Pregnancy can be an exciting but also an unexpected transition for new parents. On one hand you are looking forward to bringing your newborn into the world, mentally and physically preparing for your growing family, all the while dreaming about what your bundle of joy will look like and how they will feel in your arms. It can be a unique and surreal experience.
On the other hand, pregnancy is also a time when expecting parents are inundated with information. So much information. So many opinions. Between your overly-involved family members buzzing in your ear about breastfeeding, an OBGYN or Midwife making birthing recommendations, and trying to absorb content from the childbirth education classes you attend, it’s a lot. The information can be overwhelming.
The perplexing part is that while many people are quick to share their tips about how to make it through nausea in the first trimester or preparing for the birth itself, we rarely hear about how pregnancy can impact our sex life. This part is often left out of the conversation entirely, which contributes to a sense of anxiety about sex during pregnancy and a slew of provoking thoughts.
Is being sexual actually safe? What will sex feel like in my (or my partner’s) changing body? Will being sexually active harm the fetus? How often will I want to have sex?
According to a 2016 study in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, the most common beliefs impacting a sexual relationship during pregnancy were “I feel anxious about having sex because of the pregnancy” and “There are several sexual positions we can no longer use because of the pregnancy.” Even in the beginning of pregnancy, expecting parents are already thinking about how pregnancy will impact their sex life and how they feel towards having sex (Jawed-Wessel et al., 2016).
So, here’s what we know:
- There are many ways to be engage sexually that pose little to no risk to the fetus during pregnancy. Kissing, caressing, sensual touching, massaging, manual and oral stimulation of the genitals and anal stimulation are a few examples of activities that should not pose harm to the developing fetus.
- The prevalence of adverse obstetric events due to vaginal intercourse is low. In the majority of cases, engaging in vaginal intercourse during pregnancy is a-okay. If you are feeling concerned about engaging sexually, consult your healthcare provider about any specific risks you may experience and what sexual activities are safer during pregnancy.
- Of course, there are some exceptions. A healthcare professional may recommend abstaining from vaginal intercourse or sexual activities that induce orgasm if a pregnant person is experiencing Placenta Previa, Premature Rupture of Membranes, Preterm Labor, or Preeclampsia. While these conditions are less common and require some extra care, there are still many ways to stay intimately connected. If this applies to you, you can always inquire about specific types of stimulation i.e. Does digital stimulation to the vulva pose the same risk as vaginal intercourse? Is the concern specifically related to orgasm or penetration? Clarifying the specific reasons behind these restrictions will help you identify which pleasurable activities are feasible to engage in regularly.
- The Mayo Clinic and American College of Gynecologists (ACOG) have yet to make an official statement on the safety of sexual activity during pregnancy, nor do they provide patients with adequate information on the topic. The Mayo Clinic recommends patients refer to their individual health care providers for specific sex related advice.
When it comes to being sexually active during pregnancy, remember that you have options. Yes, your sex life may look and feel different than it did before becoming pregnant, but that does not mean it has to be disappointing or disappear completely. If you have questions about engaging sexually during pregnancy, consult your healthcare providers to gain access to resources and communicate with any sexual partners about your desires and any modifications that will make sex most enjoyable for you.
Jawed-Wessel, S., Herbenick, D., Schick, V., Fortenberry, J.D., Cattelona, G., & Reece,
M. (2016). Development and validation of the maternal and partner sex during pregnancy scales, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 42(8), 681-701. DOI: 10.1080/0092623X.2015.1113587