Is it good to have sexual intercourse while pregnant? What research says

It is okay to have sex during pregnancy unless your physician says otherwise.

A man and his pregnant wife

Key takeaways:

  • During pregnancy, people's sexual needs change. While some have an increased desire for sex, some people may have a reduced sexual libido.
  • Whether you desire more or less sex during pregnancy depends on factors such as the trimester, psychological, emotional, and hormonal systems.
  • Sex during pregnancy is considered safe. However, it is important to take the sex position into consideration and to speak further with a gynecologist about sex during pregnancy.

It is normal to worry about many things during pregnancy, including sex. Can sex during pregnancy harm the fetus? Can it induce labor? Can it result in a miscarriage? These and more are likely the questions that run through your mind when you are pregnant.

Some studies have indicated that sexual contact during pregnancy is safe for pregnant people and their unborn babies. And according to an older study, sex is generally considered safe for people with low-risk pregnancies. Both the muscles of the uterus and the amniotic fluid protect the fetus. So, having sex will most likely not affect your unborn baby or dislodge the baby from its position.

While sex is not bad for pregnant people, it might cause an issue for people who have pregnancy complications such as placenta problems or preterm labor. 

This is why it is important for them to go for antenatal care during pregnancy, where a gynecologist can answer all their questions. Their healthcare provider can also screen them for health complications during hospital visits. 

Is sexual desire during pregnancy normal?

It is normal to have a sexual desire (libido) when pregnant. However, every person’s pregnancy experiences are different, including their sex drive. According to a study, sexual activity declines during pregnancy because some people have fears concerning their baby's safety, while others experience reduced libido.

But, while some people experience a decline in their sexual drive during pregnancy, others become more easily aroused and more connected to their sexuality during this time. According to a 2020 study of the sexual activities of pregnant people, the frequency of sex decreased during pregnancy. However, most of the respondents reported having desired and enjoyed sex during pregnancy.

Also, the pattern of libido during pregnancy changes. For example, a person's libido may drop during the first trimester because of all the changes in their body, such as sore breasts, tiredness, and feeling sick. However, libido may kick high during the second trimester.

Sex during the third trimester might feel uncomfortable as the belly protrudes more and childbirth approaches. If you start feeling uncomfortable with sex, you and your partner might want to try other ways of achieving intimacy, such as cuddling, caressing each other, and kissing.

What is the best sexual position during pregnancy?

There is no "one best" sex position during pregnancy. An ideal sexual position should be one that is not uncomfortable and does not put pressure on the fetus.

Healthcare professionals often tell people to avoid positions like the missionary position that keep you on your back during sex. This position can compress blood flow, especially in people who have reached their 20th week of pregnancy.

You might also want to avoid lying flat on your stomach during sex, as some pregnant people find this position uncomfortable. 

Recommended positions a pregnant person might want to try out include side-by-side sex (the pregnant person lying on her side with the partner behind), sex from behind (doggy style), the pregnant person on top (cowgirl style), and standing.

You might want to play around with different sex positions until you find the ones you are comfortable with. It is also medically okay to have oral sex during pregnancy. The most important thing is to ensure you are comfortable with any sex position you opt for.

Is sperm safe for a pregnant woman?

Some people believe that sperm ejaculated during sex will harm their unborn babies. A 2014 review study of sexuality in expecting fathers showed that 80% of the fathers were afraid of hurting their babies during intercourse.

There is no strong evidence that having penile-vaginal sex with a pregnant person or releasing sperm into the vagina is harmful.

According to an older review published in the Cochrane database of systematic reviews, sperm cells contain a high amount of prostaglandin, a hormone-like substance that can induce labor. The study review, however, reported a study with very limited data and was unable to draw any meaningful conclusions from the available data.

We also know that the penis does not penetrate beyond the vagina and cervix to hit the fetus in the uterus, and the presence of the amniotic sac covering the baby, the mucus plug also acts as a barrier that helps keep unwanted substances and infections away from the uterus. 

Do you need protection during pregnancy sex?

A condom

The rules for protection during sex pretty much apply to pregnancy, especially if you are having sex with a random person or multiple partners. If you are not sure about the health status of your sexual partner, then it is best to use protection.

Keep in mind that sexually transmitted infections can be passed on during pregnancy. It is particularly important that pregnant people protect themselves from infection during pregnancy because any pelvic inflammation resulting from an infection can cause miscarriage, early labor, or other pregnancy complications. 

When not to have sex during pregnancy

Sex should be seen as normal during pregnancy, particularly for people who are having a low-risk pregnancy since orgasmic contractions are different from labor contractions. 

However, doctors often advise against sex during the last weeks of pregnancy as a general safety precaution. They believe the final weeks of pregnancy may not be a good time for sex. The clinicians believe that hormones in semen called prostaglandins can induce labor contractions, particularly in people who are due for labor. 

Since the gel used to ripen the cervix and trigger contractions contain prostaglandin, doctors believe semen too can induce labor in full-term and past-due labor. However, not all doctors agree on this. 

Sometimes, doctors also ask people with high-risk pregnancies to avoid sex. It is best to talk to your doctor about the safety of sexual intercourse during pregnancy. Your doctor might advise you not to have sex during pregnancy if:

  • You have a vaginal discharge, bleeding, or cramping without any identified cause
  • You have a past medical history of miscarriage
  • Your placenta is too low such that it blocks the neck of the uterus near the cervix (placenta previa)
  • You have a high risk of going into preterm labor
  • You are expecting more than one baby, e.g., twins or triplets
  • Your amniotic sac is leaking fluid

If your doctor says "no sex," discuss it with them so you can understand clearly what they mean by that. Note that when they advise a pregnant person against sex, it could also mean "no sexual arousal or orgasm."

When to see a doctor

It is advisable for pregnant people to check in regularly with their gynecologist. Seeing a gynecologist reduces the risk of developing a sudden pregnancy complication. It ensures that any complication is detected and treated earlier. 

Also, if you notice unusual symptoms during or after sex, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. 

See a doctor if you notice symptoms like:

  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Contractions
  • Discharge
  • Any significant discomfort 

Disclaimer: Semic Health publishes well-written, researched, and edited health content to answer people’s questions and improve their quality of life. However, the fact-based content we publish is not meant to substitute for medical diagnosis, medical treatment, or a consultation with a certified healthcare professional.