Reasons You Can't Have Sex During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman laying on bed
Tricia Shay Photography/Photographer's Choice RF

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. Learn about why it may be recommended.

Bleeding or Spotting

Bleeding or spotting during pregnancy is a red flag when it comes to avoiding sexual contact. The first thing that will need to be done is to determine where the bleeding is coming from. Sometimes the bleeding is considered active bleeding. It happens often and the blood seen is often more red than brown. This can happen for a variety of reasons including a subchorionic hemorrhage (bleeding under the placenta; also known as a subchorionic hematoma), threatened miscarriage, placental problems, and unknown reasons. There is also the possibility that you can see what is often called “older blood.” This might be left over from a condition listed above that is now resolved or not active and the blood is just now leaving the body. This is often more rust or brown in color. Your doctor will help you determine what you’re seeing.

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. Be sure to talk to your practitioner about the scope and limits of your restrictions.

History of Preterm Labor

Having a history of preterm labor may mean that after a certain point you may wish to restrict sexual activity. 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 preterm labor. It is never a good idea to have sexual activity of any sort in preterm labor.

Shortened Cervix

There are a few types of cervical issues. One is incompetent cervix, which may necessitate a cerclage (stitching the cervix closed 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 restriction should be made in sexual activity.

Another version of shortened cervix is one that has no symptoms and may only be noticed as an accidental finding during a routine ultrasound exam. This one may or may not require abstention. 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 no sexual activity in pregnancy. This is because orgasms may stimulate contractions, which may cause bleeding if the cervix begins to open, even slightly.

What Does Pelvic Rest Mean for You?

When trying to decide exactly what pelvic rest means, be sure to ask pointed questions, without hesitation, to ensure that you and your practitioner are on the same wavelength. Depending on the terms used to describe the restrictions, you may find that you think something is acceptable that they believe they’ve indicated would not be the best course of action. An example might be the mom who hears pelvic rest but continues to use a vibrator or having oral-genital or anal sex. This might be fine, but it’s best to ask your practitioner.

You might be told that as long as you keep everything out of your vagina, everything else is fine. You might be told to avoid orgasms and nipple stimulation as well. 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.

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