Pelvic Rest and Sex During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman laying on bed
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In This Article

Pelvic rest is a term used in obstetrics to indicate that a pregnant woman has been told to avoid sexual activity during pregnancy. It’s just a fancy way to say don’t have sex. You should clarify exactly what your doctor means when referring to sexual activity so you are on the same page. You might be asked to adhere to pelvic rest if you have any number of things going on in your pregnancy.

What Is Pelvic Rest?

When trying to decide exactly what pelvic rest means, it is important to be clear with your healthcare provider and ask specific questions. Avoiding sex may mean one thing to one person and something completely different to another.

Some questions about sex during pregnancy may take you out of your comfort zone, but keep in mind that your provider is a professional and has probably heard your question before.

For example, you may want to know if pelvic rest means avoidance of vaginal sex only or if it also includes oral, oral-genital, or anal sex. You may also want to ask if pelvic rest means that you should stop using a vibrator. Your practitioner may need you to avoid orgasm during pregnancy and nipple stimulation as well.

These are all reasonable and responsible questions to ask to protect your health and the health of your baby. Be sure to ask clear questions and get clear answers. It is also important to remember, that even if you’ve been told to avoid sex in pregnancy, there are still things you can do to express your love to your partner.

Conditions That May Warrant Pelvic Rest

There are several different reasons that your healthcare provider may recommend pelvic rest during your pregnancy. These are some of the most common concerns.

Bleeding or Spotting

Bleeding or spotting during pregnancy can be a red flag when it comes to avoiding sexual contact. If you notice bleeding or spotting, reach out to your practitioner. They will want to to work together with you to determine where the bleeding is coming from.

Sometimes the bleeding is considered active bleeding. It can occur often in pregnancy and the blood is usually more red than brown. This can happen for a variety of reasons including a subchorionic hemorrhage or bleeding under the placenta. Other causes may include threatened miscarriage or placental problems.

There is also the possibility that your spotting is the result of older blood. You may have blood from a prior resolved condition that is just now leaving the body. Older blood is usually more rust or brown in color.

Sometimes you will have bleeding or spotting at the beginning of pregnancy and it resolves later in the pregnancy. This may change your need for pelvic rest.

History of Preterm Labor

Sometimes a history of preterm labor may indicate that pelvic rest is warranted. You may wish to restrict sexual activity or your provider may recommend it. You will need to make this decision with your practitioner and partner. This is something you may want to discuss before you ever become pregnant if this is important to you and your partner.

Current Preterm Labor

If you are currently experiencing preterm labor, it’s a different situation than if you have merely had issues in the past with the condition. It is never a good idea to engage in sexual activity of any sort in preterm labor.

Certain women are at higher risk for preterm labor, including those that are carrying more than one baby, those that have had problems with their cervix, and those who smoke during pregnancy. Be sure to discuss the signs and symptoms of preterm labor with your provider so that you can identify them as soon as possible.

Shortened Cervix

Some women may have cervical issues that can warrant a recommendation for pelvic rest. These issues may be referred to as shortened or short cervix.

For example, a condition called incompetent cervix may necessitate a procedure called a cerclage where the cervix is stitched to prevent an early birth. If you have had a history of incompetent cervix and are planning a cerclage, you will want to discuss when pelvic rest is needed.

Other causes of shortened cervix may produce no symptoms and may only be noticed as an accidental finding during a routine ultrasound exam. This one may or may not require pelvic rest. Again, this is another good discussion for you and your partner to have with your practitioner.

Placental Conditions

Some placental conditions, like a placenta previa, may indicate the need for restricted sexual activity in pregnancy. This is because orgasms may stimulate contractions, which may cause bleeding if the cervix begins to open, even slightly.

If your provider discusses a placenta issue with you, be sure to ask about whether or not pelvic rest is needed. Then remember to clarify what activities are allowed and which may be problematic for your health or for the health of the baby. Asking these important questions will help you maintain peace of mind and wellness during your pregnancy.

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  1. Jones C, Chan C, Farine D. Sex in Pregnancy. CMAJ. 2011;183(7):815-818. doi:10.1503/cmaj.091580

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