Life

People having sex during pregnancy
Getty Images

9 Things That Happen To Your Vagina During Pregnancy Sex

Once you've conceived, you may very well want to keep on celebrating with a healthy dose of sex throughout your pregnancy. The pregnant state affects sensation, body shape, and emotion, among other things, and there are also specific differences in how the vagina responds to sex during pregnancy.

The good news first: "Sexual function actually stays pretty good throughout pregnancy," says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., Clinical Professor of OB-GYN at Yale University, and "most women can remain sexually active throughout pregnancy."

Among those who may need to avoid certain sexual activities are people who experience pre-term contractions, those with placenta previa (in which the placenta is located over the cervix), or those with ruptured membranes.

Otherwise, there are several favorable changes to your body during pregnancy, including increased pelvic blood flow, as Minkin explains, which could mean sex is better or worse, or simply different — depending on your own physiology. (All the while, your baby remains well protected in its amniotic sac from any activity outside the uterus, so don't worry about that.)

As for the sex itself, your mileage may vary. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine looked at 520 pregnant women, finding that "all the studied parameters, i.e., desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain, decreased significantly with the progression of pregnancy." A 2018 study of women in their third trimester likewise found that "92% of participants had sexual dysfunction." Let that be a lesson to lower the bar, or change your expectations altogether.

Here's how the vagina behaves during pregnancy sex.

1

It's Extra Sensitive (Which Can Be A Plus)

"There is increasing pelvic blood flow during pregnancy," explains Mirkin. "Some women might get a sense of 'congestion' or fullness in the pelvis," but this is usually not too much of a problem, she says. The increased blood flow can result in increased sensitivity, and increased nerve stimulation.

During pregnancy sex, this can be a very good thing. According to Fit Pregnancy, you can experience intense pregnancy orgasms unlike anything you've ever felt before.

2

It's More Likely To Bleed

"If you do experience bleeding during sex, do stop and call your provider," says Minkin. "They may want to examine you or do an ultrasound (primarily to see if there could be a piece of the placenta hanging down by the cervix)."

Some harmless spotting is possible. "If everything is fine, you may be allowed to resume activity," says Minkin.

3

It's Under Pressure

It's not easy carrying around a bowling ball in your belly, and after awhile, the pressure can get pretty real. "The major issue for most women is just the bulkiness of the growing uterus," says Minkin, "and trying to find a comfortable position."

The more your baby grows, the more pressure you'll feel in your vaginal area, according to reporting by Healthline. Since your vagina is experiencing extra pressure, you may have to experiment with how you each situate yourselves, since sex might accentuate the heavy feeling.

4

It's More Lubricated

It's easy to throw the word "hormones" around to excuse some weird stuff associated with pregnancy. But because of all those hormones, your body is more ready to have sex when pregnant, according to Fit Pregnancy. Those little powerhouses amp up your natural lubrication and vaginal sensitivity, priming your body for some feel good action.

5

It's An Air Free Zone

Even though it may feel great, receiving oral during pregnancy poses a risk. You're vagina is more sensitive to air than ever during this time. According to Parents magazine, if air is forced into the vagina, the risk of an embolism is possible. Embolisms are blood vessels that are blocked by bursts of air and can have serious outcomes.

6

It's A Natural Shield

Set aside any doubt that having sex while pregnant brings hard to your baby. The mucus plug, located between the vagina and the uterus, protects the baby from infection. A study in PLoS One found that in cases of preterm birth, the mucus plug was more translucent, extensible, and permeable.

7

It May Throb

It's not uncommon for women to see the presence of varicose veins in their legs during pregnancy, but some women also have this occur around their vagina. As Mayo Clinic reported, vulvar varicosities can range from uncomfortable to painful for pregnant women. The extra blood pumping downtown may cause a throbbing feeling in your vagina while having sex.

8

It May Burn

Changes in vaginal microbiota during pregnancy — like an increase in Lactobacillus — can increase the likelihood of developing a yeast infection, causing discomfort, odor, and itching, per a 2014 Sage Open Nursing article. This means things could start to burn or itch when getting busy.

(Vaginal microbiota later offers protective qualities for newborns who pass through the birth canal.)

9

It May Be Drier, Especially After Pregnancy

For final words of encouragement, Minkin says "never worry, but do speak with your provider."

One of the biggest changes to the vaginal response during sex occurs after pregnancy. "Many breastfeeding women experience significant vaginal dryness with breast feeding (it keeps estrogen levels low)," explains Minkin.

It's nothing a good over-the-counter moisturizer can't help (try Replens).

Expert:

Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., Clinical Professor of OB-GYN at Yale University

Studies referenced:

Gałązka, I, Drosdzol-Cop, A., Naworska, B., Czajkowska, M., Skrzypulec-Plinta, V. (2014) Changes in the sexual function during pregnancy. Journal of Sexual Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25378082

Erbil, N. (2018) Sexual function of pregnant women in the third trimester. Alexandria Journal of Medicine, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2090506817300192

Critchfield, A., Yao, G., Ribbeck, K. (2013) Cervical Mucus Properties Stratify Risk for Preterm Birth. PLoS One, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3731331/

McElroy, K., Regan, M. (2016) Vaginal Microbiota and Lubricant Use During Labor: Implications for Nursing Research, Practice, and Policy. Sage Open Nursing, https://doi.org/10.1177/2377960816662286