Is sex during pregnancy safe?

Expert advice for expectant couples

January 24 2019

Many couples find they’re standing on sexually shifting sands when transitioning from lovebirds to imminent co-parents. Firstly there are a whole lot of factors that take sex down many, many notches in your priority tree. And lots of guys also find it hard to square up sexual desire and motherhood. Some couples find sex rocks during pregnancy (and way to go!) but many find sex slows down and even grinds to a halt during this time.

What happens in pregnancy?

We are still largely in the dark about the factors governing sexuality in the fairer sex at all - let alone during pregnancy. Hormones cop the blame whenever women’s libido heads south, and yet we haven’t found any scientific evidence of hormonal abnormalities that are linked to low libido.

So, if it's not hormones, what is responsible for the lack of interest in sex during pregnancy? What we do know is that when it comes to the bedroom, we women are complex beasts. There is a huge link between body, mind and spirit. You can take that concept and double it during pregnancy. 


getty images

getty images

Lots of non-hormonal factors can have a huge impact:

1. Feeling tired
Pregnancy and feeling tired are inextricably linked especially in the first and third trimesters. If you are catching Zzzs the second your head hits the pillow, you won't be up for much action in the bedroom!

2. Sore breasts
Early in pregnancy your breasts can hurt just brushing your teeth. They often don't feel sexy- and sexual experiences that were previously pleasurable can become unbearable. 

3. Nausea
Feeling sick will kill off libido for most of us. Enough said!

4. Feeling fat and unattractive
While I think you all look utterly beautiful, I know many women feel very unattractive with a swollen belly, blotchy skin, cankles, massive breasts and any extra weight you might have gained. This can make some of us feel embarrassed and less sexy.

5. Feeling uncomfortable
Many of us suffer back or pelvic pain, especially at the end of pregnancy. Any pain can be lethal to your libido.

6. Fear of miscarriage
Many women fear that having intercourse will somehow harm their baby. There's no evidence for this but it's a niggling fear some women can't shake.

7. Your relationship
Work by a researcher called Bancroft found that the best predictors of sexual dissatisfaction in women, pregnant or not, were not anything to do with the physiological factors. It was your degree of emotional happiness and satisfaction with your partner that held the key. 

8. Sociocultural factors
Sexual activity may be considered taboo or even completely forbidden at certain times in some cultures, especially during your periods or pregnancy.

getty images

getty images

Your libido

So, what do you do if your libido has gone AWOL? It depends. If everyone is happy and not having much sex isn’t causing anyone any distress, I’d argue you don’t have to do anything. If it is upsetting you or your partner to the point that it’s impacting on your relationship, you might want to get it sorted.

Here’s my advice for boosting your pregnancy mojo:

1. Don’t wait around
Research clearly shows that desire and even arousal can come after you have started getting into some sort of sexual activity. You don’t have to be in the mood beforehand. You may well want get turned on after you have started the ball rolling.

2. Get enough sleep
Being exhausted will make you want to have the entire business completed in a three-minute round trip so you can hit the pillow. This is not conducive to earth shattering orgasms. You might be better off heading to bed as early as possible and having sex the next morning.

 3. Get your nausea sorted
Chat to your GP about nixing morning sickness.

4. Don’t be hard on yourself
If your husband finds you sexy, stop worrying about your belly and go with it!

5. Counselling
If your partner has turned off the sex tap and you are hurt or worried by it, try chatting to him. If sex talk is too awkward, get some help. It’s an investment in the most important relationship in your baby’s future life!

When not to have sex:

1.   Any vaginal bleeding. Get checked by your doctor first.

2.   Ruptured membranes (waters leaking or breaking).

3.   If your midwife or doctor has told you not to do it!

Dr Ginni Mansberg is a GP, Practical Parenting Expert, author and resident doctor on Channel 7's Sunrise program.