Does Sex During Pregnancy Have To Stop?
Experts say there’s no timeline, unless sex is unsafe for you during your pregnancy.
For some pregnant people, pregnancy makes them pretty "thirsty," and that's a perfectly common symptom. (I don’t mean thirsty in the “drink 10 glasses of water” way either.) For others, sex during pregnancy is the furthest thing from their mind, which is also understandable. If you’re up for getting down though, is there a time it's not safe? Many are interested in sex during pregnancy, but worry there’s some kind of timeline to follow, like a good time to have sex during pregnancy, and a time when you should stop having sex during pregnancy.
When Should You Not Have Sex During Pregnancy?
Luckily, for those who are into it, OB-GYN Lakeisha Richardson says that having intercourse throughout your entire pregnancy is perfectly safe, barring any complications you may have. WebMD noted that your baby is protected by your abdomen and “the uterus’ muscular walls,” as well as the amniotic sac’s fluid. However, if your water has broken, you definitely should not have sex. Per the Mayo Clinic, once your water has broken, if anything is inserted into the vagina after the amniotic sac is broken it can introduce bacteria — which can cause an infection.
Additionally, Richardson says in an email interview with Romper that women should not have sex if they've had premature rupture of membranes, preterm labor, or placenta previa/low-lying placenta — which causes bleeding during pregnancy — or if she’s had a cervical cerclage.
OB-GYN Idries Abdur-Rahman tells Romper that placenta previa is a condition where the placenta covers your cervix. Apparently, it's more common in women who have previously had a baby, have uterine scarring from previous surgery — including C-sections, uterine fibroid removal, and “dilation and curettage” — are carrying more than one fetus, are 35 or older, or had placenta previa in a previous pregnancy.
Additionally, if you’ve been put on pelvic rest, you definitely should not have sex. “The most common reason pregnant women are placed on pelvic rest is bleeding during pregnancy. If women have bleeding in the first trimester, they are placed on pelvic rest until the bleeding resolves and they are out of the first trimester. Also, pregnant women who experience preterm labor, premature rupture of membranes, or bleeding in the second or third trimester are placed on pelvic rest until delivery," Richardson says. Abdur-Rahman adds that you shouldn’t have sex while pregnant if you have pre-eclampsia, or if you’re having triplets (or more) in some cases.
What will happen if you have pregnancy sex when you shouldn’t? Nothing good. “For women who have premature rupture of membranes, having intercourse increases the risk of infection and preterm labor, and if you have a placenta previa or bleeding, having intercourse can cause a hemorrhage or bleeding,” Richardson says. Yikes. So not worth it.
However, solo orgasms, even with vibrators aren’t completely off the table in most cases. Richardson says clitoral masturbation is safe as long as you don’t insert anything inside your vagina, “except for women who have preterm labor, because an orgasm can cause uterine contractions or irritability.” So if you do use a vibrator, be sure to only use it on the outside if your doctor has told you sex during pregnancy isn’t safe.
How Pregnancy Affects Sex
This is a good thing since it seems like most women are on one side of the coin or the other — either they can’t get enough sex, or they want nothing to do with it. For those in the “can’t-get-enough-sex” category, Abdur-Rahman says this happens for a few reasons. “Part of it is psychological. For many women, pregnancy is ironically the first time in their lives that they have been able to have sex without the worry of becoming pregnant. Many women find this freeing,” he says. He also notes that sometimes their changing body can make a pregnant person's libido increase.
“Fluctuating hormones also play a role, including the hormone responsible for male and female libido testosterone. Increases in testosterone often result in increased libido,” Abdur-Rahman says. “Lastly, pregnancy causes an increase in blood flow to the uterus and the genitalia. This results in engorgement of the vagina and clitoris, which increases both awareness of these areas and increased sensitivity.”
However, if the thought of sex makes you want to curl up and hide, this could be because of your comfort levels, according to Richardson. This is totally understandable, as it may be hard to have sex during pregnancy unless you’re in certain positions, and even then, it can be a little exhausting on your already tired body. However, sex improves your mood, and orgasms release oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, which is definitely something everyone needs more of during those last several weeks of pregnancy. Richardson also says that having intercourse on a regular basis in your third trimester will improve your chances of going into spontaneous labor, because of “the cervical ripening effects of prostaglandins in semen.”
If you’re up for it, having sex throughout your pregnancy is perfectly safe, no matter what trimester. The only time you really shouldn’t is if you have bleeding during pregnancy, a low-lying placenta, a cervical cerclage, preterm labor, pre-eclampsia, triplets or more, or a premature break of your water. And the good news is, if you are suffering from any of those things during pregnancy, you’re probably not going to be feeling super frisky in general.
Dr. Lakeisha W. Richardson, Delta Regional Medical Center
Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman, OB-GYN, author of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Pregnancy (But Were Too Afraid or Embarrassed to Ask, and one-half of the Twin Doctors from TwinDoctorsTV.
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