Sex During and After Pregnancy

A Guide to Pregnancy Sex

August 3, 2017

A Guide to Pregnancy Sex

A Guide to Pregnancy Sex
A Guide to Pregnancy Sex

When your body is no longer quite your own, the experience of sex—or even the idea of it—can seem just as foreign to you.

There may be times during the course of your pregnancy when you want sex more; other times, you may have no interest, or even wonder if it is a good idea.

That’s all normal, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, an ob-gyn, a clinical professor at the Yale University School of Medicine and founder of the blog MadameOvary.com. Dr. Minkin draws from more than 35 years of educating and providing medical care to women in order to help you answer the questions you might have about sex and pregnancy.

Is It Safe to Have Sex While I’m Pregnant?

That’s the most common question, Dr. Minkin says, “and for almost everybody, the answer is yes.”

A few caveats: If you have placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta is covering some or all of the cervix, you and your doctor should discuss whether vaginal intercourse or orgasms are safe. The same is true for certain symptoms toward the end of your pregnancy, she says. For instance, get the doctor’s OK “if you are dealing with preterm labor—you’ve been contracting, you’re on bed rest.”

If you have any pain or bleeding after sex, it’s a good idea to call your healthcare provider.

Why Am I So Turned On—Or Turned Off?

The hormonal answer is “you have an increase in estrogen and progesterone,” Dr. Minkin explains. “Estrogen increases [sexual desire] and progesterone decreases it. So it depends on what’s winning.” You may find your sex drive fluctuates throughout your pregnancy.

Some women develop varicose veins in the vulva and vagina, which can make intercourse difficult and feel painful. The condition can be treated like most other varicose veins throughout the body, Dr. Minkin says. Try elevating your hips when you lie down to help promote circulation and avoid standing for long periods of time. There also are support garments designed specifically for this that may help alleviate pain and prevent the varicose veins from getting worse.

Is it safe to have sex? That’s the most common question, Dr. Minkin says, “and for almost everybody, the answer is yes.”

If you’re just not feeling it, know you’re not alone. Research shows that vaginal intercourse and other sexual activity—as well as sexual desire—decreases throughout pregnancy for many women.

What’s the Best Way?

If you’re comfortable, have a good time and be creative—especially with positions as your body continues to change. And if you’re worried about hurting the baby, don’t be. “Usually kids are pretty damn resilient…and there’s fluid to cushion the baby. It’s like they’re swimming,” Dr. Minkin says.

If you’re not comfortable with sex, “talk to your partner, and just say, ‘Listen, I’m just not very interested right now,” Dr. Minkin says. “Hopefully there are compromises.”

Vaginal intercourse and sex in general aren’t the only forms of intimacy for couples. Kissing, touching and hugging also can provide closeness.

When Should We Stop?

If you’re both enjoying sex, you can do it right up until your due date. Once your water breaks, however, “nothing in that vagina,” Dr. Minkin says.

What Happens After the Baby Is Here?

The common wisdom was to wait at least six weeks after a vaginal or cesarean birth before having vaginal intercourse, but that’s not necessarily true. “It’s really when you stop bleeding, and you’re pretty comfortable that you can do it again,” Dr. Minkin says.

Ongoing hormonal changes, especially if you’re breastfeeding, can complicate matters (nursing suppresses estrogen and can cause vaginal dryness). And co-sleeping and not sleeping enough aren’t exactly aphrodisiacs.

So when your body and mind are ready, go for it, and do whatever feels right. Though penetration isn’t recommended right away after childbirth, orgasms are actually a good thing at any point postpartum. They release oxytocin, which causes your uterus to contract and helps it shrink back to its normal size. (It’s the same hormone your body also releases during labor and breastfeeding.)

Just remember that the chance of getting pregnant right away is real—even if you are breastfeeding. “There are myths out there, and even some doctors that will tell you you can’t get pregnant if you’re breastfeeding,” Dr. Minkin explains. “It does diminish fertility (that’s the low estrogen we mentioned earlier), but it doesn’t stop it.” So unless you’re sure you’re ready for another baby, use contraception.


Sarah J. Robbins is an independent writer, editor and content strategist whose work has appeared in Consumer Reports, Glamour, Good Housekeeping and Real Simple, among others. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two kids.

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