Safe Ways for You and Your Partner to Have Sex While Pregnant
Pregnancy is a constant in the cycle of life, but even though sex is considered normal during pregnancy, many of us are scared to keep fulfilling our sexual needs.
Some people are frozen by a fear of penetration harming the baby, while many wrestle with the bump-blocking sex positions, and others struggle with changes to their sex drive.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are about 3.6 million births in the United States every year, and many couples struggle to keep their sex life aflame during the nine months it takes to grow a human.
How does pregnancy affect the body and sexuality?
"Sexologists often talk about heightened sex drive during pregnancy," said Cecile Gasnault, brand director of sexual wellness brand Smile Makers, based in Singapore, and founder of Vulva Talks, a sex education site. "Pregnant women's bodies also become ultrasensitive, with increased sensations in erogenous areas."
Some parents find their sexual desire increases during pregnancy, while others experience a drop in libido. The impact of pregnancy on sexual function varies drastically between patients as no two pregnancies are the same.
Heightened libido is triggered by the increased flow of hormones during pregnancy, which mainly occurs late in the first trimester and into the second. Higher levels of lubrication and a hypersensitive clitoris can also be side effects due to extra genital blood flow, creating more intense orgasms.
"During the first and third trimester, patients may not feel up to engaging in sexual intercourse," said Corey R. Babb, D.O., a sexual medicine physician in Oklahoma. "Also, as the pregnancy continues, certain positions may become more uncomfortable to engage in due to the growing uterus."
In the aftermath of birth, the body experiences changes in sexual function, including changes in estrogen and progesterone levels, as well as the release of relaxin—a reproductive hormone that loosens and relaxes muscles and ligaments—which can cause atrophy, affecting lubrication and how the clitoris engorges when aroused.
Is it safe to have sex while pregnant?
"For the most part, sex during pregnancy is completely safe and is not going to carry any danger to the mother or to the fetus," Babb said. "Sex during pregnancy can be wonderful, although if you're having premature labor or abnormal bleeding, always talk with your doctor before engaging in sexual activity."
The prevailing myth associated with pregnant sex is that penetrative vaginal sex can affect the baby.
However, it is impossible for a penis or sex toy to reach inside the womb and harm the baby. They are blissfully unaware of what's happening outside their little cocoon, so do not allow this irrational fear to block your sex life. The baby will be just fine.
In fact, for expectant mothers in the later stages of pregnancy, sex can help trigger labor. The uterine contractions brought on by female orgasms can induce labor. Plus, the prostaglandins present in ejaculate are deposited near the cervix during penetrative sex, which can help soften it to prepare for dilation and even cause the uterus to contract.
Although rarely implemented, orgasm and clitoral stimulation during labor ease contractions and could make delivery smoother.
Overall, there are no risks associated with having sex while pregnant, but there are some obvious caveats. Some positions, such as the missionary position, may be more difficult, and rigorous sex in the later stages of pregnancy may be painful or uncomfortable for the pregnant partner.
It's also best to put kinks that involve pain, masochism and sadism on the shelf until after birth. They could cause undue harm and stress to both the pregnant partner and the unborn child. However, it is safe to keep sex toys involved, as long as they are cleaned properly in between uses.
As with all intimacy, communication is the critical ingredient for a successful pregnant sex life. Pregnancy undoubtedly impacts both partners, so neglecting to express the changes you're experiencing may only cause harm and trigger miscommunication.
It is tempting to keep these changes to ourselves, particularly if you fear that you may hurt your partner's feelings. However, as long as all thoughts and feelings are shared sensitively, communicating openly can help both of you find sexual fulfillment during pregnancy.
"Sex is something to be enjoyed," Gasnault advised. "It's common for a woman to experience worries when it comes to having sex while pregnant, but take comfort in the fact that many do."
Set aside time once a month or so to update each other on how you are feeling. Maintain an open line of communication. Barring any physical complications, you should both be able to enjoy each other's bodies fully throughout the pregnancy.
Above all, do not be afraid to ask for what you need, especially as a pregnant partner. Your sexuality does not take a hiatus just because there is a baby growing inside your body, so cast aside any shame and ask your partner to fulfill your desires.
Adjusting positions and finding the right tools
Mastering the art of pregnant sex requires adapting your sexual repertoire to accommodate the evolving physical changes.
"A major change in pregnancy is the rounded belly," Gasnault said. "From the fourth month on, this can lead the couple to consider the positions they experience during sex. For example, the missionary position can become very unpleasant or impractical."
Good alternatives include doggy style, which prevents the rounded belly from rubbing against a partner's. It's also easy to maintain control over the depth and adjust it for the pregnant partner's needs and desires. The spoon is another effective position because it prevents the uterus and the baby from weighing on the stomach, and the clitoris remains accessible for stimulation.
A trickier position for some pregnant people, especially during the last trimester, is Andromache, where the woman sits on the man. Although it can be beneficial for women, empowering them to set the pace and control the depth of penetration, it becomes more difficult as the bump gets bigger.
Try employing assistive devices as the bump grows and your energy dips. Wedge pillows and pregnancy pillows alleviate the physical pressure of the bump and make engaging in positions like doggy style simpler and less energy-sapping.
A well-secured sex swing is another happy alternative to the standard missionary or reverse cowgirl positions, allowing the pregnant partner to sit back and relax, and their partner to focus on providing pleasure.
While it's probably best to eliminate getting on your knees for oral sex during the later stages of pregnancy, remember that clitoral stimulation is always good for your overall health. Make it a priority and maintain at least some semi-regular orgasms throughout your pregnancy to ward off any sexual frustration and protect your mental and physical well-being.
Pregnant sex may mean setting aside rigorous intercourse for a few months and getting over your fears, but it should never require sacrificing pleasure. Even during pregnancy, our sexual satisfaction matters and it's perfectly fine to make it a priority alongside caring for your unborn child.