Does Sex During Pregnancy Have To Stop?
Experts say there’s no timeline, unless sex is unsafe for you during your pregnancy.
For some pregnant people, pregnancy makes them pretty "thirsty," and that's a perfectly common symptom — and not thirsty in the “drink 10 glasses of water” way (although hydration is always important, too). For others, sex during pregnancy is the furthest thing from their mind, which is also understandable. If you’re up for getting down, though, is there a time when it's not safe? Those who are interested in having sex while they’re pregnant may find themselves worrying about whether there’s some kind of timeline to follow. Knowing when it’s a good time and when to stop having sex during pregnancy is important information to have in your back pocket if or when the desire hits you, because you deserve not to have your mind clouded with anything other than enjoying yourself.
When should you stop having sex during pregnancy?
Luckily, for those who are into it, having sex (including intercourse) throughout your entire pregnancy is perfectly safe, barring any complications you may have. “This includes vaginal penetration and penetration with toys or fingers,” Dr. Renita White, M.D., a board certified OB-GYN, previously told Romper. “Sex will not harm the baby, regardless of sexual position. The uterine muscles, amniotic sac, and closed cervix will protect the baby.”
In fact, you can have sex up all the way up through your third trimester, until your water breaks. If anything is inserted into the vagina after the amniotic sac is broken, it can introduce bacteria, which can cause an infection. Additionally, pregnant folks 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 they’ve had a cervical cerclage.
Placenta previa is a condition where the placenta covers your cervix. It's most common in those who have previously had a baby, have uterine scarring from previous surgery (including C-sections, uterine fibroid removal, and “dilation and curettage”), are carrying more than one fetus, are 35 or older, or had placenta previa in a previous pregnancy.
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," OB-GYN Lakeisha Richardson tells Romper. You also shouldn’t have sex while pregnant if you have pre-eclampsia, or if you’re having triplets (or more) in some cases.
What will happen if you have pregnancy sex when you shouldn’t? 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, including 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 if your doctor has told you sex during pregnancy isn’t safe.
How pregnancy affects sex drive
When it comes to how pregnant people are affected in terms of libido, it’s usually that they are on one side of the coin or the other — either they can’t get enough sex, or they want nothing to do with it. For those in the “can’t-get-enough-sex” category, this happens for a few reasons. “Part of it is psychological,” OB-GYN Idries Abdur-Rahman, M.D., tells Romper. “For many women, pregnancy is ironically the first time in their lives that they have been able to have sex without the worry of becoming pregnant. Many women find this freeing,” he says. He also notes that sometimes their changing body can make a pregnant person's libido increase.
“Fluctuating hormones also play a role, including the hormone responsible for male and female libido testosterone. Increases in testosterone often result in increased libido,” Abdur-Rahman says. “Lastly, pregnancy causes an increase in blood flow to the uterus and the genitalia. This results in engorgement of the vagina and clitoris, which increases both awareness of these areas and increased sensitivity.”
However, if the thought of sex makes you want to curl up and hide, this could be because of your comfort levels, according to Richardson. This is totally understandable, as it may be hard to have sex during pregnancy 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, pre-eclampsia, triplets or more, or a premature break of your water. And odds are if you are suffering from any of those things during pregnancy, you’re probably not going to be feeling super frisky in general.
Dr. Renita White, M.D., board-certified OB-GYN
Dr. Lakeisha W. Richardson, board-certified OB-GYN at Delta Regional Medical Center
Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman, OB-GYN, author of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Pregnancy (But Were Too Afraid or Embarrassed to Ask, and one-half of the Twin Doctors from TwinDoctorsTV
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