If you have sex, will your growing baby be able to eavesdrop by the third trimester?
Well, sure. But the good news? All sounds are well-muffled, and your baby can’t understand dirty talk in any language.
Then again, what if you don’t want anything to do with sex? That’s normal. It could be anything from your hormones to getting used to your new body.
“Typically, the second trimester is the golden spot,” says Holly Richmond, a clinical sex therapist and licensed marriage and family therapist. The worst of morning sickness (if you were blessed with any) is over, and you’re just coming into your curves. In the third trimester, a growing belly can start making sex more awkward.
But here’s the foundation of everything you’ll learn when it comes to pregnancy sex: All sex is good sex as long as it’s pleasurable and consensual, says Richmond.
During pregnancy, you might feel anything from erotic to sensual or far removed from wanting to have sex. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s not possible to be pregnant and sexually active.
In fact, learn exactly what it means to have pregnancy sex, from how it feels to how it actually affects the baby.
Unless your doctor or midwife has strict, specific reasons for you to not have intercourse, it’s absolutely safe — for you, your partner, and your developing baby. (If your doctor or midwife simply says “sex,” don’t be afraid to clarify if they mean penetration only or all sexual stimulation.)
Right now, revel in the knowledge that pregnancy sex isn’t just safe. It’s probably good for you, too.
Women who have orgasms during pregnancy benefit from calming hormones and increased cardiovascular blood flow, and those benefits get passed down to baby, notes Aleece Fosnight, a physician assistant and sex counselor in urology, women’s health, and sexual medicine.
Due to hormones, some may feel their vagina is less “tight.” A combination of factors can cause this, like increased lubrication and a shift in hormones.
Others may find their pelvic floor muscles too tight (as genitalia can also become more sensitive), making penetrative sex downright uncomfortable.
For this, Fosnight recommends taking more time to warm up with foreplay or kissing before going in. You also could engage in mindful sex and skip penetration altogether.
When to see a doctor If pelvic discomfort is an ongoing issue, get evaluated by your healthcare provider and request a referral to a pelvic floor specialist. Fosnight notes some providers may minimize the issue as a result of pregnancy, but she reminds us: “If something doesn’t feel right to you, don’t assume it’s normal for pregnancy.”
Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. Many sexual health challenges during pregnancy can and are addressed by providers every day.
You may also experience easier orgasms
Stephanie Buehler is the author of “Counseling Couples Before, During, and After Pregnancy: Sexuality and Intimacy Issues.” She’s also a psychologist and certified sex therapist.
She notes, “Some women may [even] have orgasms for the first time during pregnancy because of blood flow and hormones.”
But that’s not the whole picture. During pregnancy, your body changes, and each day, week, and month can feel different from the last.
Your genitalia may be a lot more sensitive
Due to hormonal changes, some women find their sexual appetites turn voracious. They just can’t get enough from the sex buffet. What stimulates that need?
Fosnight credits the 50 percent increased blood flow that happens during pregnancy. That blood also goes to the vulva, vagina, clitoris, and pelvis, engorging the tissues. Depending on the person, it can feel either pleasurable, irritating, or somewhere in between.
“Men may say they feel more fullness in the vagina, even during the first trimester,” Fosnight says.
You might feel a little extra wet
And if you feel a little extra wet — well, you are.
It’s common for increased secretions and more lubrication to occur, mostly to fight bacteria (and bacterial infection). According to Fosnight, you’re not just like a regular self-cleaning oven anymore. “You’re an extra self-cleaning oven,” she says.
The rest of your body may be more sensitive, too
In preparation for milk production, your breast shape and size may change and increase by up to a cup size or two.
1. Will penetration hurt the pregnancy?
Simply put, no.
“During penetration, the uterus may move a little bit and you feel it,” Fosnight says. “People have freaked out something is happening to the baby.” In fact, the uterus is just more movable during pregnancy. A mobile home of sorts.
“The baby is super protected and has its own filter system that’s really selective about what goes in and comes out,” Fosnight notes. “Unless you’ve been instructed to have pelvic rest, sex is OK.”
