Sex and pregnancy: Is it good to have sexual intercourse while pregnant?

Many people are unsure what to expect during pregnancy. The delicacy of this phase makes them seek answers to questions like "is it okay to have sex during pregnancy?"

A man and his pregnant wife

It is okay to have sex during pregnancy unless your physician says otherwise. A foetus is protected by the muscles of the uterus as well as the amniotic fluid. So, having sex will not affect your unborn baby or dislodge the baby from its position.

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

This is why it is important for pregnant females to always go for antenatal where a gynaecologist 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 woman’s pregnancy experiences are different, including their sex drive. 

While some women’s sex drive declines during pregnancy, other women get more easily aroused and connected to their sexuality during pregnancy. 

Also, the pattern of libido during pregnancy changes. For instance, libido may decline during the first trimester due to the different changes in the woman’s body, including breast tenderness, constant fatigue and nausea. However, libido may kick high during the second trimester.

Sex during the third trimester might feel uncomfortable for a woman as the tummy 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?

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Most sexual positions are okay during pregnancy. However, healthcare professionals often advise that women avoid positions that will keep them on their back during sex, e.g., the missionary position. This position can compress blood flow, especially in women that have reached their 20th week of pregnancy.

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

Recommended positions a pregnant woman might want to try out include side-by-side sex (the pregnant woman lying by on her side and her partner behind her), sex from behind (doggy style), the pregnant woman 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 is to ensure you are comfortable with any sex position you are using.

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 baby during intercourse. 

Sperm cells are considered safe for a pregnant woman and a foetus. Sperm or semen deposited in a pregnant woman’s vagina during sex doesn’t cause harm; rather, they get discharged from the body through the vaginal orifice. 

Also, the presence of the amniotic sac covering the baby and a mucus plug covering the cervix makes it impossible for a partner’s penis to come in contact with the growing foetus. The mucus plug also acts as a barrier that keeps unwanted bacteria and other infections away from the uterus. 

Do you need protection during pregnancy sex?

A condom

The rules for protection during sex pretty much applies to pregnancy if you are having sex with a random person. If you are not sure about the health status of your sex 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 women protect themselves from infection during pregnancy because any pelvic inflammation resulting from an infection can cause miscarriage, early labour 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 normal pregnancy since orgasmic contractions are different from labour 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 prostaglandin can induce labour contraction. 

Since the gel used to ripen the cervix and trigger contractions contain prostaglandin, doctors believe semen too can induce labour in full-term and past-due labour. 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 labour
  • You are expecting more than one baby, e.g., twins or triplets
  • Your amniotic sac is leaking fluid

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

When to see a doctor

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It is advisable for all pregnant women to check up regularly with a doctor. Seeing a doctor 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 aimed at answering people’s questions and improving 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.