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Sex during pregnancy

6-minute read

Can I have sex when I’m pregnant?

Unless you have been told by your maternity care provider not to have sex, then it’s fine to have sex at any stage during pregnancy, as long as you both want to.

If you have any vaginal bleeding, placenta praevia, your waters have broken, or there’s a risk you may go into premature labour, it’s likely you’ll be advised not to have sex. There is a risk of infection if your membranes have ruptured (waters have broken) and sex can introduce infection if there is a change to the protective layer of the membranes.

How do I maintain a loving relationship with my partner?

There are many ways to experience love and intimacy with your partner. It’s important that you talk honestly and communicate with them about how you are feeling if you don’t want to have sex. Be mindful of each others feelings, reassuring them that you’re not rejecting them personally, it’s the sex you’re not into at the present time.

Work out alternative ways of helping you both to feel wanted and secure. Sex isn’t only about penetration, there’s other options to satisfying sexual needs. Kissing, hugging, cuddling and massages are all other ways you could feel close to your partner.

Will my sex drive change during pregnancy?

During your first trimester, physical intimacy and sex may be the furthest thing from your mind. It’s common to experience tiredness and nausea and not be in the right mood for having sex. You may also find your breast tenderness stops you wanting to have any physical contact which involves your breasts or nipples.

Many women find their libido (sex drive) increases during their pregnancy. This could be as a result of your hormones and extra blood flow to the genitals. This is more common in the second and third trimesters when hormones peak.

Many women and their partners also find that sex contributes significantly to their mental health and wellbeing during pregnancy. As long as your pregnancy is stable and you’ve had no complications, there is no reason why you need to stop having sex.

Can sex bring on labour?

Sometimes women may be advised by their maternity care provider to have sex to help initiate, or ‘bring on’ their labour.

This is because semen contains prostaglandin which is thought to stimulate the onset of labour. Although there is not enough evidence at this stage to confirm whether this natural method of induction if effective, this can be something to consider if your baby is overdue.

When shouldn’t I have sex during pregnancy?

Be guided by your maternity care provider about what’s right for you. As a general guide, avoid having sex in the following situations if:

  • you are at risk of premature labour or show signs of a possible miscarriage
  • you have a weak cervix (sometimes called cervical incompetence) or you’ve needed to have a cervical suture inserted to keep your cervix closed
  • you’ve been cramping or experiencing severe tummy pains
  • you’ve have been told by your maternity care provider that you have placenta praevia
  • you have vaginal bleeding, including if this has stopped but it’s unclear what has caused it
  • your waters may have broken

If you’ve been advised not to have sex during your pregnancy and this is contributing to your feelings of stress, speak with your maternity care provider. Counselling options are available and are often very beneficial.

You also shouldn’t have sex if you don’t want to. Sex should only happen when you and your partner are both consenting and agree.

What positions are more comfortable during pregnancy?

As your belly grows, you’re likely to need to find different positions which are more comfortable. It’s important to remember that during pregnancy, you shouldn’t lie flat on your back, especially from 28 weeks until the baby is born. Avoid lying and sleeping on your back, as this can put pressure on major blood vessels which supply the baby with oxygen.

Some alternative positions are:

  • lying on your side — pillows or cushions can help with support
  • positioning yourself on all fours
  • you on top
  • you lying on the edge of the bed
  • standing up and using the wall to lean against
  • using pillows or cushions to help support you on your side

Will my baby feel it if my partner and I are having sex?

Your baby is protected and buffered by the amniotic fluid which surrounds them. Your cervix, or neck of your uterus, works as a sealed barrier to where your baby is lying in your uterus. They are likely to feel you moving around and may become more, or less, active as you do. If you orgasm, you may feel an increase in contractions or have mild cramps. Generally, Braxton Hicks contractions are felt in the second and third trimesters and are not a sign of true labour.

Women who have varicose veins of the vulva (vulval varicosities) can experience discomfort and aching after having sex. Having a cool bath, wearing supportive underwear and avoiding standing for long periods can help to ease any pain or discomfort you may experience.

If you have any doubt or questions about having sex during pregnancy, speak with your maternity care provider.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2022

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