Pelvic rest can be prescribed for issues such as an incompetent cervix or placenta previa.
However, one study found up to 80 percent of men worry about “hurting the baby.” If necessary, bring your partner with you to your next OB appointment, Richmond says. They can hear an expert’s reassurance that their penis isn’t touching the baby.
2. Will pregnancy sex cause miscarriage?
Sex won’t cause a miscarriage. Miscarriages are often a result of a fetus not developing normally. A 2011 study also concluded sex doesn’t induce early labor in low-risk pregnancies.
In fact, sex may even help with labor. “[S]ome couples have sex up until the woman goes into labor,” Buehler says. “Unless there is a medical reason or one or both partners are uninterested, couples can do as they please.”
However, if you’re having sex with new or multiple partners, wear a condom until you’re sure of their STI status. Sexually transmitted infections can result in potential pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to early labor, miscarriage, and other serious health complications.
3. Is bleeding after sex something I should worry about?
“It’s always best to talk with one’s physician regarding any concerns,” Buehler says. But don’t fully freak out quite yet.
Due to pregnancy changes, your cervix is sensitive and can get irritated easily, leading to bleeding. You’ll notice spotting after sex, when you wipe, and possibly the next day.
When to see a doctor The spotting shouldn’t come and go, especially over days or weeks. If that happens, it may be a sign of placenta previa. If you have any other symptoms, like sharp waves of pain, rectal pressure, or inconsistent bleeding, it could be an ectopic pregnancy. Sex doesn’t cause this.
Chat with your healthcare provider for ideas on how to minimize any irritation (such as controlling depth of penetration) if you’re not enjoying the anxiety ride.
4. Is it normal for sex to hurt during pregnancy?
Sensitive breasts and nipples can be sexy. But for some, the sensitivity can make interactions painful.
“Blood flow and hormones can also make the clitoris very sensitive as well,” Buehler says. Pelvic floor issues can be a challenge.
If you’re tempted to “power through” such moments? Don’t, Buehler says. Sex shouldn’t feel like a marathon or endurance sport.
“Sex should never hurt, and it’s best to talk openly,” she says. “There are lots of ways to be intimate. Couples need to find the ones that work for them during the pregnancy.”
5. Is it normal to have orgasmic dreams at night during pregnancy?
Yes. Many women have amazing “wet dreams” or sleep orgasms when pregnant.
“Another bonus due to higher estrogen levels and increased blood flow,” Richmond says. “I had several of my clients report it with a bit of concern, then were delighted when I told them it’s normal and will most likely subside after they give birth, so enjoy it!”
6. Can different positions influence the sex of my baby?
There are all sorts of common pregnancy myths about sex and gender, Fosnight says. However, she confirms there’s no science at all behind such tales, including conception position, sexual positions during pregnancy, conception date, or time.
7. Why don’t I feel sexy?
“Pregnancy is such a unique experience for all women,” Richmond says. She points out in Western cultures, we’re often told we’ll feel one of two extremes. “You’ll feel wonderful or horrible, you’re either glowing or throwing up.”
With ever-shifting hormones and getting used to a new body, there are many changes that can complicate desire. Many women note a decrease in interest, comfort, and desire in the third trimester, according to several studies. And while fatigue and morning sickness may pass, some of the roadblocks may be related to your mindset.
“We still have old notions that a mother is prim and proper, and associating sexuality with pregnancy is a hush-hush topic,” Buehler says. “If [your partner] doesn’t feel sexy, have [them]... look at [their] ideas about being a mother. It is possible to be a mom and remain a sexual being before, during, and after pregnancy.”
Pregnancy may also be a time of psychological and sexual exploration for the pregnant person and their partner, she adds.
It’s possible you’re finding what used to turn you on doesn’t anymore. That may be just a matter of different tastes (like temporary food cravings) and experimenting to see what works.
8. Is there anything I can do to reconnect with my sexual self?
While each person, pregnancy, and trimester is different, there are a few things you could try to calm the anxieties around your changing body:
- First, Fosnight recommends looking at images of naked pregnant people or boudoir shoots (yes, turn off Google SafeSearch). She says that often when doing this exercise with clients, they’ll find a particular visual and say, “She looks like me! Oh, she’s beautiful.”
