When Should You Stop Having Sex During Pregnancy? An Expert Explains

For some women, pregnancy makes them pretty "thirsty," if you know what I mean, and that's a perfectly normal and common symptom. For others, intercourse is the furthest thing from her mind, which is also totally understandable. If you are up for getting down though, is there a time it's not safe? When should you stop having sex during pregnancy, if at all?

According to OB-GYN Lakeisha Richardson, having intercourse throughout your entire pregnancy is perfectly safe, barring any complications you may have. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), “The baby is protected by the amniotic fluid in the womb, by your abdomen, and the mucus plug — which seals your cervix and helps guard against infections.”

Richardson says in an email interview with Romper that women should not have sex if they've had premature rupture of membranes, preterm labor, or placenta previa/low-lying placenta — which causes bleeding during pregnancy — or if she’s had a cervical cerclage. An additional reason to stop having sex during pregnancy, according to the APA, is if your partner has an STD — it can affect you and the baby.

According to the APA, placenta previa — where the placenta lies low in the uterus, covering the cervix — affects about one in 200 pregnant women in the third trimester, and it’s more common in women who have previously had multiples, a cesarean birth, more than one child, or surgery on the uterus. There are three types of placenta previa: complete, marginal, and partial. A complete previa means the cervical opening is completely covered by the placenta, a partial is where a portion of your cervix is covered, and the marginal is where the placenta extends to the edge of your cervix, the APA noted. If you have this condition, your doctor has more than likely already talked to you about avoiding sex.

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Additionally, if you’ve been put on pelvic rest, you definitely should not have sex. “The most common reason pregnant women are placed on pelvic rest is bleeding during pregnancy. If women have bleeding in the first trimester, they are placed on pelvic rest until the bleeding resolves and they are out of the first trimester. Also, pregnant women who experience preterm labor, premature rupture of membranes, or bleeding in the second or third trimester are placed on pelvic rest until delivery," Richardson says.

What will happen if you do the deed anyway? Nothing good. “For women who have premature rupture of membranes, having intercourse increases the risk of infection and preterm labor, and if you have a placenta previa or bleeding, having intercourse can cause a hemorrhage or bleeding,” Richardson says. Yikes. So not worth it.

However, solo orgasms, even with vibrators aren’t completely off the table, in most cases. Richardson says clitoral masturbation is safe as long as you don’t insert anything inside your vagina, “except for women who have preterm labor, because an orgasm can cause uterine contractions or irritability.” So if you do use a vibrator, be sure to only use it on the outside — as long as you don't have preterm labor, of course.

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Another reason most women don’t have sex throughout pregnancy has to do with comfort levels, according to Richardson. This is totally understandable, as it may be hard to get the deed done unless you’re in certain positions, and even then, it can be a little exhausting on your already tired body. However, sex improves your mood, and orgasms release oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, which is definitely something everyone needs more of during those last several weeks of pregnancy. Richardson also says that having intercourse on a regular basis in your third trimester will improve your chances of going into spontaneous labor, because of “the cervical ripening effects of prostaglandins in semen.”

If you’re up for it, having sex throughout your pregnancy is perfectly safe, no matter what trimester. The only time you really shouldn’t is if you have bleeding during pregnancy, a low-lying placenta, a cervical cerclage, preterm labor, or a premature rupture of membranes. And the good news is, if you are suffering from any of those things during pregnancy, you’re probably not going to be feeling super frisky in general.

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