Can You Have Sex On Bed Rest? An Expert Responds

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Towards the end of my pregnancy with my second child, I was placed on bed rest. Not only was I dilating too quickly, but I was also dangerously anemic, and my OB-GYN wanted me to get more infusions before going into labor. Bed rest was long and boring, and I empathize with anyone going through it. While you may be worried, that doesn't mean you're in a vacuum, separate from other urges and needs, including sexual desires. Is everything forbidden? Even if you're taking it easy? Can you have sex on bed rest if you're not doing any of the work?

There are few activities allowed while on bed rest during pregnancy, according to the University of Washington Medical Center, and unfortunately, sex isn't one of them. Beyond simple intercourse, the website noted that sexual stimulation, nipple stimulation, and essentially anything approaching a sexually arousing activity should be avoided during the period of bed rest.

For years, bed rest was the treatment of choice for women at risk of preterm delivery. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, it's not prescribed with nearly as much frequency as in previous years. That is in part due to research that has shown that it is limited in its effectiveness at managing potential preterm birth, as per Clinical Medical Insights: Women's Health and also due to risks of complications like thromboembolism (clots), noted PLOS One.

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Yes, bed rest is the chastity belt of pregnancy. It's a big X over your reproductive organs, breasts, and any semblance of fun. Trust me. It will feel 10 times longer than however long it lasts, it's 100 times more boring than you expect it will be, and your butt will absolutely go numb several times a day regardless of how many times you change positions. Initially, it may seem like a reprieve. I mean, who doesn't love a good lie-in from time to time? Alas, that charm wears off faster than Sonic's ice melts.

I spoke to Certified Nurse Midwife Rachael Shurnberg and she tells Romper that bed rest means a complete restriction of activity. "When my patients get to the point where they are required to go on bed rest, we consult with a high-risk OB-GYN and the team at both practices because preterm birth is so likely," she says. "Activity is highly regulated." Shurnberg notes that showers are usually restricted to every other day, walking about the house can be off-limits, and that in extreme cases, women might need bed baths or bed pans employed to keep them as immobile as possible.

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When I asked about sex during bed rest, she explains that any form of sexual stimulation or induction of arousal is off-limits. "You don't want anything that could possibly stimulate contractions, and both orgasm and sexual activity that falls short of climax can induce contractions in the mom's body." Shurnberg notes that in normal pregnancies, this isn't a cause for concern — you have sex, you might have cramping or contractions that don't cause any problems. However, if you're already at risk for preterm delivery, you can't be too careful, and the reward simply isn't worth the risk.

In the end, it's going to be a long set of guidelines and stipulations you and your provider detail for your bed rest. The level of activity allowed will differ per patient. You might be able to take small walks around your home, or even do light errands. It varies pretty widely. To be honest, it's not a walk in the park, and you'll probably watch more Kardashian shows and Wendy Williams than what is considered normal, but it's all in the name of a healthy baby. And let's be honest, you were already watching Keeping Up with The Kardashians.

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Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.

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