It can feel like pregnancy changes everything.
In some ways, it does. You’re skipping your favorite sushi place and reaching for well-done steak instead. The smallest odors seem to have you rushing to the toilet to throw up, and even sitcoms can leave you in an emotional puddle of tears. You’ve asked your OB everything under the sun, from whether you can have beef jerky to if your belly button will become an outie — and why.
But there’s one subject you’re wondering about that you’ve felt a little uncomfortable bringing up: the big O.
So is it OK to have an orgasm during pregnancy? (And if you’ve already had one, why did it felt really, really good — better than it ever has before?)
The short answer is yes, in most cases, it’s absolutely fine to have an orgasm while pregnant — in fact, it can also be a great for your emotional and mental well-being.
Let’s take a closer look at orgasm safety, sensations in the first, second, and third trimesters, and a big myth about orgasms bringing on labor — debunked.
When it comes to sex during pregnancy, there’s a lot that can cause hesitation: You may not feel “in the mood,” thanks to hormones and morning sickness; your partner may worry about “poking the baby” or otherwise hurting you; and you both may have concerns about orgasms and uterine contractions.
Always check with your doctor about whether you, specifically, are OK to have sex. But if your doctor hasn’t told you otherwise, and your pregnancy is low risk, it’s generally completely safe to get it on between the sheets.
In fact, when researchers looked at studies involving 1,483 pregnant women, they found that there were no significant differences between those who had sex during their pregnancy and those who didn’t when it came to inducing labor contractions.
Researchers also noted that in low risk pregnancies, sex wasn’t associated with “preterm birth, premature rupture of membranes, or low birth weight.”
However, if you have any of the following, your doctor may indeed tell you to abstain from sexual activity:
- spotting or bleeding
- incompetent cervix (when the cervix is shorter than about 22 millimeters and you’re at higher risk for preterm birth)
- vasa previa (when the umbilical cord vessels run too close to the cervix)
- placenta previa (when the placenta covers the cervix)
Also, don’t have sex if your water has already broken. Amniotic fluid forms a protective barrier between your baby and the outside world — without it, you’re more at risk for infection.
What is pelvic rest?
If your doctor puts you on “pelvic rest” and hasn’t explained what that means, absolutely ask questions. It usually means no vaginal sex because your pregnancy is considered high risk. Since you can achieve orgasm without penetrative sex, it’s worth clarifying what’s off limits.
If your pregnancy is high risk for other reasons, like multiples, talk to your OB. One review of studies found that there simply isn’t enough research about sex during high risk pregnancies.
Sex in the first trimester may be great, or it may suffer from many “false starts”: You’re in the mood one minute, and a wave of nausea hits you the next.
On the other hand, your body is already becoming more sensitive — your breasts, for example, may be more tender to the touch and therefore more easily stimulated by your partner or yourself. Your libido may increase, too. These things, along with more natural lubrication down there, may result in quicker and more satisfying orgasms.
Or, you may just need to wait for the discomfort of first trimester symptoms to pass. And some women’s libido actually decreases. And that’s OK, too. It’s all within the realm of normal.
This might be the sweet spot when it comes to reaching your, ahem, sweet spot.
With morning sickness (usually) a thing of the past and the discomforts of the third trimester yet to come, sex and orgasm during the second trimester may be the most enjoyable.
Here are a few things that you may experience:
- Your orgasms may be more pleasurable. There are a few reasons for this, with perhaps the main one being increased blood flow during pregnancy. This means your uterus and vaginal area are more engorged, which can mean more sensitivity. This can go either way depending on the person, but for many, it means more pleasure — and easier orgasms.
- You may feel post-orgasm uterine contractions or cramps. These are perfectly normal and even happen when you’re not pregnant — you just may not feel them unless you are. Don’t worry — these contractions aren’t labor, and they’re not going to bring on labor. Cramps will generally subside with rest.
- Your stomach may feel very hard. This is another common occurrence during orgasm, pregnant or not. But with your stretched skin and more extended belly, chances are, you’ll notice this sensation more.
- The release of hormones may be compounded. What we mean is this: Your body is already producing more oxytocin (the “love hormone”) during pregnancy. You’ll release even more when you orgasm. And that’s typically going to feel pretty darn good.
Sex in general may be more difficult during the home stretch that is the third trimester. For one thing, your adorable baby bump may feel more like an enormous sack of potatoes: awkward to carry and always in the way. (That’s where creative sex positions come in!)
But also, you may have a harder time reaching the big O. With baby taking up so much room in your uterus, the muscles may not be able to fully contract as they need to in order to climax.
An orgasm is an orgasm, no matter whether it involves two people or just one. So masturbation is completely safe during pregnancy — unless you’ve been told to abstain — and so is using sex toys.
Just remember to practice good hygiene and keep any toys you use clean — now is not the time you want to worry about sexually transmitted infections, which can be introduced to your body by a penis, finger, or toy.
Most of us have heard it. Past your due date and ready to get this show on the road already? Take long walks. Eat spicy food. And have sex.
If you believe this myth, it makes sense that you’d hesitate to have an orgasm before your due date for fear of preterm birth. But here’s the thing: This just isn’t true. The rumor persists, but it’s been debunked.
In one 2014 study, researchers divided pregnant women into two groups — ones who had sex twice a week and ones who abstained. The women were at term — meaning, baby was ready to make their appearance. But researchers found no statistically significant difference in the two groups when it came to onset of labor.
And as we’ve already mentioned, a much larger review of studies similarly found that sex didn’t increase risk of spontaneous labor.
(Spoiler alert: There’s no evidence that spicy food brings on labor, either.)
Good news if pregnancy has your hormones raging and your libido through the roof: It’s completely safe to have an orgasm during a low risk pregnancy.
If your pregnancy is high risk and it’s not safe for you, your doctor should tell you. Still, it’s worth having that conversation. And if you feel embarrassed about asking, remember: OBs have heard it all. No topic should be off limits.
And the old folk wisdom that says that sex brings on labor? It’s just not supported. So whether you’re 8 weeks or 42 weeks, feel free to get busy with your partner — or yourself — and enjoy the O.