A popular myth is that sex could harm the fetus. For the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the uterus sits deep in the pelvis and is well protected. Sexual activity in a normal pregnancy will not increase the risk of miscarriage. Later, the fetus is protected from compression as it floats in a bag of amniotic fluid.
Both the uterus and fetus are protected from infection by a mucus plug that seals the cervix until labour begins. Think about the strong forces (contractions and mother's pushing) used to deliver a baby, and you can understand why normal sexual activity is safe.
Don't worry! Most studies have shown that if anything, pregnancy increases a couple's attraction for one another. Early changes in a woman's body shape often make her more attractive and sexually desirable to her partner. As well, there are no concerns about trying to achieve or avoid pregnancy.
Some women worry about weight gain in pregnancy. The average woman will gain between 20 and 35 pounds. The gain comes from the weight of the fetus, amniotic fluid, and extra blood and fatty tissue laid down to support pregnancy and future breastfeeding. It is normal and should not be unattractive to a partner. One study found that being pregnant often makes women feel less timid about their bodies and increases their partner's attraction.
Should you stop having sex while pregnant?
There is no reason to stop enjoying sexual activity during a normal pregnancy. Remember, sexuality consists of more than just intercourse. The level of intimacy that couples share and playful acts such as foreplay, oral sex and mutual masturbation all make up a healthy sex life. These can be continued safely and provide satisfaction throughout the pregnancy.
Many women are less interested in sex during the first trimester due to morning sickness, fatigue, breast tenderness and other reasons. Normal or increased sexual interest usually resumes in the second trimester. The third trimester can go either way. Only you and your partner can determine how much sex you desire during this time.
Fatigue and preparation for the arrival can influence sexual frequency. Some couples simply find sex awkward due to the woman's changing shape. Choosing alternate positions for sexual activities may help. Whatever happens, remember that being pregnant is physically tiring, so be sure to get enough rest.
By the third trimester, some couples find that the size of the woman's uterus and its pressure on the diaphragm and stomach make some positions uncomfortable, not to mention awkward. Having the woman on top or in front of the man may be more comfortable. The given rule, however, is that when you find a comfortable, pleasurable position, stick with it.
Some pregnancies are considered at higher risk for loss or preterm (early) labour. These include carrying twins, pregnancies where the cervix is at risk of opening too soon and ones in which the placenta is too low in the uterus. In such cases, women at risk will be advised by their doctors to avoid intercourse.
Although a small amount of bleeding after intercourse may be normal, do not have intercourse if you have any vaginal or uterine pain or bleeding. It could signal a problem with your pregnancy or the start of labour, even if your due date is far off. Likewise, low back pain and cramps may indicate premature labour. In either case, contact your doctor right away.
Do not have intercourse after losing your mucus plug or if your water has broken (membranes have ruptured) unless you have discussed it with your doctor. Semen is rich in chemicals (prostaglandins) that naturally soften the cervix and stimulate labour, but only if the woman's body is ready.
Every woman is different, so let your body guide you. Vaginal bleeding and then brownish discharge may last for three to six weeks after delivery. Generally, in vaginal deliveries, it takes the vagina and perineum (the area from the vagina to the anus) about six weeks to heal before resuming sexual activity. For women who have had caesarean sections, it will take at least that long until the muscles of the abdomen heal. Most couples are concerned that sexual activity may be painful. Choose a position in which the woman can control penetration.
Changes that occur during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding may leave the vagina feeling dry even when sexually aroused. A vagina lubricant can help. You may be very tired and your sexual needs and desires may have changed. Follow your body's cue and communicate well as a couple.
As baby's feeding time draws near, a breastfeeding woman's breasts usually feel full and heavy. They may leak milk, especially when she leans forward or the baby cries. The breasts can also leak during sexual activity. It may be a good idea to feed the baby beforehand to avoid this problem.
Breastfeeding is very intimate for both mother and baby. For this reason, a woman may not feel a strong desire for sexual intimacy. Cuddling with her baby and partner may be all she needs. As the baby begins to feed less often, the woman's need for sexual intimacy often increases. Stay aware of each other's desires and feelings, and try to discuss and solve any issues.
Remember, even though you've just had a baby, you can still become pregnant. Breastfeeding does prevent most ovulation and acts as a natural form of contraception, but it is not 100 per cent effective. See your doctor six weeks after delivery for a check up. (If you are sexually active before this visit, remember to use condoms for contraception.) At this time talk to your doctor about family planning and your other questions. Most methods of contraception are safe to use while breastfeeding, so choose the one best for your situation.
Sexual intimacy including intercourse can be enjoyed safely from the time of conception until delivery. Adjust to your changes, communicate well and enjoy this wonderful time!