Sex feels scarier during pregnancy, and no wonder. Your body is a cauldron of sensation, and as you approach your due date, you might start having nightmares involving the movie Alien. (Word to the wise: if you're pregnant, do not watch this movie.) In the final weeks, worries about your baby's safety reach an all-time high, and you might ask, should I stop having sex during the third trimester?
First, the medical stuff. According to Mayo Clinic, some conditions like placenta previa, a history of miscarriages, preterm labor, or an incompetent cervix, absolutely rule out sex during pregnancy. Additionally, you should avoid sex after your water breaks. Assuming your pregnancy is healthy and uncomplicated, however, sex is very safe, as What To Expect explained.
Of course, that doesn't mean it feels safe. Pregnancy is a crazy time, and any anxiety you feel is completely normal.
Romper spoke with Dr. Janet Brito, a licensed clinical psychologist and AASECT-Certified Sex Therapist who specializes in the areas of sexual and reproductive health. If you want to continue having sex, but you just feel weird about it, she advises getting to the bottom of that fear. When she meets patients with fears rooted in the physical, she counsels them on how their body works, reminding couples that the baby is well protected by the amniotic sac. She notes that during sex, "it is vital to listen to your body, and stop if you are having pain." As long as you don't experience bleeding or severe discomfort, intercourse is absolutely safe.
Intellectually, I totally get it. But what if getting down to business still stresses you out?
If you can't banish your worries, Brito recommends not limiting your definition of sex to intercourse alone. "Spooning, mutual masturbation, oral sex" and "sexy talk" are all great ways to keep the spark alive. "Pregnancy could be a great opportunity to try other forms of intimacy, and take the pressure away from intercourse," she says. "It could also be a perfect time to practice effective communication and reassure each other about the changes taking place."
The third trimester in particular is all about creativity. Try some new positions, "like table top, side entry, cowgirl or reverse cowgirl," writes Brito. Just remember to communicate your comfort level with your partner. Also, try to keep expectations under control. Sexual experience is complex and unique to everyone, so don't let normalizing judgments or preconceptions about how sex should look or feel get in the way of a good thing.
Between weight gain and pregnancy acne, what if the third trimester has left you feeling, well, unattractive?
Brito writes that while you might not be able to help your feelings, you can control your responses. It's OK to grieve for the way you looked before you got pregnant, but you can also work on your self confidence in lots of fun ways. Brito recommends taking a walk, yoga, and self care. (So go ahead and buy that maternity dress that makes you look amazing. It's for a good cause.) For increasing sexual self-esteem, she recommends reading an erotic book and making time for self-pleasure.
Don't forget to clue in your partner, either. How you feel matters, so be assertive, and ask for the support you need.
There's no doubt that women are always under immense pressure to look good. Brito wants you to know that you don't have to buy into those ideas. Avoid comparing yourself to other women, and instead, foster a compassionate relationship with yourself that celebrates your uniqueness.
So, if you want to have sex during the third trimester, you absolutely can (assuming your doctor clears it). Just don't expect it to be the same as pre-pregnancy sex, and remember that sex is as much about the mind as it is about the body. If staying frisky is important to you, but pregnancy has created unexpected struggles, consider consulting a sex therapist, and get some much-needed relief.