vaginal opening, since this can cause a rare (yet possible) air embolism, which can be dangerous to both mother and baby. If you have hemorroids, which can be common in pregnancy, it’s best to avoid anal sex.
Masturbation and the use of vibrators is also OK during pregnancy—just make sure you’re regularly cleaning any vibrators (as you always should) to reduce the risk of infection. For some, masturbation can offer serious mental and physical relief during this time, too.
When not to have sex during pregnancy
Reasons why your health care provider may advise against sex during pregnancy all have to do with increased health risks. In a healthy pregnancy, sex won’t induce labor—but if you’ve previously experienced pre-term labor, your doctor might advise against sex, especially during your third trimester. If your water has broken, your risk of infection is also higher, and if your placenta is lower, sex can add to the risk of heavy bleeding. If you’re expecting twins—or more—sex may also be discouraged during pregnancy. When in doubt, talk to your doc first.
How pregnancy affects your sex drive
Just because you can have sex while pregnant doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily want to. After all, your sex drive will change throughout your pregnancy. According to a study published in February 2020, sex drive in women dips in their first trimester, and then starts recovering in their second and third trimesters—though it doesn’t reach their pre-pregnancy levels of desire. This decrease can be caused by a number of reasons, including pregnancy-induced nausea, fear of harming the fetus, tiredness, and lack of interest. Some women experience increased libido and improved orgasms in the second trimester, thanks to increased blood flow—but everyone’s experience is different. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting intimate however you want at that point in time—whether that’s doing the deed with your partner or indulging in some much-needed alone time with your favorite vibrator.