- Offer yourself positive self-talk, saying statements like “I’m beautiful” or “I’m growing a human being.”
- Notice how often you caress your belly. Due to pregnancy, you have increased nerve sensitivity along with increased blood flow. Caress your skin and enjoy the boosted sensations.
- If your G-string no longer fits, keep looking for something that makes you feel pretty and sexy and that perhaps helps display your growing rack. There are plenty of maternity lingerie options out there.
- Head in for a pregnancy boudoir shoot of your own, Fosnight adds. Whether you want to go lacy lingerie or pregnant pinup, there are options for every body type and trimester. And trust us, when you’re 81, you’ll think you looked AMAZING.
- Add “Your Orgasmic Pregnancy” by Danielle Cavallucci and Yvonne Fulbright to your bookshelf, Fosnight suggests. It’s a coffee-table book with photos, drawings, and positions to consider.
9. Is there anything sexual that’s unsafe?
If you’re hoping to enact out a little 50 Shades of Pregnancy, go ahead — as long as you and your partner already have experience with floggers, rope, and more, Fosnight says.
If you’re the recipient of spankings, your partner should avoid the belly and abdomen and any tie that could constrict blood flow. If you’re new to the scene, maybe wait to put on the cuffs until after pregnancy (and a full night’s sleep).
Definitely create boundaries of what touch is acceptable if you get started, too.
And while sessions of anal and riding on a Hitachi are perfectly fine, don’t allow anyone to blow air into your vagina. Although rare, air blown into the vagina may cause embolisms and even death.
10. When can I start having sex after having my baby?
As one study noted, the standard recommendation is about six weeks. Women with few complications often start having sex again before that, as long as tearing or infection isn’t present.
Check with your healthcare provider to find out which camp you’re in.
When it comes to pregnancy sex, stick to positions that keep the pressure and weight off the belly. These will likely be more comfortable for you and your pregnant partner.
Stick with positions meant to keep you off your back, too. This helps with avoiding potential blood flow compression, which can lead to light-headedness and other issues.
9 positions to try
- sex from behind (also known as doggy style)
- you on top (also known as cowgirl)
- reverse cowgirl
- seated pregnancy sex
- oral sex
- anal sex
- side-by-side sex
For extra comfort, invest in sex pillows (yes, you can even use your pregnancy pillow for support), lube, and sex toys. Sex doesn’t require penetration for maximum pleasure. Focus on stimulating the clit instead with toys or your fingers.
Positions to avoid
- Missionary position (with mom on bottom) isn’t a good idea as it compresses blood flow to mom and baby, particularly after the 20th week.
- Some find prone positions (lying flat on the stomach) uncomfortable.
- Also, as noted by every doctor and pregnancy book you’ll ever read, don’t blow air up there.
No matter where you are in the trimester, figuring out how to work around challenges during pregnancy sex can be a time of experimentation and positions. Think of it as a time to get out of the box.
Being pregnant and being sexy aren’t mutually exclusive. Nor is a hot relationship in the midst of pregnancy.
“Just before baby arrives, who is going to zap out a bunch of that erotic energy, you can reinvigorate your sex life,” suggests Dr. Rosara Torrisi, LCSWR, MEd, CST, PhD.
In fact, the experimentation and flexibility you enjoy now can help keep your relationship sexually fulfilling for decades. Reinvigoration can happen “with each pregnancy, with each stage of pregnancy, and every few years to keep the bedroom spicy,” Torrisi says.
The only constant throughout pregnancy and a relationship is change. “When something is no longer pleasurable, begin your expedition to find what is now,” she suggests.
Visit your doctor or midwife if you’re experiencing:
- shortness of breath
- other physical issues
You can also see an AASECT-certified sex therapist for assistance if you’re having a hard time with body image and sexuality issues.
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Lora Shinn is a Seattle-based writer focused on health, travel, education, and sustainability.