Pregnancy and Sex- Do’s and Don’ts

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Sex in pregnancy is good for the mother-to-be and generally agreed to be safe at any time, providing the pregnancy is normal and no risk of miscarriage or prematurity is known. But, having said that, remember that a few physical and psychological factors can change either partner’s feelings about sex.

Generalization is difficult, as every woman is different, but this is a guide to some of the problems.

First trimester: In early pregnancy, a woman’s most urgent need when she climbs into bed may be a good night’s sleep rather than sex. Fatigue and feeling sleepy earlier than usual do little for the libido. Nor does nausea which some experience at night.

Breasts and nipples may feel sore and tender — though, by the same token, they may be pleasurably more sensitive. And, despite reassurances by their doctor, some couples worry that intercourse may harm the baby.


Second trimester: These three months are better. A woman’s body has adjusted to hormonal changes, though she may still tire easily at night.

Some women actually feel more like sex than usual at this time. Still, a woman should not feel inadequate if she does not feel passionate because a steady decline in sexual activity is found in women as the pregnancy advances.

Much depends on how a woman feels about her body at this time. If a swelling abdomen makes her feel tantalizing, she may shrink from sex because she feels ugly. Our culture has a distorted idea of what is sexually attractive and it does not include being pregnant.

The message from most advertisements, movies and magazines is that to be sexually acceptable you must be young, slim and gorgeous. Yet, pregnancy’s ripe breasts and belly have their own sensuality and appreciating this helps.

A lot depends on the woman’s partner. If he does not find her attractive in pregnancy – and some men don’t – it will be difficult for her to feel good. That the baby is moving may also interfere with libido; being more aware of it may make a woman anxious.

Third trimester: At the most cumbersome, sex is more difficult physically – read on for some solutions. Sometimes intercourse is uncomfortable if the penis is fully inserted. If so, ask your partner to just introduce the tip.

Contractions of the uterus after orgasm may be a bit painful, though there is no evidence that they harm the fetus. The mother-to-be may be more tired at this time. Baby’s presence is so obvious that she may almost feel a third person is present when making love. This can be a turnoff but some couples like the feeling that all three of them are so close.

Can intercourse harm the baby?

The general consensus is that sex in a normal pregnancy is harmless, though it is only fair to report that some research has cast doubt on intercourse in the ninth month. A study of twenty-seven thousand births found that amniotic fluid infection was more common in women who had had intercourse in the last month of pregnancy. However, this is rare.

A small study also showed that some evidence of fetal stress (but not enough to harm the fetus) was more common in women who had had intercourse in the four weeks just before delivery.

Neither study is conclusive and more research is needed before doctors warn women with normal pregnancies off having sexual intercourse in the ninth month.

Can intercourse bring on labor or Miscarriage?

Not, it’s thought, in a normal pregnancy. When the pregnancy is unstable, with a risk of miscarriage or prematurity, doctors often advise against intercourse for two reasons — because contractions of the womb after orgasm may stimulate labor and, secondly, because semen contains the hormone prostaglandin and this hormone (sometimes introduced artificially to induce late labor) can soften the cervix.

However, most doctors believe that neither orgasm nor prostaglandin will bring on labor in a normal pregnancy unless it is imminent anyway.

If a woman has miscarried, her doctor may advise against intercourse at certain times in the first three months. With a risk of premature birth, advice is to avoid intercourse and orgasms in the last three months.

Some Solutions

  • If you are too tired to enjoy sex at bedtime, go to bed after dinner and make love or do so in the morning.
  • Experiment – you will soon learn that the missionary position was not designed for pregnant women. Taking a partner’s weight on abdomen and breasts may be uncomfortable; try the woman superior position, instead. Rear entry positions, with the woman lying or kneeling with her back to her partner, also are easier.
  • Don’t avoid touching because you are afraid of initiating sex. Again, be honest and say you still need physical affection even though you do not want intercourse. The need to be hugged and held can be a very strong instinct in a pregnant woman.
  • Talk to each other about your feelings and be honest about your needs. If you don’t want to make love, for some reason — fatigue or plain lack of desire — say so.
  • Remember that intercourse is not the only way to enjoy sex. Oral sex or caressing each other with or without orgasm are alternatives, especially when you don’t feel energetic.
  • Air should never be blown into the vagina during pregnancy as this can be dangerous.
  • Learn to enjoy kissing, hugging and touching for its own sake and not just as a lead-up to intercourse.

By the way, if you do feel like it, intercourse is a good time to practice exercises for the pelvic floor. Use vaginal muscle to grip and release the penis alternately.

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