Is sex safe during pregnancy?
Most women and their partners will be pleased to know the answer to this is yes, yes and yes again. Being pregnant is no reason to put a stop to having an active and fulfilling sex life. Unless of course, there are medical reasons why you should hold off for a while.
In specific conditions during pregnancy, having sex can potentially lead to complications, though your midwife or doctor will give you some clear guidelines regarding when it is safe to commence again.
When isn’t it safe to have sex during pregnancy?
Some women fit into the category of having a high risk pregnancy and have been advised to abstain from intercourse. The reasons for this may include:
- Any vaginal bleeding, as this could mean the start of premature labour.
- If you have placenta praevia. This is where the placenta is positioned low in the uterus and is covering or partially covering the cervix.
- If your membranes have ruptured (your waters have broken). This would mean the sterile barriers which protect the baby from infection are no longer in place.
- During the third trimester of your pregnancy if you are carrying more than one baby.
- If you have a history of miscarriage in your 1st trimester and are threatening to miscarry again.
- If you have been diagnosed with an incompetent cervix. This means your cervix is not closed tight and there is a risk it will dilate further.
- If you do not know the history of your sexual partner and are unsure if they may have an STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease). This could put you or your baby at risk.
- If you don’t feel safe or your inner voice is telling you that something is just not right. Get into the habit of acknowledging what your senses may be telling you.
What are some alternatives?
Occasionally, expectant couples just need to put some limitations around their sexual activity. Penetrative sex may be completely off the menu, but orgasm may still be considered safe when you are pregnant. Be imaginative about other ways to satisfy your libidos and don’t assume the sexual part of your relationship needs to be completely on hold for the entire duration of your pregnancy. Ask your midwife or doctor if suggested restrictions are a long term recommendation, or just a temporary reprieve.
Is there a risk to the baby if we have sex?
This is a common concern for couples who fear that having intercourse will somehow harm their unborn baby. They worry that penetration could potentially damage the baby or introduce an infection. This is highly unlikely. Unless your sexual activities resemble something like a qualifying heat for the Olympic Games, go for it. Very athletic, rough penetration which causes vaginal trauma should be avoided though, not for the least of reasons that it is unlikely to be pleasurable.
I don’t want to squash the baby!
Your baby is well protected by the surrounding amniotic fluid and membranes which contain it. The fluid acts as a buffer and absorbs much of the pressure and force which is a part of lovemaking. Even when your partner is in the on top position, your baby will not get squashed and is well cushioned from his weight. Unless you have started labour and your cervix has begun dilating, it will be closed firmly with a thick mucous plug blocking off access to the uterus itself.
Having sex to start labour
Many couples have sex when their baby is overdue or they are keen to get labour started. A man’s semen contains hormones known as prostaglandins which can initiate labour. But unless the cervix is primed and ripe, meaning it is ready to dilate anyway, the low concentration of prostaglandins in his ejaculate will not have an effect.
Some women worry that having an orgasm will trigger their uterine contractions and bring on an early labour. Although it is normal for the uterus to contract after orgasm, these contractions will not initiate a premature labour or delivery. Many women have a blood stained discharge after penetrative sex but as long as it is slight and settles, it is generally nothing to be concerned about. The cervix is particularly well supplied with extra blood vessels and swollen capillaries throughout pregnancy. Because of this any abrasion or irritation is likely to cause some vaginal spotting.
A common concern with couples is that their baby may be traumatised by the vision of its parents having sex. Mothers particularly, worry that the baby’s first image of its father is of his penis heading straight towards its head. Don’t laugh! Be reassured that no matter how well endowed your partner likes to think he is, there is no possible way this can happen. The angle of your vagina and the position of your baby make this impossible. Your cervix and its thick mucous plug are like a firmly locked bedroom door, there can be no peeking. Besides, although your baby is undoubtedly very clever, it really has no conscious thought processes just yet and cannot know what is happening.
But the baby isn’t happy
Try not to interpret your baby’s movements as a protest when you are having sex. It is probably just responding to the external stimulus and enjoying being taken for a little ride too. Other than some gentle rocking and extra surges of blood via the placenta when you orgasm, your baby will be blissfully unaware of what its parents are up to.