Sex is common during pregnancy, although the frequency can differ between couples. Sex is more likely to taper off in late gestational stages because of pain and discomfort, but this is not always the case.1 There are many myths out there concerning sex and pregnancy. These myths relate to fears of harming the pregnant woman or the developing fetus.
Let’s take a look at some of these myths and see why they are not true.
- Myth #1: Sex during pregnancy is not safe
- Myth #2: Sex during pregnancy harms the fetus
- Myth #3: Sex during pregnancy induces labor
- Myth #4: Sex during pregnancy causes miscarriages
Myth #1: Sex is not safe during pregnancy
Due to the bodily changes that accompany pregnancy, some women may feel more uncomfortable or may feel more pain during sexual intercourse; discomfort and pain may limit the frequency of sex or cause couples to vary sexual positions during pregnancy.2 Certain types of sex such as oral sex or anal sex are theorized to increase the risk of a blood clot in pregnant women.3 Some experts may suggest to abstain from oral or anal sex during pregnancy because of this theorized risk; however, other experts believe oral and anal sex are safe and can still be enjoyed during pregnancy as long as the partner avoids blowing air into the vagina during oral sex in particular.1 The serious concern with oral sex is that blowing air into the vagina can cause blood clots and other complications in some pregnant women.1
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that sex is safe throughout pregnancy unless your doctor instructs you differently.4 Position or type of sex may have to be modified during pregnancy, but sex is considered safe in women with a normal, healthy, low risk pregnancy. More comfortable sexual positions for women during pregnancy may include lying on your side or positions on your hands or knees.3
A doctor will recommend abstaining from sex during pregnancy in women at high risk of preterm labor (ex. carrying twins, vaginal infection, pelvic inflammatory disease), an incompetent or weak cervix, previous miscarriage, or with bleeding related to placenta previa (a condition causing the placenta to lie low in the uterus near the cervical opening).1
Myth #2: Sex harms the fetus
The fetus develops with the fluid-filled amniotic sac within the womb. The fluid in the amniotic sac is known as amniotic fluid. The amniotic fluid serves to protect the baby by maintaining a constant temperature, preventing infection, and providing a cushion-like environment. The amniotic sac is closed off by a mucous plug that seals the cervix until birth. The muscles of the uterus also help to protect the developing fetus.5
Myth #3: Sex induces labor
Evidence lacks conclusive certainty to support the idea that sex will induce labor in pregnant women. Theoretically, the release of oxytocin can occur with genital and nipple stimulation or orgasm during sex. Oxytocin is the body’s natural hormone that causes uterine contractions during labor. Other chemicals called prostaglandins can be released by the body by sexual stimulation of the cervix, orgasm, or by semen. These prostaglandins can prepare the cervix for labor by opening and softening the cervical tissue; this is also known as cervical ripening.1
Myth #4: Sex causes miscarriages
Many women who experience miscarriage may feel that they did something that caused their miscarriage. In reality, approximately half of early miscarriages are due to random genetic abnormalities. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that sex during pregnancy does not cause miscarriage.6
In women with normal, low risk pregnancies, sex is considered safe. Often, couples may have sex less frequently during pregnancy due to discomfort and pain or they may have to modify their sexual positions during pregnancy. Your doctor will recommend abstaining from sex if you have a high risk pregnancy characterized by conditions such as hemorrhage/placenta previa or a weak cervix.