What to Know About Sex During Your Pregnancy

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The body undergoes several changes during pregnancy, and sexuality is no different. Interest in sex while pregnant may fluctuate depending on the trimester, how you feel, and any preconceived notions you have regarding pregnancy sex. During this time, communication with your partner is at an all-time importance level to ensure that you are adjusting to each other's needs and preferences.

Benefits of Sex During Pregnancy

Unless your doctor advises otherwise, there is no reason to change your sexual behavior during pregnancy. For the majority of people, sex (including masturbation) during pregnancy is not only safe but also beneficial. Sex can offer an emotional and physical boost to your relationship, confidence, mood, and physical well-being.

Emotional Benefits

Sex and intimacy during pregnancy can strengthen the bonds of your relationship and provide reassurance to both partners during this pivotal time of change. Pregnancy is exciting but can also be filled with uncertainty or anxiety about what's to come. Maintaining a healthy sexual connection is one piece of the puzzle to help both partners feel loved and appreciated throughout the process.

Sex is also a natural stress and pain reliever. It promotes better sleep and lower blood pressure. Having sex as part of a healthy relationship is especially comforting, but some beneficial hormones and neurotransmitters are released during masturbation as well. While you should never feel pressured to have sex while pregnant, you don't need to avoid it out of concern for your health.

Intimacy doesn't always have to include sex. Taking time out with your partner, going on dates, sharing massages, or spending a weekend away can be great opportunities to connect with each other before your baby arrives.

Physical Benefits

Sex is a form of exercise with the potential to help lower your risk for heart disease and promote a stronger immune system. Having sex more frequently increases libido, encouraging continued interest in sex.

Although there are numerous benefits to having sex throughout your pregnancy, be mindful of necessary precautions and warning signs. If you have a history of miscarriages or there are complications in your current pregnancy, your doctor may advise some restrictions on sexual activity. Depending on how far along you are, sex can be modified to promote comfort and safety.

Sex in the First Trimester

Your breasts may become more sensitive, causing either increased pleasure or pain during the first trimester. You may also notice that your areolas widen and darken, along with your nipples.

It's possible that nausea, fatigue, and constipation may diminish your interest in sex during the first trimester. Increases in cardiac output make your heart work harder while pregnant, so taking it slow during sex can make it easier to catch your breath. Talk to your partner about these changes so you can find ways to adjust together.

Some find themselves preoccupied with the thought of sex during pregnancy, including dreams and strange fantasies. Sometimes these dreams are troublesome, like dreams of a cheating partner. Much of this can be attributed to fluctuating hormone levels and the normal changes associated with embarking on a new pregnancy journey.

Sex in the Second Trimester

You may feel your best during the second trimester. As morning sickness subsides and you adjust to the changes of your growing body, you may welcome the idea of sexual activity more often. White vaginal discharge, called leukorrhea, increases vaginal lubrication. The clitoris and vagina also become more engorged, enhancing the effect of orgasms.

Despite the fact that you may be able to feel your baby's first movements, there's very little chance of sex impacting your baby or your partner hurting the baby during sex. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor for reassurance and peace of mind.

Backaches and heartburn are common symptoms in the second trimester. Adjust your sexual position to avoid making these issues worse. For instance, avoid lying on your back after eating to help keep heartburn at bay.

Sex in the Third Trimester

A typical worry about sex during the third trimester is the risk of inducing preterm labor. However, studies have shown mixed results and do not confirm any relationship between early labor and having sex. Braxton Hicks, or practice contractions, are common during the third trimester. While these can temporarily increase after sexual activity, they are not a cause for concern.

If the baby's head is deep in the pelvis, you may have pain or spotting during or after sex. Worsening backaches and leg cramps can make sex uncomfortable or difficult in the third trimester. These are all normal issues, but it's best to avoid any painful sexual positions at this stage.

Always mention any bleeding to your doctor to determine if it is indicative of a bigger issue. Also report any unusual discharge, especially if it has a strong odor or is dark colored.

Fatigue in the third trimester can make timing difficult (especially if you typically have sex in the evening). Sexual positioning at this stage may be a challenge, so prepare to get creative. You should avoid lying on your back for an extended period of time. Every pregnant person has a different belly, so try various positions until you find one that works for you and your partner.

Additional symptoms to expect in the third trimester include increased body heat, swelling in the extremities, nipple leakage, stretch marks, and sometimes, decreased libido. If you feel self-conscious about having sex during this stage, or you simply aren't in the mood, cue your partner into your feelings and ask for support as you navigate through the remainder of your pregnancy.

STDs During Pregnancy

It's important to note that sexually transmitted diseases can pose a serious threat to you and your unborn baby. You can protect yourself from STDs while pregnant by:

  • Avoiding drug use
  • Getting tested as needed
  • Limiting your number of sexual partners or practicing monogamy
  • Using a condom

Don't be shy about communicating any concerns you have regarding STDs with your doctor. Having an open conversation, obtaining proper testing, and getting treatment if needed will keep you, your baby, and your partner safe from potentially dangerous infections.

A Word From Verywell

The frequency by which you choose to have sex during the different stages of pregnancy is your choice to make. Don't let unfounded worries or misconceptions prevent you from enjoying a healthy sex life throughout your pregnancy. Sharing any concerns with your doctor, and preferences with your partner will help get you the proper support to feel good about your decisions.

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7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Oregon Health and Science University. The benefits of a healthy sex life.

  3. John Hopkins Medicine. The first trimester.

  4. John Hopkins University. The second trimester.

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

  6. John Hopkins Medicine. The third trimester.

  7. Cleveland Clinic. Pregnancy & sexually transmitted diseases.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.