Between your big belly, exhaustion, and morning sickness, there are plenty of things to worry about when you’re having sex while pregnant. Add in an unfamiliar sensation like cramping during pregnancy sex and it's hard not to panic. Sometimes it can feel like every time you have an orgasm, your Braxton hicks decide to rubber band your midsection just as you're hoping for a delightful post-coital snack and nap — it's the worst.
But are these post-sex cramps actual contractions — like impending labor contractions? “There’s a difference between cramping and having contractions,” doula and cooperative childbirth educator Ashley Brichter tells Romper. “Cramping during or after pregnancy sex is typically from the increased blood flow that comes from being aroused.”
Pregnancy changes your body in some very unexpected ways. One of those ways is how your body responds to stimuli. You may have an enhanced gag reflex, your nipples may be extra sensitive, and you can smell all of the things. So, it comes as no surprise that something as tactile and sensitive as sex and an orgasm could rock your world in more ways than one.
Why Does Pregnancy Sex Cause Cramping?
“It is probably due to the orgasm that causes uterine contractions — which feels like cramping,” obstetrician Dr. Kim Langdon tells Romper.
As it turns out, those muscles that contract and release an orgasm — specifically the muscles of the abdominals and pelvic floor — are also the same muscles that contract and release during labor contractions. Uterine contractions and more intense cramps that start up labor can happen from sex because oxytocin, the hormone present in sex and responsible for orgasms, is the same one that makes contractions happen during labor, Brichter says.
When you experience an orgasm, the oxytocin that is released can cause your uterine muscles to contract. The oxytocin doesn't care if it's for your orgasm or contractions, but because your body is already preparing for labor, it just keeps on contracting.
What Can You Do About Cramping During Pregnancy Sex?
When pregnancy sex has you cramping to the point where it’s uncomfortable, there are ways to try to relax and alleviate the pain. “If it gets too intense, slow down or take a break,” Brichter recommends. “A bath could help, but that’s true almost any time for someone pregnant.”
Additionally, Langdon says that staying hydrated could help, as “the cramping could be triggered by the round ligaments being put on stretch or jarred from the physical act of sex."
Can Cramping During Pregnancy Sex Signal Problems?
Most of the time, some cramping during pregnancy sex is completely normal and not a cause for concern. Like peeing every 16 minutes and having enough gas to power a city bus, it’s just another thing that happens when you’re pregnant.
But, if the cramping becomes painful, regular, and lasts for more than a couple of hours, Langdon says “it could be a sign of premature labor if it persists.” Bright red or heavy bleeding after sex could also be a cause for concern.
“It is best to rest on your left side and drink more fluids and call your doctor if the cramping persists after trying these interventions,” Langdon says. If you are concerned or even the slightest bit unsettled, call your doctor — always. Your peace of mind is worth it.
Dr. Kim Langdon, OBGYN with Medzino
Ashley Brichter, doula, certified cooperative childbirth educator, founder and CEO of Birthsmarter
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