Friday was movie night for me and my husband. We tucked into a bowl of extra-buttery popcorn and turned on a movie we had been intending to watch for several months. It was a popular title when it came out and we had to carefully navigate the conversations we had with our friends who had seen it to make sure they didn't reveal any spoilers. Once we began watching it, however, we wished we had gotten a little bit of a heads up about a few of the scenes. I couldn’t help but worry about the baby during these fairly exuberant
scenes. Was it safe for this pregnant woman to be having sex during the
last two months of her pregnancy?

The romantic comedy was based around the unexpected pregnancy of the main character after a one night stand, and the awkward relationship she developed with her baby’s father throughout the pregnancy. Of course, the pair ended up together in the end, but all my husband and I cared about were the sex scenes featuring the main character. I couldn’t help but worry about the baby during these fairly exuberant scenes. Was it safe for this pregnant woman to be having sex during the last two months of her pregnancy?

The way women feel about sex during pregnancy varies dramatically. While in some cultures the concept of engaging in sexual intercourse during pregnancy is completely taboo, we live in a culture that is quite accepting of continuing sexuality and intimacy throughout pregnancy and the postnatal period. Most practitioners recommend couples abstain from sexual intercourse during the first trimester due to the increased risk of miscarriage during the earliest weeks of pregnancy, but state it is safe for those with low-risk pregnancies to resume sexual activity during the second trimester.

Some modification of sexual behavior may be necessary, such as changing positions in deference to the woman’s protruding belly or to prevent the man’s weight from pressing down on it. Practitioners caution that some couples may experience vaginal bleeding after intercourse, and if this happens the woman should bring it to the attention of her practitioner. Generally this bleeding is completely harmless, but for women with undetected pregnancy problems such as an unstable or shortened cervix, bleeding may be an indication of a very serious situation.

Research has shown sexual desire and sexual satisfaction tends to decrease during pregnancy, and may not return for several months after birth. Continuing to engage in sexual activity when it is desired during pregnancy can encourage maintained bonding and emotional intimacy between the couple. This emotional closeness can help couples overcome periods of sexual distance after the birth.

For women late in their pregnancy, sexual intercourse may actually have welcome benefits. Women who have gone past their due dates are often advised to have sex to encourage the onset of labor. Not only does the actual act of sexual intercourse cause muscle contractions that can trigger labor, but seminal fluid has been shown to have chemical properties that soften the cervix and make labor easier, and birth faster. Couples are advised that sexual intercourse after the membranes have broken can introduce dangerous bacteria into the uterus and pose a risk to the baby, so it should be avoided.

Source: Elliot S.A., Watson J.P. Sex during pregnancy and the first postnatal year, National Unit for Psychiatric Research and Development