Sex during pregnancy and postpartum: Myth versus fact - Ruth Health

Sex during pregnancy and postpartum: Myth versus fact

Fast facts:

  • Don’t believe everything you hear about sex during pregnancy and postpartum — there’s a whole bunch of misconceptions to unpack.
  • There’s no reason to avoid sex — or vibrators — at any point during most healthy pregnancies, unless your doctor has told you not to (or you don’t want to).
  • When you’re emotionally and physically ready to resume a sex life after giving birth, you deserve to feel good. Painful sex and other postpartum pelvic floor issues aren’t inevitable discomforts that you have to endure.
  • Consider working one-on-one with a pelvic floor therapist for a more comprehensive discussion of physical comfort during sex than your six-week postpartum appointment.

When it comes to talking about sex during pregnancy and after childbirth, there’s plenty of fear and shame surrounding the topic. However, there's not always much information provided in the way of facts.

Case in point: Can I have sex while pregnant? remains a commonly Googled question in 2022. Unless your doctor states otherwise, the answer is yes. It's important to note that having sex during pregnancy won't hurt the baby.

Physical intimacy of any kind is a deeply personal experience, and the most important thing during pregnancy and postpartum — or any time at all, for that matter — is to honor your own needs and feelings.

So that you can make informed decisions about your sex life, let’s dispel five of the most common myths about sex during pregnancy and postpartum.

1. Contractions from an orgasm can cause a miscarriage.

Many people wonder if having sex in the first trimester can lead to a miscarriage. But the truth is that there’s no reason to avoid sex at any point during most healthy pregnancies unless:

  • Your doctor has told you not to due to a high risk pregnancy including conditions such as placenta previa or the possibility of preterm labor.
  • You don’t want to, which is totally fine too! Sex drive can vary during pregnancy.

Amniotic fluid and the strong muscles surrounding your uterus will keep your baby protected while you have sex and after, as the uterine muscles tighten. The contractions you feel during and after orgasm are different from the kind you experience during labor, and will not cause a miscarriage.

That said, if you do choose to have sex throughout your pregnancy, many positions become less comfortable as your baby grows. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different positions or other forms of intimacy like oral sex, anal sex, and mutual masturbation.

2. Vibrators should not be used during pregnancy.

Speaking of masturbation, please don’t worry about disturbing your baby with a vibrator — unless your healthcare provider has recommended that you refrain from sexual activity during pregnancy, these are safe to use, too (and another great way to get that post-orgasm endorphin rush). 

If you’ve been advised to avoid penetrative sex during pregnancy due to the risk of potential complications, opt for a clitoral vibrator or massage wand. Just be sure to clean the tool before use!

3. Most women are ready to have sex after their six-week postpartum appointment.

Many women are indeed cleared for sex after their six-week appointment, but being cleared doesn’t mean being ready. 

These appointments often focus on surface-level wounds. While the healing of scar tissue is an important consideration, there are other factors that can affect your comfort and safety during sex, including muscle function and alignment. 

The fact is that women recover from childbirth at different rates, and readiness for sex involves an individual’s physical, emotional, and mental comfort.

Quick plug for starting pelvic floor physical therapy as soon as you’re comfortable after childbirth: working one-on-one with a pelvic floor therapist gives you an opportunity to have a more comprehensive assessment of these issues.

It also provides the opportunity to discuss concerns about your physical comfort during sex — even before six weeks.

4. There are fewer postpartum pelvic floor issues after a c section.

83% of births result in some degree of damage to the pelvic floor muscles, and contrary to popular belief, having a c section doesn’t guarantee faster pelvic floor healing. Many aspects of pregnancy impact your pelvic floor beyond the act of pushing during childbirth, like carrying the weight of your baby 24/7.

In fact, your pelvic floor is impacted every day by factors completely unrelated to pregnancy such as movement and posture.

So be prepared to give your pelvic floor some attention after childbirth, regardless of how you deliver. (Ruth Health makes it simple to fit pelvic floor therapy into postpartum life, with personalized 30-minute virtual sessions.)

5. Painful sex is just part of life after giving birth.

Wrong. Sex can be painful after pregnancy, but it doesn’t have to stay that way and frankly, it shouldn’t. Too often, postpartum pelvic floor issues are treated as discomforts a woman simply has to deal with, when the reality is quite the opposite. 

If you’re experiencing painful sex after giving birth, there are tools that can help you return to the pleasurable sex life you deserve, including increased foreplay, the use of lubricant, and pelvic floor physical therapy.

Ruth Health is here to provide you with expert, evidence-based maternal advice. To hear more about sex after birth, listen to our Twitter Spaces event featuring our Head of Birthwork, Kimberly McFerron.

Ruth Health

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