Sex when you’re pregnant can be a great thing (as long as your doctor hasn’t told you not to, that is).
Not only does sex help you and your partner connect, but it can also do good things for your well-being, like lower your stress and release oxytocin (a feel-good hormone that eases pain and boosts your mood and your baby’s).
Of course, sex during pregnancy isn’t without its challenges: Morning sickness might keep sex off the table during the first trimester. And later, you’ve got other symptoms, like heartburn, back pain, a growing bump, and the increased weight of your uterus on your pelvis that can make finding a comfortable position difficult.
On top of that, some people have to deal with vaginal dryness, which can make intercourse painful.
That said, lots of people have increased libido when they’re pregnant. And the good news is, lube can help make things go smoothly.
Maybe. For example, one 2014 study found that about 4.5 percent of pregnant people use lubricant during pregnancy. It all depends on how the surge of pregnancy hormones affects your body.
“Most probably won’t need a lot of lubrication during pregnancy,” says Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, an OB-GYN at Yale University. “Pregnancy is a high estrogen state,” and that can lead to increased vaginal discharge, especially as your pregnancy increases.
Changes to your cervix during pregnancy can also cause more discharge. This is part of the way your body protects your uterus and growing baby for 9 months.
However, everyone’s different. And for some, the fluctuating hormones — specifically high progesterone — can lead to vaginal dryness and irritation during sex, which isn’t comfortable. And that’s why you might want to get some lube.
Is lube safe for me and my baby during pregnancy?
Yes. While lube use hasn’t been widely studied, doctors believe it’s safe to use during pregnancy because your cervix is tightly closed, preventing anything like lubricant from actually getting to your baby.
One caveat though: You need to use lube that is made with pregnancy-safe ingredients.
In short: water-based ones.
“Water-based lubricants are best because they will not increase the risk of an altered microbiome that could lead to bacterial vaginosis,” explains Dr. Kim Langdon, an OB-GYN. “Oily ones predispose to an altered microbiome.”
What you want, she continues, are organic ones that “use well-studied ingredients that are not harmful to vaginal tissue or the microbiome.”
“One lubricant we do know is safe — and this may sound crazy to people already pregnant — is Pre-Seed,” says Minkin. “[It’s] one that has been widely studied.” (Why might this one surprise you? It’s marketed for people trying to become pregnant. But of course, anyone can use it.)
Others include Sliquid, Wet Organics, and any with aloe vera, says Langdon.
Vaginal dryness can cause feelings of burning, pain, and even light bleeding during or after intercourse. It can also increase your chances of urinary tract infections and vaginal infections, as well as soreness that lasts several days after sex.
Water-based lubricants can help minimize these discomforts during sex because they’re smooth and slick, reducing the amount of friction during penetration. This, in turn, lessens your chances of pain, irritation, and infection — making sex way more fun.
Just remember that, to truly work, you might need to reapply water-based lubricants because they can get absorbed over time into skin and mucous membranes.
While you’re pregnant, you’ll want to avoid oily lubes because they can alter the pH balance in your vagina and increase your chances of infection. Instead, choose a water-based lubricant.
In addition, you’ll want to stay clear of certain ingredients which can be irritating or harmful to the tissues of your vagina — even when they’re in water-based lubes.
In general, here are some of the things to avoid:
These are the ingredients added to make you feel hot, cold, or tingly. While they’re supposed to increase pleasure, they can have strong (and sometimes painful) effects on the tissues of your vagina, especially when they’re already engorged because of pregnancy.
Some flavor additives contain sugar, which increases your risk of yeast infections — something that you’re already at elevated risk for during pregnancy.
Perfumes increase your chances of irritation and infection.
These are ingredients like propylene glycol, benzene, and benzoic acid. These can kill beneficial bacteria and alter the vaginal microbiome and pH and lead to an infection. The vaginal microbiome is also very important for baby’s health, notes this 2016 study.
It’s best to avoid parabens during pregnancy because they affect the endocrine system.
Anything you’re allergic to
You’ll also want to check the ingredient list to make sure you’re not sensitive or allergic to any of the ingredients.
“I would strongly suggest that, when considering a lubricant, buy a small amount of [it] first,” says Minkin, “because if for some reason you are sensitive to any of the ingredients, you can easily switch to another brand.”
Both sex and the use of lube are considered safe during pregnancy, but in some circumstances, complications can arise.
Call your OB if you experience any pain during sex, especially if you’re using lube, or if you experience any painful and regular contractions. Orgasms can cause contractions — but they shouldn’t be painful or continue for a prolonged period of time.
Stop having sex immediately if you suspect your water broke — your baby is no longer protected from bacteria that enters the vagina once the amniotic sac has broken, and sex could cause infection.
You’ll also want to reach out to a healthcare provider if you experience any change in discharge after sex, especially if it:
- is yellow, green, or grey in color
- has a strong, foul odor
- is accompanied by redness, itching, and swelling
These are signs of a bacterial infection or other problem with your pregnancy.
In general, if you’re experiencing a side effect after sex and you’re worried, play it safe and ask your doctor. They’ll be able to tell you if something’s wrong.
Water-based lubes are safe during pregnancy, and they can help make sex more enjoyable for you — especially if you’re struggling with vaginal dryness. Just be sure to check the ingredients before you buy to make sure they are safe for you and your baby.