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Sex during pregnancy

Are orgasms ok? Is it normal to go off it? What positions are best during pregnancy? Here’s what you need to know about sex when you’re expecting…

1. Can sex in pregnancy harm my baby?

Not at all. Having sex during pregnancy is safe, healthy and won’t hurt your baby. If you’re having sex with a man, his penis can’t penetrate beyond your vagina, so it won’t reach your baby (Bartellas et al, 2005; NHS, 2018a). Your baby is protected by a fluid-filled bag (amniotic sac) and the strong muscles of your uterus and the thick mucus plug seals your cervix and helps guard against infection. All in all, your baby’s well sealed up.  

The only exception is if you’ve had heavy bleeding, your waters have broken, you’ve had problems with your cervix, are expecting twins or had a previous history of preterm labour. Then your midwife might advise that you avoid certain types of sex for some or all of your pregnancy.

2. Can orgasms cause harm to the baby?

Again, no. Late in pregnancy, having an orgasm might cause Braxton Hicks contractions. But that won’t harm you or the baby (NHS, 2018a). So if it happens, don’t panic.

3. Will sex feel different during pregnancy?

You might feel a few physical changes caused by hormones, for example less lubrication down there, which can cause some discomfort if you’re having penetrative sex (Brown et al, 2008). Other women say they actually feel wetter when they’re pregnant.

And the best news? Orgasm is actually intensified during pregnancy (although it may be accompanied by cramping or muscle spasms) (Brown et al, 2008).

4. What if I don’t, erm, want to have sex?

You might not want to have penetrative sex during pregnancy because you’re nauseous, vomiting, worried about harming your baby, not into it or just exhausted (Jawed-Wessel and Sevick 2017). If so, that is absolutely your prerogative. 

Sexual intimacy can also involve non-penetrative sex such as solo or mutual masturbation, and closeness can be maintained through other forms of physical touch such as massage, kissing and cuddling.

5. What if it’s my partner that doesn’t want sex?

Well, that can be normal too. Just as your libido will change during each trimester of pregnancy, your partner’s might change too. They might have a lot going on in their mind too about the upcoming changes to your life and what’s going on in your body (Rados let al, 2015).

Your partner might be worried about hurting the baby, or you, or feel self-conscious about the baby ‘hearing’ things (it can’t, by the way) (Beveridge et al. 2018). The best thing to do is speak to each other honestly and openly about how you’re both feeling (Polomeno, 2000).

6. Are some penetrative sex positions better than others when pregnant?

Yes, but it’s a very individual thing. Missionary might get uncomfortable quickly because of your bump and anything where your partner is going in too deeply might be uncomfortable (NHS, 2018a). You could try:

  • Being on top. This protects your bump and lets you control how deep your partner goes. The same applies if you straddle him while he sits on a chair.
  • Wriggle to the end of the bed on your bum then get your partner to kneel or stand in front of you.
  • Doggy-style.
  • Spoons or side-by-side.
  • Standing up.

7. Can I use sex toys when pregnant?

Vibrators and sex toys are fine if you and your partner feel comfortable with them. Just make sure they are clean to get rid of any risk of infection (Castleman, 2016).

8. Can I still get a sexually transmitted infection (STI) when pregnant?

Yep, pregnancy doesn’t provide protection to women or their baby so you can still get STIs. If you or your partner is having sex with someone other than each other while you’re pregnant, make sure you’re using condoms.

If there is any chance you could have an STI, it’s important to get tested ASAP at a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic or sexual health clinic (NHS, 2018b). Not treating some infections could be serious or even life-threatening for you and your baby (NHS, 2018b).

If you have previously had genital herpes, or develop it for the first time during the last six weeks of your pregnancy, it’s important to tell your midwife.

In rare cases, babies can catch herpes from their mothers during a vaginal birth and you may be offered a caesarean birth to reduce the risk. Some mothers may also be advised to take anti-viral medication during the last month of their pregnancy. 

In the unlikely event that your newborn baby did catch herpes from either you or contact with someone else who has an active infection it needs to be treated quickly with anti-viral medication (NHS 2018c)

This page was last reviewed in April 2021.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

Bartellas E, Crane JMJ, Daley M, Bennett KA, Hutchens D. (2005) Sexuality and sexual activity in pregnancy. BJOG. 107(8): 964-968. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10955426 [Accessed 30th April 2018]

Beveridge, JK, Vannier, SA and Rosen, NO. (2018) Fear-based reasons for not engaging in sexual activity during pregnancy: associations with sexual and relationship well-being, Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 39:2, 138-145, DOI: 10.1080/0167482X.2017.1312334 

Brown CB, Bradford JB, Ling FW. (2008) Sex and sexuality in pregnancy. Glob Libr Women’s Med. Available from: https://www.glowm.com/section_view/heading/Sex%20and%20Sexuality%20in%20Pregnancy/item/111#r1 [Accessed 30th April 2018]

Castleman M.A. (2016) How Sex Changes During Pregnancy, Nursing, and Parenthood. [Accessed 5 March 2019: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-about-sex/201607/how-sex-ch…

Jawed-Wessel, S and Sevick, E. (2017) The Impact of Pregnancy and Childbirth on Sexual Behaviors: A Systematic Review, The Journal of Sex Research, 54:4-5, 411-423, DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2016.1274715

NHS. (2018a) Sex in pregnancy. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/sex/ 

NHS (2018b) Infections that may affect your baby. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/infections-that-may-affect-your-baby/ 

NHS (2018c) Neonatal Herpes. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/neonatal-herpes/ 

Polomeno V. (2000) Sex and pregnancy: a perinatal educator’s guide. J Perinat Educ. 9(4):15-27. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595041/ [Accessed 30th April 2018]

Radoš, SN, Vraneš, HS, & Šunjić, M. (2015) Sexuality During Pregnancy: What Is Important for Sexual Satisfaction in Expectant Fathers?, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 41:3, 282-293, DOI: 10.1080/0092623X.2014.889054 

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