Sex During Pregnancy

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How you feel about sex during your pregnancy could change by the minute! Hormones affect how you feel about lots of things, but especially sensitive topics like sex. Maybe you had a high sex drive before pregnancy and now you have no interest at all. Maybe sex felt like a chore before pregnancy, but now you can’t get enough. Maybe you vacillate between these two extremes. The point is, however you feel about sex during your pregnancy is okay. In this post, we’ll discuss some ideas about how to navigate talking about—and, if you want to, actually having—sex during pregnancy.

Sex with a Partner

The first thing to consider about sex with a partner any time, not just during pregnancy, is consent. If you and your partner are both up for sex, it can be a great way to connect and enjoy each other. If one of you is not up for it, then it’s not the best idea to move forward. While it’s always true that consent from all parties makes for better sex, this is especially true during pregnancy, when emotions are running high.

The second thing to consider is safety. Most of the time, sex of all kinds is safe for you and safe for the baby. One exception to watch out for is if you have a low-lying placenta or placenta previa, which means that your placenta is low in your uterus, maybe even covering the opening of the cervix. In this case, your doctor or midwife will discuss with you whether you can have sex or not. Another exception is if either you or your partner has a sexually transmitted disease. In most cases it’s still okay to have sex if this is the case, but it might mean using extra protection like a condom or dental dam. If you or your partner have a sexually transmitted disease, you might consider refraining from sex during the third trimester, when an active infection would be more likely to be passed to your baby during birth.

You can also get creative about sex with your partner. Maybe penetrative, penis- or toy-in-vagina sex doesn’t sound appealing to you, but oral sex or mutual masturbation does. As your belly grows, positioning can be awkward, but with a little good humor, you can find a configuration that works for everyone, even in the third trimester.

Another key to sex, especially during pregnancy, is communication. In addition to communicating about the willingness of everyone involved, communication during sex is crucial. Because so many changes happen in your body during pregnancy—from heightened sense of smell to increased vaginal discharge to varicose veins—you might be feeling insecure about your body. Talk with your partner about these insecurities and ask for what you need to feel good about engaging in intimate relations.

Some of these changes also might mean new physical experiences for both you and your partner during sex, so stay in contact about what sensations you are experiencing and what feels good and does not feel good. Either of you should be willing to stop or change things up if one person experiences discomfort or even pain. And take extra consideration about things like lubrication, which can be highly affected by your changing hormones, and increased sensations that can come with the changes in blood flow to your genitals during pregnancy.

Sex for One

Maybe your life is such that you don’t have a partner or your partner isn’t up for sex during pregnancy. Sexual pleasure can still be within reach if you want to engage in sex for one or masturbation. Unless there is a reason you should not be having orgasms—something your care provider will likely have discussed with you—pleasuring yourself is a great way to unwind and relax during pregnancy. You can use a toy or your hand and pleasure yourself anywhere that is safe and private.

As discussed above, however you feel about sex during pregnancy—and really any time—is okay. If you have worries or anxieties about how your sex life has changed since getting pregnant, try to remember that everything that you are feeling right now, while likely intense, is probably temporary. With a bit of communication and work, your sexual life can be something great, both during and after pregnancy.

Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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