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How Safe Is Sex During And After Pregnancy?

It is safe to have sex throughout pregnancy as long as there are no other issues such as vaginal bleeding or any other pregnancy complications. If there are any complications, or you suspect that there may be, you should contact your doctor or midwife immediately. As pregnancy progresses couples may have to experiment with positions which will maximize the woman's comfort, and allow her to control the amount of penetration. If she is experiencing any discomfort the use of a lubricant might be helpful. You can also use condoms during pregnancy if you are concerned about sexually transmitted diseases. This is especially important when he is infected with an STD such as herpes and she is not.

Examples when your doctor may suggest you to not have sex in pregnancy include:

  • You are at risk of having a premature birth or labor
  • You have a weak cervix
  • Placenta previa (Where part of the placenta is covering the cervix)
  • Your water has broken
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • You or your partner has an active sexually transmitted disease

If you're at all uncertain whether you're at risk, ask your doctor.

Can intercourse result in a miscarriage?
Many expectant parents are primarily concerned that intercourse will cause a miscarriage, particularly in the first trimester. Miscarriages are unrelated to sexual activity. There is no proof that sex in pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage. The most common cause of a miscarriage is a genetic defect in the developing fetus. Some infections may be a factor, but they're usually not the result of sexual activity.

Can having intercourse harm the baby?
No. The penis doesn't physically contact the fetus, which is well protected by uterine muscle and amniotic fluid. The cervical mucus plug prevents bacteria and semen from entering the womb. However, avoid deep penetration if it causes pain.

Can orgasms result in premature labor?
Orgasms may cause uterine contractions. However, the vast majority of studies indicate that in a normal pregnancy, orgasms -- with or without intercourse -- don't lead to premature labor or premature birth.

Is there any time doctors advise against intercourse during pregnancy?
If vaginal bleeding, an incompetent cervix, preterm labor, or placenta previa (a placenta that covers the cervical opening) develops at any point in your pregnancy, your doctor will most likely advise against intercourse. Also, if you're expecting twins, your doctor may advise you to abstain from intercourse during the late second and early third trimesters, when the consequences of preterm birth are greatest. Your doctor may also recommend abstinence during the last weeks of pregnancy as a precaution.

Should you use a condom? 
Pregnant women exposed to STDs are at increased risk of infections that can be harmful to their baby and can lead to premature labor. All women, including those who are pregnant, who have new or multiple sexual partners, should use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Also, women who are herpes negative but have sex with an herpes positive man are advised to use condomes to prevent becoming infected with herpes during pregnancy. 

How may a woman's sexual desire be affected by her pregnancy?
Decreased interest in sex early in your pregnancy may play a significant role in your sexual activity. Changing hormones, added weight, and a decrease in your energy level may take their toll on your desire. This lackluster interest may continue through the first trimester, when exhaustion and nausea are most likely to occur. During the second 3 months, however, you may find your interest changing. Increased blood flow to your sexual organs and breasts may rekindle your desire or even increase your normal interest in intercourse. You may even experience a moderate feeling of sustained readiness due to the effects of increased blood flow to these areas. As you enter the final trimester, you may find your desire waning again. Besides a large abdomen that makes intercourse physically challenging, increased fatigue or back pain can dampen your enthusiasm for lovemaking. You may need to experiment with positions that make intercourse comfortable for both you and your partner.

How can couples deal with these changes in sexual desire?
Communicate. Pregnant women may want affection from their partners without wanting intercourse. Partners, however, may sense that lack of interest as a sign of rejection. It's important to communicate your needs and to discuss other forms of lovemaking, such as oral sex, massage, or masturbation. Why is sex during pregnancy so rarely discussed? The literature on the subject is often confusing, and some doctors are uncomfortable discussing matters of sexuality with their patients. For these reasons, couples often get the message that they should refrain from sex during pregnancy. It's still a taboo subject -- but it shouldn't be.

After Child Birth:
There is no set rule for this, although it is medically safe to resume sex soon after delivery. However, one needs to take into consideration vaginal tenderness, and whether sex would be mutually satisfying and pleasurable. All in all, one needs to consider how the new mother is feeling. There are too many influences and emotions to take into consideration. Be patient, and loving. Try and give your wife a break, some time to herself, to relax and exercise.

How soon after the baby's birth may couples resume intercourse?
The answer varies according to the circumstances of delivery. In general, sexual intercourse can be resumed by the third postpartum week -- if you're comfortable and there are no complicating factors. If you have questions regarding resuming sexual activity after pregnancy, ask your doctor.

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