Prioritize Safety and Comfort During Pregnancy Sex
With all the hormone changes and fluctuations that occur during pregnancy, it's no surprise a pregnant woman may be more or less interested in sex than usual. And since pregnancy side effects, such as morning sickness, tender breasts and fatigue, are common in the first trimester, for some, sex may be off the table entirely during that time period.
The good news is that if and when you're feeling up to it, and your doctor gives the okay, sex during pregnancy is very safe. If you have any questions or concerns about what sexual activities to proceed with and when, your OB-GYN or midwife is the perfect person to consult.
Ask for advice
Midwives are health professionals who care for expecting parents throughout the pregnancy and assist them during labor, birth and even the first months of parenthood. Typically, they can provide suggestions about all things sex during a woman's pregnancy.
"Sex is safe in pregnancy in any trimester," said Eliza Kay, a certified professional midwife in Columbus, Ohio. "As long as there are no other issues, sex is only off the table once the water has broken, even if labor doesn't start right away. Otherwise, enjoy! Occasionally, there can be issues in pregnancy like preterm labor or placenta previa, where the placenta is near or over the cervix. In these cases, the recommendation could be to avoid sex or penetrative sex."
The placenta is a structure that develops in the uterus during pregnancy. It is connected to the fetus by the umbilical cord and provides the fetus with oxygen and nutrients. Placenta previa is a condition in which the placenta partially or totally covers the cervix. This condition can result in severe bleeding. For this reason, it is very likely your doctor will recommend avoiding sex if you experience this.
If your doctor recommends abstaining from sex for any reason, it's important to ask if it's advisable to abstain from orgasms as well.
"Sometimes, avoiding orgasms is important because they can cause contractions," Kay said. "If you have been told to avoid penetrative sex for any reason, please ask your provider if an orgasm is okay—in some circumstances, orgasms are still safe."
Listen to your body
If your pregnancy is going smoothly and there are no health concerns that would warrant abstaining from sex, it is very likely any position or sexual act that feels good is on the table.
"Positioning is very personal for individual needs, anatomy and preferences," Kay said. "While the missionary position can be uncomfortable or impossible for the pregnant person once the third trimester starts, most other positions can be in play."
Kay suggests the "spooning" position, where both partners lie on their side and the pregnant partner is penetrated from behind. If penetration from behind feels good, another option that may work well is having the pregnant partner position themselves on their hands and knees.
Audrey K. Thompson, R.N., a licensed lactation consultant and prenatal educator in Atlanta, agreed that it's important to pay attention to what your body is telling you when having sex during pregnancy.
"Be aware that anatomical changes may change how sex feels," Thompson said. "Listen to your body and adjust positions and pace as needed."
As for positions to avoid completely during pregnancy, good news: There are virtually none.
"Basically, nothing is off-limits as long as it works for the pregnant person and their partner," Kay said. "If it feels good, enjoy it!"
Preterm labor and placenta previa are two of the main conditions, according to Kay, that would warrant abstaining from sex. However, it's also important for both partners to stay in touch with the pregnant partner's sex drive, as it can change at different times throughout the pregnancy. If the pregnant partner has no sex drive at any point during the pregnancy, that's just as good a reason to abstain at that time.
"Some pregnant people's sex drives increase during pregnancy, while others' decrease," Kay said. "These fluctuations are both normal."
Make time for intimacy
Kay and Thompson agree that sex during pregnancy can be a great way for couples to bond and maintain closeness before ushering a new baby into the world.
"For a healthy, typical-risk pregnancy, sex is generally very safe and beneficial," Thompson said.
But while it's important to remember to make time for intimacy during the pregnancy, there are many ways to be intimate and close without having sex.
"Make sure to spend time together and go on dates," Kay said. "Once your baby is here, your relationship takes a back seat as the new baby is integrated into your family. It is nice to enter this stage of early parenthood with a strong foundation in your relationship."