It's perfectly safe to have sex during pregnancy unless your doctor or midwife has told you not to.

Having sex won't hurt your baby. If you're having sex with a man, his penis can't get beyond your vagina and won't reach your baby; neither will any sex toys you are using. Your baby is safe in the womb and can't tell what's happening.

Will pregnancy affect my sex drive (libido)? 

Quite possibly - your sex drive will probably change during pregnancy. You may find you want sex more or less than before, everyone is different. Many women find that they have less sex as they go through their pregnancy. This isn't something to worry about, but it's helpful to talk about it with your sexual partner.

When to avoid sex in pregnancy

Your midwife or doctor will probably advise you to avoid sex if you have any heavy bleeding during your pregnancy. Sex may increase the risk of further bleeding if the placenta is low or there's a collection of blood (haematoma).

You may 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 have previously had early labours, or you're having more than 1 baby 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). Do not have sex with someone who has an STI, or you think may have an STI.

What positions are best?

While sex is safe for most couples in pregnancy, it may not be all that easy. You'll probably need to find different positions - this can be a time for you and your partner to 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.

You may find that sex feels a bit different when you are pregnant because of your hormones, too. For example, your vagina may be a little dryer, which may cause some pain during penetrative sex. This is normal and a little bit of water-based lubricant can make it feel better. 

Try laying 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. 

Is it safe to have oral sex during pregnancy? 

It's safe to have oral sex in pregnancy if you or your partner don't have cold sores. These can be passed on and cause genital herpes. Genital herpes can be dangerous for your baby during labour - tell your doctor or midwife if you think you may have them.

To avoid passing on an STI when you have oral sex, you and your partner could use condoms and dental dams. Dental dams are very thin, soft squares made of latex or polyurethane. They cover the anus (bottom) or female genitals during oral sex. Like condoms, they act as a barrier to help prevent STIs.  You can buy dental dams online, in sex shops and from some pharmacies. You may also be able to get them from some sexual health clinics.

Oral sex might be a good option if your doctor or midwife has advised you to avoid vaginal or anal sex if, for example, you have cervical weakness or a low-lying placenta.  

Can having sex start labour? 

If your pregnancy is normal and you have no complications, having sex and orgasms won't increase your risk of going into labour early.

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.

Having sex late on in pregnancy may be difficult and there's no evidence that it will help start labour. But there is some science behind the theory. Semen contains a hormone-like substance called prostaglandins, which may help soften the cervix (the lower part of the womb).  

So, if you are having a low-risk pregnancy, there is no harm in trying to start labour by having sex. But do not have sex if your waters have broken, because this can cause infection. 

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