With all that extra pressure in the pelvic area from your growing baby, pregnancy can make people feel a little bit friskier than normal. Orgasms can be more intense, and sex can be much more fun when you’re pregnant — especially if you have the right moves. But what if you have certain medical conditions such as placenta previa or if you’re on bed rest? Can you have sex with placenta previa? There are so many rules and restrictions during pregnancy in general. It would be great to still enjoy some pleasures and to be able to scratch that primal itch whenever you want, but the fact is, you do need to be cautious with certain pregnancy conditions.
What is placenta previa?
First, a little anatomy lesson: Your cervix is a short canal that leads from the inside of your uterus to your vagina, and it’s the cervix that dilates during labor so the baby can come out. The placenta is the organ that develops inside and attaches to your uterus. It also includes an umbilical cord that serves as the conduit for oxygen and nutrition for your baby and also removes waste from the baby’s blood.
The placenta usually attaches along the upper walls of the uterus, away from the cervix, which is at the bottom. Placenta previa is a condition where the placenta covers the part of your cervix that’s inside your uterus, Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman, M.D., OB-GYN, explains. When the placenta covers the cervix, not only does it prevent a normal vaginal delivery, it also increases the risk of significant vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, he says.
Can you have sex with placenta previa?
Unfortunately, the health risks of placenta previa are serious and make having sex dangerous. “The biggest risk with placenta previa is the risk of heavy, prolonged vaginal bleeding which can put both the mother and baby’s life at risk and can necessitate delivery preterm,” says Abdur-Rahman. “As a general rule, nothing should be placed in the vagina when a placenta previa is present.”
Having an orgasm can also stimulate bleeding from the placenta, he hadds. “You should absolutely not have sex in any form if you have placenta previa,” he says.
There’s also a theory that orgasms can provoke uterine contractions, adds family nurse practitioner Jacqueline King, which could potentially cause the cervix to dilate and resultant bleeding to occur.
Can you masturbate with placenta previa?
Unfortunately, because orgasms can cause contractions — and potentially cause the cervix to dilate — having some alone time with yourself is out as well if you have placenta previa. “Both masturbation and orgasm can stimulate bleeding from the placenta which can be life threatening,” Abdur-Rahman says.
How to be intimate with placenta previa
Knowing that sex and even masturbation are off the table with placenta previa, you may be worried about finding ways to connect with your partner between now and the end of your pregnancy. However, there are ways to enjoy intimacy with your partner, even with placenta previa. “My suggestion to someone experiencing placenta previa would be to find movements to do with their partner that focus on the sensual rather than the sexual,” says Rebecca Slape, a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health. “This could be something like yoga, breathing exercises such as sitting back to back and trying to match your partner's breath, or slow dancing.” Massage is also a wonderful way to connect with a partner, Slape says, “though it can be tempting to turn this into something more.”
“Additionally, in a weird quirk of anatomy, the places in the brain that govern both sensation and motor output for the pelvic floor are right next to that of the feet,” says Slape. So, if you're experiencing pelvic pain, a foot massage can actually possibly be a great help.
Early signs of placenta previa
How do you know you have placenta previa? The most common sign that you may have placenta previa is bleeding during your pregnancy. The amount of bleeding can range from light spotting to quite heavy — even heavier than a menstrual period. Less commonly, placenta previa can also be associated with cramping or pelvic pressure, Abdur-Rahman says. You may also feel some low back pain, adds King.
Placenta previa is often associated with no symptoms at all, however, and is instead typically discovered during a routine ultrasound examination, Abdur-Rahman says.
The bottom line? Inserting anything into the vagina is a strict no-no if you have placenta previa. But, unfortunately, any sexual activity is risky if you are dealing with this condition. Having an orgasm can stimulate heavy and prolonged bleeding and could potentially put your life and the baby’s life at risk.
Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman, M.D., OB-GYN
Rebecca Slape, PT, DPT of Rose City Pelvic Health
Jacqueline King, APRN, family nurse practitioner.