My Unborn Baby Is Kicking—Can I Still Have Sex?
Before becoming pregnant 7 months ago, I didn't realize that sometimes my unborn baby's mobility could be seen by others. I knew I would feel baby kicks and rolls, but I didn't realize that a fetus would be able to cause noticeable jabs, lumps and movements from my stomach. Seeing my baby shift through my skin is an indescribably miraculous experience most of the time—except when it comes to sex.
Psychologically, it feels strange to have sex with such a visual—and physical—reminder of my baby. To me, it's similar to having sex while someone is watching, which can be a huge turnon for some but makes me feel shy and lowers my desire. Especially if that "someone" is my unborn baby.
Most moms-to-be can start feeling baby movement during weeks 18 to 25 of pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association. By 28 weeks, you should feel at least 10 movements within two hours, and things like eating, drinking or physical activity can trigger your baby to move. This means it's very likely sex could increase a baby's movement—which can definitely be uncomfortable for some pregnant people and their partners.
Feeling flutters, twists and jabs in your uterus from your baby is key to a healthy pregnancy and a normal part of pregnancy sex, but if it feels strange to you, there are several things you can do to help.
Safety and sex
Most sexual activity is safe for women with healthy pregnancies, according to the America College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as "the amniotic sac and the strong muscles of the uterus protect the fetus." Of course, you should always talk to your OB-GYN to be sure.
Megan Gray, M.D., OB-GYN at Orlando Health Physician Associates and author of "The Forgotten Trimester: Navigating Self-Care After Birth," agreed. "Yes, it is perfectly fine to have sex at any point during pregnancy unless you have been diagnosed with a complication precluding sex and, of course, as long as both you and your partner are comfortable," she said.
Just like adults, babies in the uterus have wake and sleep cycles, according to Gray, so baby movement could be unrelated to having sex. "However, lots of movement and jostling about during sex can wake a sleeping baby and encourage movement," she said. For me, my baby tends to move more when I'm relaxing or right after eating or drinking, and I haven't noticed sex causing him to move more. With that being said, sometimes my baby's movements are random, and I have felt him moving during sex—which does make me feel a little weird.
Can it be a turnoff?
"Yes, especially initially," Gray said. "But eventually, most people choose to ignore it."
Sexual desire changes during pregnancy, according to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine with women having lower levels of sexual desire throughout pregnancy than their male partners. I can personally relate. Baby movement (and other physical pains) caused my sexual desire to lower during pregnancy compared to my husband, whose desire remained the same throughout.
Having sex while pregnant
If you find it unnerving to have sex while the baby is moving, experiment with new positions or wait until the baby quiets down.
"Find positions [in which] both you and your partner are less likely to focus on your pregnant belly," Gray said "Side-lying or from behind are options." She added, "Most pregnant people will, over time, be able to get an idea of their baby's activity cycle and can somewhat predict approximately when during the day a baby is most active." Then, you can plan your bedroom escapades for the times you know your baby normally sleeps.
Because my baby is most active when I first lie down for the night, I like to rest for about 15 to 20 minutes after getting in bed before doing anything sexual with my husband. That is usually enough time for the baby to settle down, making it a little easier for me to ignore during sex.
Are there times when a pregnant person should abstain from having sex?
Although baby movement is not a sign you should avoid having sex (unless you don't want to), there are a few instances to abstain from penetrative sex during pregnancy. "People who have unexplained vaginal bleeding, shortened cervix, placenta previa, vasa previa or preterm labor should avoid sex in pregnancy," Gray said.
Also, the American Pregnancy Association recommends to avoid sex if you have a history of premature birth, a history of miscarriage, if your water has broken, if you have vaginal bleeding, if you have a low-lying placenta, if you have an incompetent cervix or if you have a sexually transmitted disease.
"Sex during pregnancy is okay (barring any diagnosis that would preclude it) and quite normal," said Gray. "Many pregnant people will find an increase in their sex drive and an increase in pleasure with sex during pregnancy after their first trimester."
If having sex while your baby is moving doesn't bother you or your partner, then go for it. If it does feel a little weird, that's okay too. With a little experimentation and patience, you can find a less noticeable position or wait for the baby to go to sleep before getting it on.