Mini guide to sex during pregnancy

For lots of couples, a positive pregnancy test can suddenly shift the focus from conception to the baby itself. Your sex life needn’t take a breather for the next nine months.

In fact, the milestone of baby-making can be a fun call to action to increase intimacy and sexual connectedness. A healthy satisfying sex life can actually be good for pregnancy. It helps bond couples, increases happiness, and makes you feel closer to your partner.

Pregnancy and your sex life

We’re all familiar with the stereotypical symptoms a woman can experience during pregnancy—larger breasts, wider hips, stretch marks, morning sickness. But pregnancy is so much more than that. Everyone is different, and what you experience in terms of desire and libido may not be the same as what your sister or best friend feels during her pregnancy. There are, however, some typical patterns in the ways that pregnancy can affect sexuality:

Libido. Although hormones and increased blood flow to the pelvis certainly play a role, the urge to merge when you’re pregnant can be very individual. In general, though, libido tends to wane during the first trimester, when pregnancy symptoms can interfere with feeling sexy. Your sex drive can rise once these symptoms ebb, only to fall again during the final months of pregnancy. It’s important to let your partner know what’s going on with your sex drive throughout pregnancy.

Lubrication. As hormonal levels change, you may find that things aren’t as wet “down there” as they once were. In your second semester, lubrication can actually increase, which some women find boosts their desire for sex.

Orgasms. Increased blood flow and sensitivity in the genitals may mean that your orgasms are more intense and pleasurable than ever before. In fact, some women experience the first orgasm of their lives—or multiple orgasms—during the second trimester of pregnancy.

Boosting body image

You may never feel more feminine, strong, or sexual than you do now. Many women love their pregnancy curves and discover a new sense of self-esteem. Rosier skin, healthier hair, and full, voluptuous breasts are just a few of the sexier physical changes of pregnancy. The increased blood flow to your genitals may make you feel as though you are in a constant state of arousal.

How you feel about your body can change, not just from trimester to trimester, but from week to week and even day to day. Learn to love your pregnant body by engaging in physical activities like yoga, wearing sexy maternity clothes and lingerie, getting a massage, or talking with a therapist.

Why he may not be in the mood

Because pregnancy’s changes are most obvious in a woman—it’s happening in her body, after all—we often forget how this life-altering experience can affect expectant dads. Lots of men still find their pregnant partners attractive—some are even more turned on.

Still, any number of issues and concerns can dampen a guy’s desire. Some of the most typical:

He’s worried he’ll hurt the baby. (This is near impossible.)

He’s stressed about money.

He’s being polite and doesn’t want to pressure you.

He’s jealous of the attention you’re getting.

He’s scared of change.

He’s freaked out by fatherhood.

He’s just not that into it.

Communication is critical during pregnancy. Talk to him about your feelings and encourage him to talk about his as well. Keeping the lines open to discuss all of the intimate details of your sex life is important now, and for the rest of your lives together.

Myth #1: Sex will hurt the baby

This is probably the biggest fear that couples have about making love during pregnancy. Specifically, men worry that they might hit the baby in the head with their penis. Sure, sex isn’t advisable in some situations—particularly if you have a high-risk pregnancy—but that doesn’t have anything to do with bumping the baby.

The good news? Sex is perfectly safe for most couples. Your developing baby is shielded by the strong muscles of the uterus, as well as by the amniotic sac and fluid. The thick mucus plug that blocks the cervix during pregnancy adds another layer of protection. And a penis isn’t large enough to do any damage.

Myth #2: Intercourse and orgasms can trigger premature labor.

Again, if you have a high-risk pregnancy or a history of premature labor, it’s best to abstain from sex. Otherwise, intercourse is safe for pregnant couples. And the orgasms of pregnancy may be some of your most intense. But don’t worry that climaxing will lead to early labor or a miscarriage. Although some research suggests that orgasmic contractions may trigger labor, newer studies have found that climaxing during intercourse has no effect on childbirth and may even protect against premature delivery.

Myth #3: Pregnant sex means uncomfortable sex

Okay, so the idea of awkward missionary-style sex with a big baby bump between you probably isn’t going to send you into a swoon of pleasure. The first trimester may be filled with nausea, fatigue, and other unpleasant physical sensations that hardly put you in the mood. And you may just feel too large to make love during your last few months. If you’re just not interested, that’s okay. But if you are, the right positions, lubrication, and other adjustments can help you enjoy comfortable—even mind-blowing—sex throughout your pregnancy.

Best positions for pregnancy

While you can usually enjoy intercourse all the way up until your due date, some positions are more comfortable than others. In general, any position that puts pressure on the woman’s back or stomach can be tough: Not only can her baby bump get in the way, but after the fourth month, lying on her back can cause her growing uterus to put pressure on major blood vessels in her body. Instead try these positions and experiment to see what feels right for both of you:

Woman on top: In this position, the man lies on his back while the woman straddles him. It takes the pressure off her back and belly, allows her to control the depth and speed of thrusting—and gives him a great view! This position is great in the first and second trimesters. Increased weight and size of abdomen may make it difficult to maneuver in the last trimester.

Sitting: A variation on woman on top, this position involves the man sitting in an armless chair, with the woman facing and straddling him. It is extremely intimate and allows you to gaze in each other’s eyes. This position is best during the first and second trimester.

Side by side: You both lie on your side, facing each other. This position also keeps the weight off her belly, supports the uterus, and may also make you feel particularly intimate. Enjoy it during the first trimester and early second trimester.

Spooning: The same position that allows for such good post-sex cuddle is also great for intercourse during pregnancy. The man lies on his side behind the woman, facing her back. This takes the pressure off her belly and prevents deep penetration, which may be uncomfortable later in pregnancy. This position is perfect during the last trimester.

Hand and knees: Also known as rear entry or “doggy style,” this position places the woman on her hands in knees with her partner entering her from behind. Place a few pillows under her belly and breasts to help support them. Try it during the first, second and early third trimesters. Because this position can result in deeper penetration, you may want to avoid it later in the third trimester.

Modified missionary position: She lies on her back, pulls her knees up to her chest, and rests her feet on his chest or, if she’s really flexible, on his shoulders. He kneels and enters without placing his weight on her body.

When sex isn’t safe

For most couples, intercourse and other sexual activities are safe all the way up until your water breaks. There are cases, though, where your physician, nurse, or midwife may recommend that you abstain from intercourse and/or orgasm. When placed on sex restrictions, it’s important to ask whether you can have intercourse, orgasm through other means like oral sex or masturbation, or neither. These restrictions include:

A history of preterm labor (delivering a baby earlier than 37 weeks)

A history of miscarriage

Signs of preterm labor, such as premature uterine contractions

Unexplained vaginal discharge, bleeding, or cramping

Leakage of amniotic fluid

Incompetent cervix (a condition in which the cervix dilates prematurely, raising the risk for preterm delivery or miscarriage)

Placenta previa (a condition in which the placenta covers the cervix)

Multiple fetuses, such as twins, triplets, etc.

If you aren’t in any of these categories but experience bleeding, pain, or cramping just after intercourse or orgasm that doesn’t disappear after a few minutes, call your healthcare practitioner.