November 23, 2017
Pregnant couple
Ask the Experts

Is Sex Safe During Pregnancy?

by Leslie Goldman  

Q: Is it safe to have sex while I'm pregnant?

A: In nearly all cases, yes, says Jennifer Kerns, MD, MPH, an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, and member of our editorial board. Exceptions include women who have been diagnosed with placenta previa—a condition in which the placenta covers the cervix—as well as any woman whose doctor has told her she is at risk of preterm labor or who has had unexplained vaginal bleeding during pregnancy. Women who have a sexually transmitted infection or whose partners may have one are usually advised to abstain from sexual intercourse while they’re pregnant, since the infection could spread to the fetus during pregnancy or the newborn at the time of birth.

Otherwise, sex can be an enjoyable and healthy part of pregnancy—though that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll want to have it. Many women find they have little interest in sex during the first trimester of pregnancy, as morning sickness, fatigue, tender breasts, and other common symptoms sabotage their libido. But the same women may find that their desire spikes during the second trimester as energy levels return to normal and vaginal lubrication naturally increases. Note that you might experience a bit of spotting after intercourse, “but as long as it stops and your doctor has told you that your pregnancy is low-risk, it’s usually not cause for alarm,” Kerns says.

As the pregnancy progresses, you and your partner may find you need to adjust your position to accommodate your growing belly. The traditional missionary style, for example, may become difficult or uncomfortable. In addition, pregnant women are generally advised not to lie flat on their backs (supine position) after the first trimester, since the weight of the growing uterus can compress major blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the fetus. So that’s a good time to give side-lying or other positions a try if you haven’t already.

See also: Discharge During Pregnancy, Caffeine in Pregnancy, and Weight Gain in Pregnancy.