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Pregnancy and sex: What you should know

Sex might feel like the most natural thing in the world before you're pregnant. But now that you are, you might wonder: Is it safe? 

That's a common question after a positive pregnancy test. But it's only one of many you might have about sex and pregnancy. Here's what to know to put your mind at ease. 

Is sex OK?

Sex is a natural, normal part of pregnancy—as long as you're having a normal, complication-free pregnancy. Sex is safe for most pregnant women.

Unless your provider says something otherwise, you don't need to worry about sex hurting your baby. Your growing baby is cushioned by amniotic fluid and the muscles of your womb. Plus, the mucous plug that seals your cervix helps guard against infections.

When can sex cause problems 

Ask for a green light from your provider if: 

  • You're expecting twins, triplets or more. 
  • You had a miscarriage in the past or you're at risk for one now. 
  • You had a premature baby in the past or have signs of premature labor in this pregnancy.
  • You have an incompetent cervix. This means it opens too early during pregnancy.
  • You have placenta previa. This is when the placenta lies very low in the womb and covers all or part of the cervix. 
  • You have pain during sex, vaginal bleeding or are leaking amniotic fluid. 

Some cramping or spotting is normal after sex when you're pregnant. But contact your provider or go to the emergency department right away if: 

  • You have heavy bleeding or painful cramps that won't go away.
  • You're leaking amniotic fluid.

Be aware too that if your partner has a sexually transmitted disease (STD), your provider will likely advise against sex while you're pregnant. The STD could spread to your baby.

A few safeguards

Even with a green light from your provider, you'll want to take some precautions. If you have oral sex, don't allow your partner to blow inside your vagina. This could create an air bubble that can block a blood vessel. That could harm both you and your baby. 

Also, be careful with anal sex. If you have anal sex and vaginal sex right after it, you may spread fecal bacteria to your vagina and wind up with an infection. 

As your pregnancy progresses, certain positions during sex may become uncomfortable—or even unsafe. For example, lying flat on your back after your fourth month puts pressure on major blood vessels and affects circulation. So you might want to be on top or try side-lying positions. 

Changing desire 

Your hormones change throughout your pregnancy, and your interest in sex probably will too. Many women find sex more pleasurable when they're pregnant, especially during the first two trimesters. But pregnancy discomforts like nausea or back pain might make your sexual desire take a temporary dip—and that's OK too. 

Just remember that sex is only one way to experience intimacy. Cuddling, kissing and even just being naked with your partner can help the two of you stay close. And never hesitate to talk about your needs in an open, loving way. 

Wondering about other pregnancy issues? 

Check out these tips on brainstorming baby names—especially if you're feeling stumped.  

Sources: American Pregnancy Association; March of Dimes

Reviewed 3/2/2021

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