You've probably heard that having sex at the end of your pregnancy can induce labor. I, for one, first heard of this phenomenon when watching Friends. Frustrated by the fact that she's a week past the due date, Rachel tries everything from spicy food to long walks to get her labor going. Then her doctor recommends sex, and Rachel is eager to jump at the chance to try it if it'll make her baby finally arrive. But for those women who still want to engage in intimacy without bringing baby into the world, they may wonder how close to your due date can you have sex without any risks.
When it comes to having sex in the third trimester — both in terms of safety and inducing labor — the answer can vary but it is generally considered safe for a woman to have sex up until she is going to give birth.
"Unless there is vaginal bleeding, premature rupture of membranes, or contractions, intercourse is perfectly safe as long as the pregnant woman feels comfortable," sexuality counselor and educator Aleece Fosnight tells Romper. "Intercourse and orgasm can actually help the woman prepare for delivery with increasing blood flow to the pelvis and strengthening the uterus to perform contractions. And orgasm has actually been used during labor for pain control."
Sex therapist Dr. Debra Laino agrees, telling Romper that a woman can have sex up until her water breaks or even shortly before labor. However, having sex until the bitter end will depend on each individual woman's comfort levels.
"There are a few issues that may prevent her from having sex, such as the possibility of a premature birth, a dilated cervix, or Placenta Previa," Laino says.
Couples looking to engage in sexual activity during the end of the pregnancy should be aware that intercourse will be off the table once a woman's water breaks because "you want to avoid inserting anything internally to avoid risk of infection," Madison Young, sex educator and author of The Ultimate Guide to Sex Through Pregnancy and Motherhood, tells Romper. That doesn't mean, however, that all sexual acts are off the table.
"Even after my water broke I enjoyed the Hitatchi magic wand external vibrator, nipple stimulation, and making out with my husband during contractions was really other worldly and amazing," Young tells Romper.
For women looking to have sex close to their due date but maybe not quite so close, there are ways to ensure that you have a comfortable and pleasurable time. Listening to your body and communicating openly with your partner is key, Young tells Romper. Women should expect to negotiate sex beforehand because things you may have enjoyed before might not feel as great now and keeping up with lots of communication is important before, after, and during sex.
"Use this time to explore alternatives to intercourse, especially if intercourse is uncomfortable during that last trimester," Fosnight recommends, adding:
I usually suggest avoiding any positions that have the woman laying flat on her back as this can compress the blood vessels in the abdomen, causing a drop in blood pressure, dizziness, and possible syncope (passing out), as well as decreases blood to the baby. Great positions include kneeling rear-entry, use of props, supported side-by-side, woman on top, and any position that opens up the hips to relax the pelvic floor muscles to help decrease discomfort.
Women should also keep in mind that, if intercourse is too uncomfortable, there are other ways to sexually connect with your partner. Doings things like caressing each other, giving or receiving massages, mutual masturbation, and the use of toys can be great alternatives to intercourse. Sex should be about staying connected with your partner, both physically and emotionally. As long as you keep the lines of communication open with your partner, it should be an enjoyable experience at any point in your pregnancy.