There are many questions about sex during pregnancy. Let’s start by talking about the major misconception that sex is not safe during pregnancy. Sex is safe during pregnancy, does not harm babies, and can be a wonderful way to connect with your partner and your body.
Unless you are instructed by a medical provider, to not have intercourse, sex during pregnancy is safe and can have multiple benefits including: relaxation, intimacy with your partner, improved sleep, can strengthen pelvic floor muscles, and oxytocin is released during sex and orgasm and is wonderful for bonding with your partner and facilitating relaxation and stress relief. Many women experience an increased ability to orgasm due to changes in their body during pregnancy and increased blood flow. The uterus changes position and size during pregnancy which can result in stimulation of different areas of the vagina and clitoris and can change or enhance the experience of sex and orgasm.
Obstacles to having an enjoyable sex life during pregnancy can result from experience of a loss or the fear of a miscarriage. Anxiety around this can impact libido and desire for sex. Please discuss your concerns with your provider or seek therapy support if you find you are struggling with this and know that intimacy and sex do not cause pregnancy loss. If you have had a miscarriage in the past please do not blame yourself for having had sex and thinking that could have contributed to your loss.
Some women struggle with a desire to be intimate as a result of fatigue and nausea in the first trimester. Treat this first trimester period as a time to focus on connecting with your partner in non-sexual ways such as, cuddling, spending quality time together, or massaging each other.
Some side effects to sex in this early stage could be some light spotting and light cramping (particularly after orgasm.) There are several reasons for a little spotting or bleeding in early pregnancy. The cervix receives a bit more blood flow and can spot a bit after orgasm or sex. This is not a sign or cause of miscarriage. Many women also have early pregnancy bleeding due to a sub-chorionic hemorrhage. While this sounds serious and awful, it is a tiny blood filled area in the uterus usually caused by attachment of the embryo. It fills with blood and sometimes causes enough bleeding to escape the cervix. While this can be terrifying in early pregnancy, it is not a cause of miscarriage (3%of these cases result in loss which is consistent with overall miscarriage rates.) Remember, bleeding in early pregnancy in the absence of cramping is typically fine, cramping without bleeding is also typically just fine. Always check in with your provider if you feel concerned.
As nausea decreases and energy returns in the second trimester, sex tends to increase as women report they feel best in the second trimester. There can be an increase in sex drive in the second trimester as a result of hormonal changes. After feeling depleted in the first trimester, it can feel nice to reconnect with your partner through sex. Certain positions might start to be uncomfortable, so it is very important to have good communication with your partner, so that sex is pleasurable and comfortable as you make adjustments for your changing body.
As you progress in your pregnancy and enter your third trimester different positions during sex will be needed as your belly expands. Listen to your body in regards to whether sex feels good or not, make sure appropriate physical support is in place and notice how how your body is responding and make changes as needed. One common concern is that the baby bonked on the head by the penis in later pregnancy. This will not occur as there is approximately 4cm of cervix, uterine wall, amniotic sac and fluid around your baby, not to worry!
Some feel that “gets the baby in, gets the baby out.” If you are near or past your due date, sex can be a wonderful way to encourage labor. Sex and orgasm release oxytocin which can assist in moving along labor that is near to begin. Sperm/seminal fluid can also assist in softening the cervix when it is already ready. Don’t worry, sex will not encourage labor if it is not already impending.
Overall keep in mind everyones journey is different from start to finish from conception to delivery, I hope to have clarified and answered many common questions for first time pregnancy family’s and assured you that when in doubt simply reach out to your provider, they’re here to help.
Dr. Lies van Bekkum
CLC, LAc, MSOM