This is a great question. One that may cross the minds of new expecting parents at some point after they get the news they are pregnant! The answer, in most cases, is yes! Unless you have been advised otherwise most couples can have sex right up until moms water breaks. The amniotic fluid, uterus, and layers of muscles surrounding baby provides protection. While the thick mucus plug inside your cervix acts as a seal to help protect against infection. Also, during vaginal intercourse the penis does not go beyond the vagina so it won’t reach baby and can not hurt them.
When is sex during pregnancy NOT safe?
There are some conditions where your healthcare provider might advise you to avoid vaginal intercourse as it could pose a risk to you and your baby. These include:
- Placenta Previa (when the placenta is over the cervix)
- Ruptured Membrane (when your bag of water breaks)
- Cervical Insufficiency (if the cervix opens/dilates early)
- A dilated cervix
- A history of preterm labour before or during this pregnancy
Another situation that might pose a risk to you and your baby is having sex with someone who has a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI). To avoid transmission of an STI in pregnancy, either abstain from oral, vaginal, and anal sex with someone who is known to be infected, or use condoms consistently and correctly.
Another reason to abstain or use condoms during pregnancy is to protect yourself against the Zika Virus. If you are pregnant and you or your partner have been travelling in an area with risk of Zika, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that the couple should use condoms from start to finish every time they have sex (including vaginal, oral, and a anal sex and the sharing of sex toys) OR not have sex at all for the entire pregnancy even if the traveler doesn’t have symptoms of Zika. See the CDC website for more details on this.
What about oral sex, anal sex and masturbation?
Again in most cases oral sex, anal sex and masturbation are safe during pregnancy, but there are a few things to remember:
- Anything that leads to orgasm, including masturbation, can trigger contractions in the uterus. If you are not near to your due date then these contractions do not usually affect labour and will normally slowly fade away after a few minutes. If though you are at risk of preterm labour you may be advised by your healthcare provider to avoid anything that brings you to orgasm during your pregnancy.
- During oral sex don’t let your partner blow into your vagina because although it is rare, it can cause an air bubble in your bloodstream.
- Don’t have oral sex if your partner has a cold sore (herpes simplex virus) because the virus can infect you and then potentially your baby at birth.
- Keep any sex toys clean to reduce your risk of vaginal infections. This is very important during pregnancy because an untreated vaginal infection may increase the risk of preterm labour.
- Also, if you have anal sex, to reduce the risk of bacterial vaginosis, your partner should wash thoroughly and/or use a new condom, before switching to vaginal sex.
- If you have hemorrhoids they can be aggravated by anal sex and can cause heavy bleeding which can be dangerous for you and your baby.
- Anal sex can also cause trauma to the placenta if it covers all or part of your cervix (placenta previa) which can result in heavy bleeding.
- It’s easier to pass on STIs through anal sex than vaginal sex so it is equally as important to either abstain from anal sex with someone with an STI or use condoms correctly.
Will sex start labour?
Not unless your baby is due and you are ready to go into labour (or you are at risk for preterm labour). If your baby is due sex might actually help the body get ready for labour for several reasons.
- Orgasm can cause the uterus to contract.
- Semen contains a hormone called prostaglandin that might help soften the cervix and and start contractions.
- Stimulation of the nipples can cause the release of the hormone called oxytocin which can cause the uterus to contract.
Talk to your Health Care Provider
If you or your partner are at all concerned about having sex while pregnant, including if you are unsure whether you need to abstain from vaginal, oral, anal sex or orgasm, then do not hesitate to talk to your doctor or midwife. Similarly, if you have cramping that does not go away, pain, or bleeding after orgasm or sex, call or see your midwife or doctor.