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Home > Learn > Intimacy > >Is It Safe to Have Sex During Pregnancy?

Is It Safe to Have Sex During Pregnancy?

Nov 28, 23 7 min

By OBGYN Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

Sex can be a great way to promote intimacy between you and your partner, but is it safe to continue having sex during pregnancy? How do you know when to stop having sex during pregnancy? Read on to hear from OBGYN Dr. Gleaton. 

Can You Have Sex During Pregnancy?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), most sexual activity, including penetration, is considered safe for those with a healthy pregnancy. [1] However, it’s always best to check with your healthcare provider first. If you have any complications or your pregnancy is considered high-risk, your provider may have some reservations about certain activities. [1] If your provider has given you the green light, sex can be a great mood booster, and it’s a great way to encourage intimacy and closeness with your partner. Just be sure to alert your provider if you feel any pain, notice heavy bleeding or leaking fluid, or if you have severe and persistent cramping. [1] Remember to prioritize hygiene as well, and do your best to avoid harmful bacteria entering the vagina. 

It’s also normal to notice a dip in your sex drive when you’re pregnant, especially during the first and third trimesters. [1] If you aren’t feeling it or if your normal sex positions and activities aren’t comfortable for you, have an open conversation with your partner. Learn about danger signs of pregnancy to look out for → 

When to Stop Sex During Pregnancy

If your pregnancy is progressing without any complications, and you’re in the mood for it, it is likely safe to continue having sex until you give birth. [1-2] If you notice any warning signs, such as bleeding, leaking fluid, pain, persistent cramping, etc. you should check in with your healthcare provider. If you’re at risk for preterm labor or have complications, such as a problem with the placenta, your provider may advise you to hold off on sexual activity. [1-2] 

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Common Questions About Having Sex During Pregnancy

Can Having Sex While Pregnant Cause Bleeding?

Yes, sexual intercourse while pregnant can cause some spotting. [1] This is considered normal and shouldn’t be an immediate cause for concern, though all spotting or bleeding should be reported to your healthcare provider. [1] Spotting may occur as a result of a more sensitive cervix and increased blood flow to the genital area. [3] If you notice heavier bleeding, similar to normal menstrual bleeding, you should contact your provider right away. 

Is It Safe to Orgasm While Pregnant?

Yes, it is safe for most people to orgasm while pregnant. [1] You should know that it’s normal for an orgasm to cause some cramping, which can also lead to an increase in fetal movement. [4] If you have severe, painful, or persistent cramping, you should reach out to a healthcare provider. 

Can Sex Cause Labor?

In most people with a singleton, low-risk pregnancy, sexual intercourse is not likely to induce premature labor. [2,5] However, if someone has a history of premature labor or a problem with their placenta, they may be at a higher risk of going into labor prematurely. Breast stimulation, female orgasms, and some hormones found in semen may cause uterine contractions, though this is unlikely to trigger early labor in those with healthy pregnancies. [6-7] Some research does suggest that sexual activity when nearing full term may encourage labor, although results are mixed. [2,4]  Preparing for labor? Read our hospital bag checklist! 

Can Sex Hurt My Baby?

In most people with a healthy pregnancy, sex will not be harmful to the fetus. [1] The fetus is surrounded by the amniotic sac and strong uterine muscles which keeps them safe and protected. [1] It is important to avoid putting weight on the belly, especially during the second and third trimester. It’s also normal to notice increased fetal activity after having an orgasm. [4] If you ever notice a decrease in fetal activity, pain, discomfort, or other warning signs, you should contact your provider. [1-2] 

Do I Need to Use a Condom?

If you are having sex with a monogamous, STI-negative partner, there isn’t a need to use a condom when having sex unless you or your partner prefer it. [6] If you are having sex with a new partner, you are not in a mutually monogamous relationship, or if your provider advises you to, then you should use a condom. [6] 

What Are Safe Sex Positions During Pregnancy?

The best sex positions during pregnancy are the ones that are the most comfortable and enjoyable for yourself and your partner. It is important to avoid putting weight on the belly and to avoid lying on the back for long periods of time. Some research suggests that a side-by-side position may be the most comfortable during pregnancy, specifically in the last trimester. [4] This may involve a spooning position or lying face-to-face. Experiment with a few different positions to find what works well for you, and be sure to talk with your provider about what you should avoid or be mindful of when having sex. 

What to Avoid When Having Sex While Pregnant

Your healthcare provider can give you specific information on what is safe vs unsafe when having sex. If you have a high-risk pregnancy or any complications, you may need to avoid sex or penetration altogether. [2] It’s best to avoid or stop having sex and contact your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing any leaking fluid, vaginal bleeding, opening of the cervix, pain, or prolonged cramping. [1,2,6] Some research warns about air embolism, which can occur if air is blown into the vagina during oral sex. [8] Air embolism can be very dangerous for both mom and baby. Speak to your provider about any concerns or questions you have about what to avoid when having sex.  Read my Q&A for more information about sex and conception! 

Other Options for Promoting Intimacy

Intimacy is an important part of a healthy relationship. Many of us think of physical intimacy right away, but there are many other options for feeling close to your partner. Examples of non-physical intimacy include sharing new experiences together, having intimate or deep conversations, expressing your feelings using different love languages, etc. If you don’t feel up to sex but are missing physical intimacy, talk with your partner about other options. You could take turns massaging one another (using Natalist Cooling Cream or Belly Oil if you want an extra special touch), cuddle in bed, hold hands more often, or kiss more frequently. Just remember that every pregnancy is different, and it’s completely normal to notice changes in your libido during pregnancy. 

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Natalist Intimacy Products

It’s natural to have concerns, questions, or fears about having sex during pregnancy. I encourage you to reach out to your provider directly for advice catered to your specific body and pregnancy. If you’re looking for pregnancy-safe products to promote intimacy and relaxation, we’ve got you covered. Find fertility lube, lotions, and oils in our self-care collection, or keep reading about intimacy on the Natalist blog. 



References:

  1. Is it safe to have sex during pregnancy? American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. February 2021. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/experts-and-stories/ask-acog/is-it-safe-to-have-sex-during-pregnancy
  2. Jones C, Chan C, Farine D. Sex in pregnancy. CMAJ. 2011;183(7):815-818. doi:10.1503/cmaj.091580
  3. Bleeding During Pregnancy. FAQ 038. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. August 2022.  https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/bleeding-during-pregnancy
  4. Polomeno V. Sex and Pregnancy: A Perinatal Educator's Guide. J Perinat Educ. 2000;9(4):15-27. doi:10.1624/105812400X87879
  5. Carbone L, De Vivo V, Saccone G, et al. Sexual Intercourse for Induction of Spontaneous Onset of Labor: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Sex Med. 2019;16(11):1787-1795. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2019.08.002
  6. Sex during pregnancy: What's OK, what's not. Mayo Clinic. July 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/sex-during-pregnancy/art-20045318
  7. Yo Y, Kawasaki K, Moriuchi K, Shiro R, Shimaoka M, Matsumura N. The Effect of Sexual Intercourse during Pregnancy on Preterm Birth: Prospective Single-Center Cohort Study in Japan. Healthcare (Basel). 2023;11(11):1657. Published 2023 Jun 5. doi:10.3390/healthcare11111657
  8. Hill BF, Jones JS. Venous air embolism following orogenital sex during pregnancy. Am J Emerg Med. 1993;11(2):155-157. doi:10.1016/0735-6757(93)90111-n
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