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Is Sex Safe During Pregnancy?

pregnant woman considering sex during pregnancyStocksy

Your body and sex drive change a lot when you’re pregnant, but it’s good to know that when you’re in the mood, sex is almost always safe during pregnancy.

Sex during pregnancy has a lot of perks. But even if your practitioner gives you the green light for orgasm and penetration while you’re expecting, you (and your partner) may still have reservations and wonder if sex during pregnancy is safe, especially as baby gets bigger. But don’t let your imagination run wild. Overthinking it can stomp out the romance that got you pregnant in the first place!

Here’s the real story on the safety of sex when you’re pregnant. It should put a lot of your fears to bed (and help you have more fun between the sheets).

Is it Safe to Have Sex Early in Pregnancy?

Sex is safe in most pregnancies for all nine months, including in the beginning. Some women worry that sex will cause a miscarriage, especially early in pregnancy, but for most moms-to-be, that fear is unwarranted. If you have a history of miscarriage or are at higher-risk, your practitioner may suggest you avoid sex for the first few months. Discuss your history with her, and if she’s not worried, you shouldn’t be either.

Can Having Sex Hurt My Baby?

You’re spending all your time thinking about having a healthy baby, so it makes sense that this pops into your head even when you think about sex. Rest assured that your body keeps your baby well-cushioned and protected even during sex. While you and your partner get it on, your baby will rest safely inside the amniotic sac. And, for any partners who are worried that they may hit the baby in the head, stop — no penis is big enough to even get close.

It’s also worth noting that your baby can’t actually see what you’re doing. Even though you may feel like you’re never alone, you don’t have to worry that someone is watching you. Your baby might slow down during sex and then kick and squirm a lot after orgasm, but these are just normal fetal reactions to uterine activity. Your baby doesn’t know what you’re doing and won’t remember it!

Can Sex Make Me Go into Labor Prematurely?

Women who’ve experienced the big O know that orgasm can cause your uterus to contract (sometimes powerfully and for as long as half an hour). And we’ve all heard tales of women being told to have sex near their due dates to bring on baby. But there’s no reason for concern. These contractions are not harmful, they’re not a sign of labor and they won’t trigger it unless your body is really ready to give birth.  

So unless your doctor says that you’re at high risk for a miscarriage or preterm labor, or you have a specific placenta problem, there’s no reason not to let loose, and enjoy the pleasure you deserve. Bonus: Your baby might like the gentle rocking of the uterus that happens during orgasm.

Are There Any Health or Other Risks of Having Sex During Pregnancy

When you’re pregnant, your mucous plug means your cervix is pretty much closed for business and the amniotic sac protects your baby from semen and any infectious organisms. Your little one is very safe in his uterine home.

There is one important caveat to this, however: STDs. There are some sexually transmitted diseases that can be pretty dangerous for babies either during pregnancy or during delivery. If you think you’re at risk, ask your practitioner about STD testing, and make sure any new partners get tested before you get busy. If you’re not in a mutually monogamous relationship, you should use condoms during pregnancy.

Are There Any Positions or Activities That Aren’t Safe During Pregnancy?

When it comes to pregnancy sex, it’s more about comfort than safety. Your growing belly can present a challenge and may require you to adapt some of your old favorite sex positions. Man on top, for example, can still work for quickies as long as he’s not putting all his weight on you, but lying on your back for extended periods of time is not recommended after the fourth month because it puts pressure on major blood vessels.

You could vary this position by scooching to the end of the bed and having him on his feet or knees. Or you could go with side-by-side sex, woman on top, or rear-entry sex. Oral and even anal sex can also be safe during pregnancy.

The only thing that is truly off-limits is any oral sex in which a partner blows air into a woman’s vagina because this can cause a dangerous air embolism.

When Is Sex During Pregnancy Not Safe?

While for the majority of couples sex is safe during pregnancy, your practitioner may restrict intercourse at certain times or even for the full nine months in some high-risk pregnancies. Sex may be permitted without orgasm for the woman, foreplay may be allowed as long as penetration is avoided, or penetration may be permitted but only if a condom is used.

Knowing precisely what is safe and when is essential, so ask for details if your practitioner instructs you to abstain. Ask why sex is off the table, whether that refers to intercourse, orgasm or both, and whether the restrictions are temporary or apply for the entire pregnancy.

Sex will probably be restricted under the following, and possibly other, circumstances:

  • If you have a history of preterm labor or premature birth, or are experiencing symptoms
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with an incompetent cervix or placenta previa
  • If you’re experiencing unexplained vaginal bleeding or are leaking amniotic fluid
  • If you are carrying multiples

If your doctor does place you on a sex hold, ask a lot of questions. This is not the time to be shy. Ask her what she’s worried about — penetration, orgasm, intercourse without a condom or all of the above? And find out whether these restrictions are temporary or will hold for the entire pregnancy. That way you and your partner can choose other things that might feel good, like mutual masturbation or oral sex.

When Should You Call the Doctor?

A little bit of cramping and spotting is normal after sex when you’re pregnant, but if you experience pain during intercourse, painful cramps that don’t go away quickly, or leaking of amniotic fluid, call your practitioner right away. Also, don’t have sex if you’re having contractions or your water has broken.

In the majority of cases, you don’t have to worry about sex being safe during pregnancy, so switch your focus to making it fun, flirty and fantastic.

If sexual activities have been banned for medical reasons (temporarily or until after the baby comes) or pregnancy symptoms like fatigue and nausea are preventing you from ever being in the mood, try not to let it come between you and your partner. Focus on the romantic, G-rated ways of getting close that you might not have tapped into since early on in your relationship — like hand-holding, cuddling and old-fashioned making out.

From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Health information on this site is based on peer-reviewed medical journals and highly respected health organizations and institutions including ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), as well as the What to Expect books by Heidi Murkoff.

View Sources

  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting, 5th edition, Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel.
  • Mayo Clinic, Sex During pregnancy: What’s OK, What’s Not, July 31, 3015.

  • March of Dimes, Sex During Pregnancy, June 2015.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STD During Pregnancy, CDC Fact Sheet, November 2016.