Sex. During Pregnancy. Doesn’t sound super exciting, does it? That doesn’t have to be the case! If your care provider has not given you any restrictions when it comes to intimacy, sex during pregnancy can be enjoyable and fulfilling for BOTH partners, regardless of which trimester you are in.
One of the most important things that needs to happen for good sex is good communication between partners. You are going to be experiencing a lot of new physical and emotional discomforts and feelings, and it’s so important to discuss these with your partner. If your partner isn’t aware of what is going on, and sex frequency goes down, it can cause some frustration in the relationship. This is prime time for your partner to try to understand what is going on, and be sensitive and understanding.
A few things to note before we get into it:
- We are not doctors, midwives, or nurses. Make sure your care provider has not given you any restrictions when it comes to sex. Everything we’re writing here should be considered for healthy, low-risk women during pregnancy. If you have concerns, call your care provider.
- If you experience any bleeding during or after sex, call your provider. Some spotting can be normal, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Orgasms often bring on Braxton Hicks contractions, sometimes as early as 12 weeks. This can be scary the first time you feel it, but shouldn’t be any cause for concern. If contractions or cramps start coming and going at regular intervals, call your care provider.
- There’s typically no chance of hurting the baby during sex, because the amniotic fluid and your cervix protect her. However, if you have oral sex, your partner should not blow air into your vagina, as this can cause an air bubble to block a blood vessel during pregnancy.
In the first trimester, the biggest issues when it comes to intimacy are usually feeling utterly exhausted and possibly really nauseous, and therefore just not being in the mood! For the majority of women, nausea doesn’t last all day, thankfully. Try to pay attention to when you’re at your peak during the day. Morning? Midday? Late at night? Take advantage of that prime time by initiating sex then. If it’s been awhile since you’ve enjoyed some time together, it can sometimes feel hard to get back into it. For most women, once they get going, they start getting back into the swing of things—so even if you’re not feeling quite up to it, give it a shot and see if you don’t start enjoying it! If your nausea just doesn’t let up, or you’re throwing up most things that you’re trying to eat, please seek help from your care provider! There are both medical and non-medical things you can try, so don’t just think you have to be miserable.
Many women also notice that their breasts are much more sensitive during first trimester, and often painful. Remember that communication is key to intimacy! If you’re dreading sex with your partner because you’re afraid something will be uncomfortable, ask them to just keep their focus elsewhere. Keep in mind that you either made this baby together or chose this pregnancy together, which is about as intimate as it gets. A simple discussion about what your preferences are during intimacy doesn’t have to be intimidating or embarrassing, and is so important!
Another unfortunate (but totally normal) aspect of pregnancy, and often one of the first symptoms women notice is constipation, and along with that, excessive gas and bloating (bummer, right?!). This is totally unsexy, I know. Digestion slows down two-fold in pregnancy, which is the reason for things being a little backed up. Make sure you’re eating foods high in fiber, and even consider adding some Benefiber or the like to your water a couple of times a day to help keep things regular. If you’re struggling with slow digestion and it’s just uncomfortable to even think about intimacy, keep in mind that there are other things you can do besides intercourse! Intimacy isn’t just traditional sex, so keep communication open with your partner and try to come up with some other options for intimacy that you’re both comfortable with.
2nd trimester is often the golden time during pregnancy. Nausea and exhaustion usually start to subside, breast tenderness starts to fade away (and breasts are usually getting bigger!), and your libido is usually back. Your belly isn’t all that large yet, so there’s not a whole lot to get in the way of intimacy! One of the more common 2nd trimester “issues” when it comes to intimacy is vaginal dryness. This is totally normal as your hormones are changing, so it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Invest in an inexpensive jar of coconut oil (yes, really!) or traditional personal lubricant to help things along if necessary. Enjoy as much time with your partner as you can! If there are other issues that you’re experiencing, again, make sure to communicate with your partner to figure out what will work best for you.
Your belly IS getting a little bit bigger here, so positions where there is pressure on your belly may not be the best choice. Also keep in mind that you shouldn’t lay on your back for extended periods of time, because when you lie belly-up, the weight of your uterus can compress a major blood vessel, called the vena cava, disrupting blood flow to your baby and leaving you nauseated, dizzy, and short of breath.1 If you need some suggestions for different positions to try, do a quick google search…just remember the results are definitely NSFW!
During this last trimester of pregnancy, sex can start getting uncomfortable as your belly gets bigger. Many women don’t like feeling their baby move during sex, and positions can become more limited. Constipation is the real deal, and your breasts are beginning to make, and sometimes leak, milk. Partners are sometimes weirded out about the idea of having sex when the baby’s head is right there, and there can be a whole host of emotions that go along with the last trimester of pregnancy. It all sounds super awesome, doesn’t it? Never fear! There are still tons of ways that you can have great sex and intimacy with your partner.
Again, I reiterate—TALK! Communicate with your partner before, during, and after sex. What do you want, what’s not working, what should be avoided next time.
Generally speaking, for male-female sex, positions like side-lying (spooning), hands and knees (or even laying over a yoga ball), female on top, or even sitting in a chair can work well. If you want to lay on your back, put a pillow under your right hip to try and tilt you slightly to the left so that all of the weight of your uterus isn’t right on that blood vessel we talked about earlier.
Keep that fiber intake up to help with constipation, and try to initiate intimacy after you’re able to relieve yourself to make you as comfortable as possible.
Sometimes with stimulation, breasts can leak milk/colostrum in the 3rd trimester. Many women will notice it immediately after orgasm. There is nothing wrong with this, and many partners won’t even notice. If it bothers you, you can always keep a sexy bra on during intimate times, or just keep a towel or tissue handy to quickly wipe it away.
That baby in there isn’t something we can do much about. If the idea of a baby moving during sex bothers you, or your partner is bothered by the idea of the baby’s head being really low, my biggest suggestion is to try and either keep your thoughts on something else, or simply forego traditional sex and enjoy some other forms of intimacy every now and then.
Pregnancy is almost over at this point, after which you should be taking about 6 weeks before having sex again, so try to enjoy it as much as you can now! Set the mood with candles, music, lighting, a super soft blanket, some great massage oil…whatever floats your boat.
Try to remember that everything you’re experiencing is normal, not weird, so there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of. If you are having trouble with intimacy, don’t be afraid to ask your care provider for help, or even take a few visits to a therapist or counselor who may be able to help you work through things. In the end, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all way for couples to enjoy sex and intimacy. Talk through it and figure out what works best for both of you during these 9 months. Things are constantly changing in your body and mind, and your intimate times will change too.