When you were younger, you probably got a talk about the birds and the bees. After all, every young person needs to learn how babies are created at some point! What might never have been covered in your sex ed class (since we know so much is not addressed) is what happens when you continue to have sex while one partner is pregnant.
Can you conceive another baby when you’re already pregnant? Is it beneficial or safe to have sex during pregnancy? What happens to sperm in a pregnant woman?
If you or your partner are pregnant and you’re wondering about what continued sexual relations might mean, we’ve got the info you’ve been missing.
Many people worry that the sperm that’s ejaculated during sex will somehow affect their growing baby, or that they’ll injure their baby by having sex. (One survey from 2014 showed that 80% of men were worried they’d injure their future child from penetrating the mother.)
If that’s how you’re currently feeling, you can take a deep sigh of relief. Semen and sperm deposited in the vagina during penetrative vaginal sex will not harm the baby. Most of it will simply be discharged from the body through the vaginal opening.
Thanks to the placenta, amniotic sac, and mucus plug covering the cervix, your baby has a protection system that’s very specific about what goes in and stays out! In addition to blocking sperm, your growing baby is protected from coming into contact with your partner’s penis — no matter how deep it may go.
Along with being able to relax about where your sperm is going in a low risk pregnancy, you may be relieved to know that it’s highly unlikely for a pregnant woman to conceive again.
Superfetation, to put it simply, is a pregnancy that begins after another one has already started.
Sound crazy? Superfetation is well documented in a variety of other mammals but highly unlikely in humans for a number of reasons. In fact, fewer than 10 cases have been reported in medical literature.
First, a woman would have to ovulate to become pregnant, and the process of ovulation is essentially shut down during pregnancy due to the release of certain hormones.
Second, even if a pregnant woman were to ovulate, sperm would have to get to that egg. But thanks to the mucus plug, sperm are blocked from reaching eggs in early pregnancy. (While this isn’t the main purpose of the mucus plug, its bacteria- and infection-blocking properties work on sperm, too.)
Third, for a viable pregnancy to occur, the fertilized egg has to successfully implant in the uterus. This requires a hormone balance that’s not typically found during pregnancy.
Given all of these factors, superfetation is an exceedingly rare possibility. As soon as a viable pregnancy is established, your body hangs its own version of a “no vacancy” sign.
Sperm is typically considered safe for pregnant women and babies. That said, check with your doctor if you have any questions about the overall safety of sex due to any risk factors associated with your pregnancy.
Not only is sperm safe, but there may be some benefits to having sex and contact with sperm before and during pregnancy:
- Sperm and vaginal sex can help induce labor when the time comes. Oxytocin, one of the key hormones involved in progressing labor, is released during sex, and orgasms mimic contractions. Also, the prostaglandins in sperm can help ripen the cervix. (But don’t worry — having sex while pregnant won’t cause early labor in low risk pregnancies.)
- Mood boosts and increased cardiovascular blood flow are common benefits to pregnant women who have sex, and these can be passed along to baby as well.
- One recent
reviewassociated pre-pregnancy exposure to a specific man’s sperm (like that of a long-term live-in partner or spouse) to a lower risk of preeclampsia among first-time mothers.
If you decide to have sex during pregnancy, one thing to keep in mind is that sexually transmitted infections (STI) can still be passed while pregnant, so appropriate protection should be taken.
Protection from infection is particularly important during pregnancy, as any resulting pelvic inflammation can lead to early labor, miscarriage, or other health complications for both mom and baby.
While your chances of conceiving another baby are nearly nonexistent if you’re pregnant, it’s still important to consider the other benefits and risks of sexual activity.
At a minimum, pregnancy can affect your libido and which positions are comfortable, so it’s important to have open conversations with your partner around your evolving pregnant sex life.
If you have any questions about the safety of sex during your pregnancy, make sure to discuss them with your medical provider. After all, their sex education extended far beyond just learning about the birds and the bees!