6 things you need to know about sex when you're pregnant

Posted on 10/01/2016 by Antenatal Online | Leave a Comment

You’re pregnant, tired and it is entirely likely that you feel significantly heftier and less nimble than you did in your pre-pregnancy state. In fact, you may feel about as much like having sex as you do eating a lamb roast for breakfast. When I was pregnant with our first however I recall engaging in rather a large amount of sex. Pregnancy hormones are not all bad and your partner may well find your growing bump and the obvious evidence of his virility a turn on. For me the main issues were `Can I actually be bothered?' and "Isn’t it a bit icky for a penis to be that close to my baby’s head!" There are however other more pressing concerns! Here our midwife, Marie, tells us the 6 things you need to know about sex when you are pregnant.

Is it safe to have sex in pregnancy?       

Unless you have been told by an obstetrician to avoid sexual intercourse, then it is usually safe and will not harm you or the baby. For example, you may be told to avoid sex in the following situations:

  • If you have placenta praevia (where part of, or the entire placenta covers the cervix).    If you are known to have an incompetent cervix (which is prone to opening before you have reached full term pregnancy), and especially if you have had a suture put in your cervix early on in the pregnancy to prevent it opening.                            
  • If you have ruptured membranes (your waters have broken)                                  
  • If you or your partner have an infection, such as Candida (Thrush), or any sexually transmissible infection, until after this has been treated.

Is it normal to bleed afterwards?                                               

Some women do occasionally experience a small amount of painless bleeding after sex, (‘post coital bleeding’) but any bleeding in pregnancy cannot be considered ‘normal’ and therefore you would definitely need to contact your local maternity unit for advice. They will usually ask you to come in to the unit to be seen by a doctor. It is very important to try to establish where the bleeding is coming from, so you need to have a speculum examination (which allows the doctor to see your cervix) and sometimes a blood test, and a scan. 

What if I find sex uncomfortable?                                  

Some women suffer with pelvic girdle pain, and this, combined with backache, indigestion and other minor ailments may make sex uncomfortable, especially in the later stages of pregnancy. So in this case you may need to experiment a bit to find a position which is more comfortable. If your vagina feels very sore and / or itchy after sex, you may have Candida (Thrush). This can be diagnosed by your GP or midwife and is easily treated with a pessary which they can prescribe for you.

Is it true that having sex in pregnancy will help me go into labour?                            

Oxytocin, the hormone which allows you to go into labour, is also your ‘romantic candle-lit dinner for two / love-making’ hormone. It is produced when you feel calm and relaxed, and you produce more of it when your nipples and / or clitoris are stimulated. Also, Semen is a ‘natural prostaglandin’, (a synthetic prostaglandin is used to induce labour) so it is thought to help ‘ripen’ the cervix for labour. Orgasms also increase blood flow to the muscles of the uterus, and can cause mild contractions. If your cervix is already slightly dilated, then occasionally your waters may break during intercourse. If this happens, even if you are not contracting, you do need to contact your maternity unit to let them know. So at the end of pregnancy, having sex can help some women go into labour, but there is no guarantee that it will work for everyone.

Could having sex in pregnancy cause premature labour?                                                   

Unless you have a history of premature labours, then it should not do so. Until the last few weeks of pregnancy, the body is resistant to the hormones which stimulate labour. If you have any contractions before 37 weeks of pregnancy, that are uncomfortable and regular, you must contact your local maternity unit for advice.

What does it mean if my breasts are leaking during sex? 

As your body prepares for breastfeeding, colostrum will be produced and sometimes small amounts can leak from the nipple during pregnancy. This may be more noticeable during sex, but is completely harmless and will not interfere with breastfeeding your baby.

Do we need to use condoms in pregnancy?

Not unless you and/ or your partner know you have a sexually transmitted infection, in which case it is better to avoid sex completely until this has been treated. If you are in a new relationship in the pregnancy and are unsure of the new partner’s infection status, then you should use condoms to protect yourself and your baby.



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