I am frequently asked whether it is ok the continue to have sexual intercourse during pregnancy. I have summarised a few issues below.
What happens to libido (sex drive) in pregnancy?
It varies. In some women it stays the same, in others it’s less than prior to pregnancy and in some women their libido is increased during pregnancy. All of these are “normal”.
Sex in early pregnancy
Having sex in early pregnancy does not cause miscarriage. If there has been a recent episode of vaginal bleeding during early pregnancy it is reasonable to avoid sexual intercourse for a few days until things have completely settled down. There may be specific instances where avoidance of sexual intercourse in early pregnancy is recommended but this would only be under specific circumstances. Generally, you would be advised if this was the case. However early pregnancy is often a time when you may be feeling quite sick and often very tired, so having sex might be the last thing on your mind. Essentially if you & your partner feel like having sex during early pregnancy it is very likely to be fine to do so.
Sex during the mid & later part of pregnancy
Bleeding after sexual intercourse: a small amount of bleeding or spotting is not uncommon following sex during pregnancy. It is generally nothing to be worried about. It is usually related to changes which occur to the cervix during pregnancy. However if it is anything more than a slight amount or if it happens on more than one occasion you should definitely seek further advice.
Uterine cramping following sex: is quite common will usually be of no concern. It is probably related to orgasm and usually settles quite quickly. Having sex does not cause preterm labour in women who were not at risk of preterm birth. In other words it won’t make something happen that was not likely to happen anyway.
Can sex in late pregnancy bring on labour? Maybe, although with a big pregnant tummy and for a lot of women, feeling quite uncomfortable, you may not feel like having sex! If labour is getting ready to happen soon, it is possible that having sex might speed things along, but there is not a lot of evidence about this. If you feel like having sex in late pregnancy it will generally be perfectly reasonable to do so.
WHEN SHOULD YOU AVOID SEXUAL INTERCOURSE DURING PREGNANCY?
– recent bleeding: if there has been a recent episode of bleeding, you should seek advice before resuming sexual interourse
– placenta praevia: if your placenta is covering the cervix on ultrasound then the advice will usually be to avoid sexual intercourse. It is quite common for it to be noted that the placenta is “low lying” at the time of the 19week ultrasound, provided it is not covering the cervix it is still ok to have sex.
– risk of preterm birth: in women who are identified as being at high risk for preterm birth, it is generally preferrable to avoid sexually intercourse. If you think this applies to you…ask.
– ruptured membranes: if your waters have broken, you should avoid sexual intercourse.
In summary, the general advice is that for the majority of couples it is fine to engage in sexual intercourse throughout pregnancy if you are feeling like it. But is also very normal for women to not feel like having sex as often as usual during the course of pregnancy.
It is also worth mentioning that the above comments relate to “sexual intercourse” during pregnancy. There are many other ways for a couple to enjoy sexual intimacy during pregnancy other than with penetrative sex. Sensual massage, cuddling etc etc there are many options, use your imagination!