It's perfectly safe to have sex during pregnancy unless your doctor or midwife has told you not to.
Having sex will not hurt your baby. A penis or penetrative sex toy cannot penetrate beyond your vagina, and the baby cannot tell what's going on.
However, it's normal for your sex drive to change during pregnancy. This isn't something to worry about, but it's helpful to talk about it with your sexual partner.
You may find having sex very enjoyable during pregnancy, or simply feel you don't want to. You can find other ways of being loving or making love. The most important thing is to talk about your feelings with your partner.
If your pregnancy is normal and you have no complications, having sex and orgasms won't increase your risk of going into labour early or cause a miscarriage.
Later in pregnancy, an orgasm or even sex itself can set off mild contractions. If this happens, you'll feel the muscles of your womb go hard. These are known as Braxton Hicks contractions and can be uncomfortable, but they're perfectly normal and there's no need for alarm. You might want to try some relaxation techniques or just lie down until the contractions pass.
When to avoid sex in pregnancy
Your midwife or doctor will probably advise you to avoid sex if you've had any heavy bleeding in this pregnancy. Sex may increase the risk of further bleeding if the placenta is low or there's a collection of blood (haematoma).
You'll also be advised to avoid sex if:
- your waters have broken – it can increase the risk of infection (ask your midwife or doctor if you're not sure whether your waters have broken)
- there are any problems with the entrance to your womb (cervix) – you may be at a higher risk of going into early labour or having a miscarriage
- you're having twins, or have previously had early labours, and are in the later stages of pregnancy
If you or your sexual partner are having sex with other people during your pregnancy, it's important you use a barrier form of contraception, such as a condom, to protect you and your baby from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Good and bad sex positions during pregnancy
While sex is safe for most couples in pregnancy, it may not be all that easy. You will probably need to find different positions. This can be a time to explore and experiment together.
Sex with your partner on top can become uncomfortable quite early in pregnancy, not just because of the bump, but because your breasts might be tender. It can also be uncomfortable if your partner penetrates you too deeply.
It may be better to lie on your sides, either facing each other or with your partner behind. You may also want to try being on top during sex or being penetrated from behind while on your hands and knees. Use pillows to make yourself comfortable.
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Video: Sex during pregnancy
This video explores the myths surrounding sex during pregnancy.
Media review due: 2 December 2023