Sex in pregnancy is generally safe, with few complications, states a new primer for physicians to counsel patients wondering about sex in pregnancy, published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal, Feb, 2011). The primer is based on current evidence.
During pregnancy, a woman’s hormonal and mental make-up undergoes a dramatic change. She becomes emotional and sometimes oversensitive. Hormonal and chemical changes prepare her for conception, pregnancy and childbearing. The awareness that she is pregnant creates new aspirations and sexual relations go down the priority ladder.
Sex is considered safe during all stages of a normal pregnancy. Of course, just because sex is safe during pregnancy doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily want to have it! Common risk factors include:
- a history or threat of miscarriage
- a history of pre-term labor (you’ve previously delivered a baby before 37 weeks) or signs indicating the risk of pre-term labor (such as premature uterine contractions)
- unexplained vaginal bleeding, discharge, or cramping
- leakage of amniotic fluid (the fluid that surrounds the baby)
- placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta (the blood-rich structure that nourishes the baby) is down so low that it covers the cervix (the opening of the uterus)
- incompetent cervix, a condition in which the cervix is weakened and dilates (opens) prematurely, raising the risk for miscarriage or premature delivery
- multiple fetuses (twins, triplets, etc.)
- In rare cases, some types of sexual activity that push air into the vagina may result in a uterine blood clot that is usually fatal.
- Any sexual contact should be avoided if the woman or her partner has been exposed to, or has confirmation of a sexually transmitted disease or HIV. Use of a condom and a spermicide is recommended if sexual activity cannot be avoided.
How to make sex pleasurable during pregnancy
Sexual practices may not have to change during pregnancy. The movement and penetration of intercourse, in itself, won’t harm the baby. Your baby is protected by your abdomen and the muscular walls of the uterus. Your baby is also cushioned by the fluid in the amniotic sac.
Check out for yourself:
- The common missionary position may become uncomfortable and warrant considering other positions such as side by side or with you on top.
- Over the 40 weeks of pregnancy, it’s normal for sexual desire to come and go as your body changes. You may feel self-conscious as your belly grows. Or you may feel sexier with larger, fuller breasts.
- It is normal to experience a lack of lubrication during pregnancy, as hormone levels change. This can make sex quite uncomfortable. The use of a lubricant can help. And don’t forget, sex isn’t limited to intercourse alone. Enjoy alternative pleasuring activities. Manual stimulation is safe and enjoyable during pregnancy.
As with all aspects of health and pregnancy, check with your doctor on the specifics for your wife and new baby since some pregnancies do fall into higher risk categories where sex would be prohibited. Sex is an important part of your relationship and intimacy, so be open in discussing what works and what doesn’t while appreciating the changes in your partner’s body and new sensitivities.