What to know about sex during pregnancy - Ruth Health

What to know about sex during pregnancy

Fast facts:

  • You should consider it safe to have sex during pregnancy unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.
  • There are benefits to having sex during pregnancy, for both you and the baby. The release of endorphins after an orgasm can lower stress, to name only one example.
  • There’s no need to feel guilty or embarrassed if you’re less interested in sex at various points throughout pregnancy. Your desires may fluctuate, and many women have a decreased sex drive during their first trimester from hormone changes, mood swings, and nausea.
  • Certain sex positions will probably feel less comfortable as your pregnancy progresses. Look for positions that put less pressure on your belly and allow you to control the depth of penetration.
  • Hormone and physiological changes during postpartum can affect your experience of sex after giving birth. If you don’t feel ready to start having sex again right away, honor those feelings and share them with your partner.

Lots of things change during pregnancy, including your sex life. While it’s both safe and beneficial to have sex while you’re pregnant, you may find yourself a little less in the mood (or a little more) at various points throughout your pregnancy, and your comfort with certain positions may evolve as well. It’s all natural, we promise. Here’s what to keep in mind as you navigate these changes, with your partner or as an individual.

Sex during pregnancy is healthy.

It’s safe to have sex during pregnancy unless instructed otherwise by your doctor — amniotic fluid and the strong muscles of the uterus will protect your developing baby. However, your doctor may recommend avoiding sexual activity if you have a history of preterm labor or premature birth or if you experience any of the following during pregnancy:

Not only is it safe to have sex during most pregnancies, an active and enjoyable sex life can also help keep both you and your baby healthy. When you orgasm, your body releases endorphins, aka happy hormones, which help lower stress. This is especially important during pregnancy, as high levels of stress are linked to high blood pressure and heart disease and may also increase your chances of having a premature or low-birth weight baby. There are other potential benefits of a post-orgasm endorphin release, too, including better sleep, improved self-esteem, and a deeper feeling of intimacy with your partner.

An orgasm can also support overall pelvic floor muscular health. The pelvic floor includes the bladder, the uterus and vagina, and the anus. During an orgasm, these organs contract and relax, resulting in a stronger pelvic floor and better bladder function and control. Strong pelvic floor muscles also provide support during pregnancy and can aid postpartum recovery. You can experience these benefits whether you are partnered or single — orgasm via masturbation has the same effects.

It’s normal for your sex drive to fluctuate.

There’s no need to feel embarrassed or guilty if you’re less interested in sex than usual. Sex during pregnancy looks different for each individual, and your needs and desires may change throughout this time.

Many people have a lower sex drive than usual during their first trimester due to rapidly changing hormone levels and related pregnancy discomforts like mood swings and nausea. This often changes during the second trimester as energy increases and morning sickness becomes less frequent. You may even find it easier to have an orgasm, as increased blood flow to the pelvic region heightens vaginal sensitivity.

There’s no “normal” when it comes to sex during pregnancy, and whatever you’re feeling is okay. If you have a partner, communication is key. And remember there are other types of physical intimacy to explore if you find sex uncomfortable.

Certain sex positions may feel more enjoyable than others.

The comfort of various sex positions will evolve as your pregnancy progresses. During your first trimester, sex may not seem all that different from how it was pre-pregnancy. Later on, as your body changes and your baby continues to grow, you may need to try different positions for maximum comfort. For example, you’re more likely to feel the extra baby weight if you’re flat on your back during sex.

There are plenty of other options to experiment with, like pregnant person on top, pregnant person on hands and knees, and side-lying/spooning positions. You may also find it comfortable to support yourself using the side of the bed. In general, look for positions that put less pressure on your belly and allow you to control the depth of penetration.

Your comfort levels will change throughout your pregnancy, so don’t be afraid to switch things up. Other forms of intimacy like oral sex and mutual masturbation can help you and your partner stay connected. As always, openly communicating about your needs will help you find what works best for you.

Sex after birth

As hormone levels shift after birth, you may experience some physiological changes that impact your experience of sex, including increased vaginal dryness, soreness, fatigue, and decreased libido. While annoying and uncomfortable, it’s all completely normal.

To combat these changes, take things slow. Warming up to sex with other forms of physical touch like massages can help you and your partner ease back into your pre-pregnancy sex life. Take advantage of increased foreplay to give yourself time to produce natural vaginal lubrication. If this isn’t working for you, you may want to use a lubricant.

If you don’t feel ready to start having sex again right away, honor those feelings. Open communication with your partner and other support resources can make for an easier transition. 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.

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