Don't let pregnancy put a damper on an intimate life with your partner. Many parents-to-be fear that intercourse could trigger a miscarriage or somehow harm the baby. But unless you have a high-risk pregnancy, you don't have to worry: Sex poses no danger to either the mother or the child.
To answer some questions you may be too embarrassed to ask, no, your partner's penis does not have any contact with the developing fetus, nor will bacteria or semen penetrate the uterus. Orgasms, with or without sexual penetration, can cause contractions, but they should not trigger premature birth or miscarriage during the course of a normal pregnancy. Your baby is well protected in the bath of amniotic fluid and by the insulation your abdomen provides.
What about sex during a high-risk pregnancy?
Some women do have high-risk pregnancies and are advised to abstain from sex for some or all of their pregnancy. Your physician or midwife should let you know if you fall into that category, but if you have any doubts or questions, don't hesitate to double check.
If you've had preterm labor or given birth preterm, if you have had an infection, bleeding, a broken or leaking amniotic sac, more than one miscarriage, or a condition known as low-lying placenta (placenta previa), you are likely to be advised to avoid or limit certain sexual activities. If your doctor knows you are carrying twins or multiples, he or she may advise you to stop having intercourse a few weeks earlier than if you were carrying a single baby.
Are some positions safer than others?
Talk with your practitioner about what sexual positions are safest as your pregnancy progresses. For example, after the fourth or fifth month, a pregnant woman shouldn't lie flat on her back during sex, because it could put too much pressure on major blood vessels that supply the fetus and may cause lightheadedness or nausea for the mother. There is no problem with the woman being on top of her partner, however, or on her side.
During different points in your pregnancy, you may find that some positions are more enjoyable than others are. Tune in to your body, and only do what feels comfortable.
Here are some positions that may feel more comfortable:
- Both lying sideways. Known as spooning when you both face the same way in bed, this position takes the weight off you and leaves your partner free to maneuver without your belly between you. You can also face each other lying sideways as well.
- Partner behind you. This position not only leaves your partner free to maneuver, but it takes the weight and pressure off you as well.
Common concerns about sex during pregnancy
Other issues besides the safety of the baby may keep a couple from having sex. Some parents worry about disturbing or scaring their unborn child, as if the developing baby is paying rapt attention during moments of intimacy. In reality, the baby isn't thinking about much and is safely insulated, so don't worry -- he won't be alarmed by your lovemaking.
An expectant mother may fear that her swelling belly makes her less attractive, or she may not want her husband to touch her tender breasts. Pregnancy hormones make some women lose interest in sex, while others may find that their sex drive increases. At different points in your pregnancy, extreme fatigue, nausea, and other discomforts may make the very thought of sex unappealing.
Concerns like these are common. Pregnancy is an exciting, frightening time that triggers a range of emotions, positive and negative -- emotions that are exacerbated by raging hormones. It is a time of fundamental change in the life you and your partner have known together. Of course, it is also a joyous time, but even positive changes can put pressure on a relationship. Most couples agree that having a child challenges their relationship in ways it has never been challenged before.
Is it normal to have cramps after having sex?
Yes, many women find they have cramps after sex, particularly after an intense orgasm. This is due to hormones in semen and contractions of pelvic muscles. Similarly, because the cervix is engorged and well-supplied with blood in pregnancy, you may see a spot or two of blood after having sex.
Any time you cramp and bleed call your practitioner -- though chances are your body just needs a bit of time to settle down. Also, it's common to notice your baby moving around more after intercourse.
Creating sexual intimacy during pregnancy
The best way for you and your partner to weather those changes and prepare for the challenges ahead is to stay in touch with each other, and one way to do that is to talk gently but honestly with one another about your love life.
If you have fears or insecurities, share them with your partner and ask about his. For example, if you are afraid that your changing body makes you less attractive, you may find it reassuring if your partner initiates sex. At the same time, he may be afraid that sex could be painful for you and feels he should wait for you to make the first move. The only way you will know is by talking frankly and openly together.
If your breasts are sensitive, tell your partner. Show him or her what feels good, and experiment with different positions. Be sure to check in with him about his needs and desires. If you don't feel like having intercourse, find other ways to maintain your physical connection. Foreplay, massage, and cuddling will help you stay close -- even if they don't progress to intercourse. Pregnancy can be an opportunity for both of you to get creative.
Above all, try to avoid seeing sex as a chore or allowing it to become a point of contention between you. Nurture the emotional and physical connection you have with your partner. Most couples resume having regular sex during the first year of their child's life.
Finally, do your best to put aside worries about your pregnancy so that you can participate fully in the wonderful experience of pregnancy with your partner. In the end, sexual intimacy can strengthen the bonds between you and your partner, which is one of the most important gifts you can give your unborn child.
March of Dimes. Sex During Pregnancy. http://www.marchofdimes.com/pnhec/159_516.asp
Mayo Clinic. Sex during pregnancy: Whats OK, Whats Not. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sex-during-pregnancy/HO00140
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Frequently Asked Questions About Having a Baby in the 21st Century. http://www.acog.org/from_home/publications/press_releases/nr12-12-01-4.cfm
Merck Manual. Placenta Previa. http://www.merck.com/mrkshared/mmanual/section18/chapter252/252f.jsp
Merck Manual. Physical Changes. http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec22/ch257/ch257d.html
University of California-San Francisco Medical Center. Sex During Pregnancy. http://www.ucsfhealth.org/childrens/medical_services/preg/care/pregSex.html
American Pregnancy Association. Bleeding During Pregnancy. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/bleedingduringpreg.html
University of Pennsylvania Health System. Sex During Pregnancy. http://www.pennhealth.com/obgyn/news/05spr/sex.html